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Tag: laptop

Installing ATI Drivers and Fixing the Backlight

This article described the first post-installation tasks on an HP dv6t Quad Edition running openSUSE 12.1.

Installing the Proprietary ATI Drivers

After the openSUSE 12.1 installation was complete, I went to install the newest ATI drivers, which support switchable graphics. The driver’s are pre-built and available for 1-Click Install through openSUSE.

Run the installer while connected to the Internet. Once completed, you’ll need to restart. After restarting, you can go into System -> Configuration and run AMD Catalyst Control Center (Administrative). This will allow you to select the graphics card in use (I am using the Intel chip). Once done making changes, you’ll have to restart to apply them.

Making the Backlight Work

Launch Administrative Settings (YaST) and go to System -> Boot Loader. Highlight ‘Desktop — openSUSE 12.1 ….’ and click Edit.

At the bottom of the next screen, there’ll be a box for Optional Kernel Command-Line Parameters. Add acpi_backlight=vendor to the end of the text currently in the box (make sure there’s a space separating what’s currently in there and the new command).

openSuSE: My Best Option

I’ve decided that because every Linux distro I put on my laptop is alright and they all eat up the battery just as fast, I’m going to stick with openSuSE 12.1 and do what I can to get it perfect. Therefore, I will have a long running Draft post, documenting my tweaks, changes, and fixes from the stock install.

Behind me, my HP dv6t Quad Edition is running the installer. I will be running KDE (and will possibly be putting Xfce on there as well). My goal is to have the GPU drivers installed (trivial with 1-click Install), have the system playing nicely with my Windows network, all of my development tool installed, VLC and relevant codecs installed, and something like Banshee for my music/podcast enjoyment. I’d also like to find a way to improve the battery life and get all the function buttons (brightness, volume, etc.) to work properly.

Once these (or most of these) are resolved, I’ll post again.

Another Search for a Linux Distro

So, after some time of using Xubuntu, I’m looking at other distros: namely Fedora 16.

This guide, on howtoforge, explains how to add all the software to Fedora that would make it extremely usable. I’m downloading the Live CD as I type and will give results as they become available.

Oh, for the record, I’m installing this on an HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition, which includes the switchable Intel/ATI graphics that are the bane of Linux’s existence.

The Winner is: Linux Mint

After playing around with all those distros in VMWare Player, I’ve decided on Linux Mint. It’s interface is familiar enough for Windows users, is similar to Ubuntu under the hood, and has a large user-base.

So far, the only thing I haven’t got to work is Minecraft, which I’m attributing to it running in a VM. There are plenty of people who have it working on real machines, so I’m not too concerned.

EDIT: It runs REALLY hot. Don’t know if I can keep it around.

Searching For a Linux Distro

So, I plan on getting a new laptop in the near future and have decided that I would like to dual-boot it with Linux. The problem is that I’ve been out of the Linux desktop game for a little while now and my formerly beloved Ubuntu is not something I enjoy anymore. This Unity desktop environment is a nightmare.

So, I’m taking a look at Kubuntu, which is essentially Ubuntu running KDE. Considering that its Ubuntu underneath, this is an attractive option.

I’m also looking at Linux Mint. It, like Ubuntu, is Debian-based and is the most popular Linux distro behind Ubuntu. The ISO for this one is downloading as this posts.

Nowadays, Linux on a laptop is easy to do and the laptop I’ve selected has some common components, which will mean better driver support. I’m not too concerned about one distro working on it any better than another.

EDIT: I’m also looking at Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

Understanding Windows Power Management

As my power was out this morning, I was thinking about the power management features of Windows and how often they are likely ignored. By actually changing which power plan Windows is using, you can get more performance out of your machine while plugged in and more battery life when its not.

To start, find your battery/power icon in the Notification area of the

taskbar. Clicking on it will provide you with the most basic options for changing your power plan. By default, Windows places “Balanced” and “Power Saver” in that menu. You can also click the “More Power Options” link at the bottom of that menu to see everything you have available. A retail version of Windows will include three power plans: Balanced, Power Saver, and High Performance.

The Power Options Window

Balanced is fairly self explanatory. Its the middle ground between the other two. I generally only use Balanced when I know that I’m going to be running on battery between 30 minutes and an hour and a half.

Power Saver is for when you want the most out of your battery. Choosing this power plan disables features that use up power, like Areo, background slide shows, and other fancy GUI features that just make things look nice. It also causes your hard drives to stop spinning when not in use and will turn of your display if you leave your computer alone.

High Performance lets you use your computer to the fullest. With this power plan enabled, Windows will not hinder your graphics card, processor, or hard drive from operating at the peak of their performance. This is the setting you should be using on your desktop or when your laptop is plugged in.

There are some changes you should make to High Performance, however. By default (and without much logic), the plan defaults to still causing your display to turn off and might put your computer to sleep. To change this, click on “Change Plan Settings” and you’ll see a window like the one below.

The High Performance Plan Options Window

The image shows exactly how my High Performance plan is configured. The few other tweaks I made were in the Power Options window: preventing the computer from doing anything when I close the lid and turning the computer off when I press the power button.

I hope that this has been helpful and gives you a better understanding of the Windows 7 Power Management features.

Buying A Laptop from Best Buy, or The Second Circle of Hell

My wife recently got a new job with an insurance company and will no longer be able to get by using my desktop for work, as her job will have her visiting clients (and trying to work during my gaming time). So, we decided to get her a new laptop.

Her requirements were fairly modest: she’d need to use Microsoft Office, stream video from the web, etc. Basically, a modern mobile processor, a fair amount of RAM, and an integrated video card would suffice. I looked around for specials from the usual suspects and then turned to weekly ads from the brick-and-mortar retailers in the area.

I ran across an add for an ASUS computer that I though fit the bill and it was even burgundy, which my wife thought was neat. It was one of the few laptops that had 4GB of RAM and was still upgradable [8GB max]. So, we loaded up into the car and drove on down to Best Buy.

After telling the sales person that no, I did not need his “expert” assistance in choosing a laptop, I found the model on the floor fairly quickly. That’s when I noticed something interesting: Best Buy stores its laptops on a shelf just under the display model and all of them have been opened by Best Buy and–more than likely–loaded with bloatware and tons of other crap that I/my wife will never need/want/tolerate.

I asked the salesperson if they had any boxes in the back that hadn’t been opened (to which he responded in saying they hadn’t been, forcing me to show him both the broken tamper-proof tape and the giant sticker on the side noting that the laptop had been “set up by the Geek Squad”). After trying to convince me that I wanted one that had been “tainted” (my word, not his), he finally admitted that all of the one’s in this store were like that. To his credit, he did check the stock in other local stores to see if they had some without asking.

We drove to the Tustin store and found that the exact model we were looking for was not on display. After standing in front of the ASUS machines fro 10 minutes or so, the rather busy salesperson came over and asked if we needed help. After giving him the SKU and model number, I was able to explain that I wanted a factory-sealed box and he ran off to the back to try and find one.

A few minutes later he returned, a factory-sealed box in his hands. He still tried his Best Buy overselling on me, but quickly caught on that I was having none of it and was actually quite agreeable from then on. He explained that I’d have to sign a paper declining all of the extra setups, Geek Squad service plans and warranties, which I didn’t want. He still had to give me an anti-virus disc (Kaspersky, I believe) and a Geek Squad FAQ disc. They make nice coasters.

Other than the initial wait inside the second store, we were in and out fairly quickly. While I still agree with xkcd that there should be a code word for professional techs that gets you past the defaults, I was lucky enough to get a salesperson that figured it out fairly quickly.