The Power of Open Source

One of the things I want to blog about is my adventures setting up my work computer. It is a really sweet machine, a Dell Inspiron 9400. It has the widescreen resolution, and they bought me a second monitor so we wanted to get it running in dual head mode. Of course, the very first thing I did was to wipe Windows XP off of it. I used it long enough to download the Fedora Core 5 ISOs and burn them, and then installed it. I never got FC 5 working quite right, so I switched over to Ubuntu. It turns out the issues I had were unrelated to the distribution and I probably could have gotten FC working with the same amount of effort but I’ve got it going now and will stick with it until there is reason to not.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail just now. Later on I’ll post snippets of config files so that other people in the same boat can get things going faster. As much as I like this laptop, I got a little shafted in that it has the least common internals. It has the Intel 945GM video card and the Dell wifi card, both of which are off the beaten track for Linux. For now, though, I want to give an example of what makes an open source operating system so cool.

I compiled my own kernel a few days ago and that’s what I’m currently running. The box has a built in SD/MMC card reader, and I thought it would be neat to see if it worked under Linux. It read a 256M card no sweat, but when I put in the 2G SD card, it failed to mount and I got a lot of errors. A little googling showed me that the kernel lacked support for internal card readers above 1G. I could plug it into my USB card reader, and then it would read just fine but not on the built in card reader. I found this patch that addresses that issue. Because the code is removing 40 lines and adding in one, I just went directly to that file in my source directory and made the edit by hand. I rebuilt and reinstalled modules, and rebooted the box. I stuck in the 2G card, and voila – it mounted automatically and was right there on the desktop. Fantastic stuff. It can be a real pain sometimes, but moments like this make me so happy that it all is worth it.

This post complies with my work blogging rules of the road.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

7 thoughts on “The Power of Open Source”

  1. Paul says:

    I’m surprised the 9400 is running Intel Graphics! My 9200 (which is also my only computer) run a PCI Express ATI Radeon Mobility 9700 Card. I’ve had this beast for nearly 3 years and it is still going strong!

  2. dave says:


    The same basic model comes with different possible internals. A lot of people on the Ubuntu forums seem to have ATI cards and Intel pro wireless 2200 wifi, both of which seem better supported with Linux drivers. Que sera, it’s just a little more I have to work through.

  3. Chris C. says:

    Welcome to Ubuntu! My machine has nvidia video so the video Just Works. Alas, I still have lots of things about Ubuntu that I wish were better/different, but I’m slowly chipping away at them. Palm Desktop support in Linux is pretty awful in general.

  4. Dom Barnes says:

    Might be worth checking out EasyUbuntu at . Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a spare PC or laptop to install Ubuntu on and I’m worried for my powerbook so I can’t vouch for the quality of this but seems to add support for ATI and Nvidua graphics cards.
    Look forward to hearing more about your job adventures. and your hardware of choice

  5. Tilted Edge says:

    I installed Ubuntu on a really old Dell and it works perfectly. This would be a great OS for most people but I wish it would catch on for high end music apps.

    I hate Microsoft and Apple. Apple always had the proprietary attitude supposedly to protect users from poorly designed hardware but now with iTunes and their evil DRM their corporate greed should be clear to everyone. A touchy feely company? yeah right. No company should be able to dictate the price of music or what player music should be played on!

  6. PJ Cabrera says:

    Tilted Edge, Apple’s evil DRM is removable under lawful conditions. Just burn a CD with your iTunes Music Store selections, and import the CD back in as an off-the-shelf music CD. What is so evil about that? :: rolls eyes :: If you don’t know how, it only underscores your ignorance, not the company’s evilness (if that’s even a word.)

  7. tiltededge says:

    I won’t install iTunes because it takes over the system and it is horribly bloated. Funny how they hid the stand alone Quicktime. Thank god for “Quicktime Alternative”.
    Burning to CD simply to remove DRM is annoying as hell. Who wants to jump through these hoops?

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