Saturday, April 11, 2015

Linux, Windows 8.1 and Virtualization

I'm a Linux fan.  I like it's simplicity.  I like getting back to the command line.  However, I've just dumped Ubuntu and Linux Mint for Windows 8.1.

In early 2014, I bought a new HP Envy 17.  It's a beast of a computer, Core i7, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB hard drive, and so on.  Good developers machine, I'd say.  I knew I could order it with Windows 7 for an extra cost, but I also knew that I had a full copy of Windows 7 Ultimate (Steve Ballmer Special Edition no less!) that I could use.  So I decided I would chuck Windows 8 and dual-boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu 13.10.

For the most part, I don't like Windows 8.  Clearly, Microsoft build this interface to serve tablets and laptops.  I'm not a fan of a touch screen laptop so I'd never have any real use of the Windows 8 "Metro" interface.  Further, I believe Windows 7 is still in good shape from what it does and how it performs.

Initially, with the dual-boot setup, I was content with the configuration.  At this point I knew nothing of running a virtual machine with VirutalBox.  I had a bit of a bug with how I had configured the system.  Apparently, I turned off UEFI and SecureBoot when all I should have done was turn off SecureBoot.  I think I thought they worked hand in hand and needed to be off together or that Linux and Windows 7 were compatible with UEFI.  Either way, the gremlin in the system was that the clock tended to be reset to GMT.  I couldn't figure out whether it was Ubuntu or Windows 7 causing that issue, but it was annoying none the less.

In the fall, I was tempted to try Linux Mint instead of Ubuntu.  I know that Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, but the interface is what is drastically different.  Another mistake made...I wound up deleting my Windows 7 partition while installing Linux Mint.  That was awful.  Fortunately, I discovered that Linux Mint came with Oracle's VirtualBox pre-installed.  I decided to check it out and see if I should make it work with Windows 7.  It was grand.  I could get everything I wanted out of the VM without having to reboot to get into Windows 7.  When I switched to Mint I had an issue with slow wireless connectivity.  It was almost unusable sadly.  After some Googling I found that Mint was a bit behind on the Linux Kernel and an upgrade would fix the slowness.  It was a good fix.

Around December last year, I started having this issue with the wireless losing the ability to deliver Internet content, but the connection was still strong and connected.  I Googled a lot and found that a lot of folks were having issues with Linux and the Realtek wireless card.  I found an updated driver that I installed.  It helped a bit, but not a conclusive fix.  I upgraded Kernels again, no help.  It was very frustrating.  I would say for a given session with the computer the browser would drop pages 5 -10 times.  Eventually they would come back, but it was enough to slow and prevent a good flow of doing something.

About three weeks ago,  I had enough.  I decided that I would give Ubuntu 14.10 a shot and see if that fixed the issue.  My first task was to split my home directory to a separate partition.  This is a really good idea if you want to switch distributions often or even clean install the next iteration of your favorite distribution.  Once that was done, installation of Ubuntu was a breeze including the customization of the partitions to use.  Once I had everything setup,  I noticed that the same problem started happening again.  This time around, it was less often, but annoying still.

Then, I was done.  I realized through this that I had given up a bit too to use Linux.  First, this laptop came with Beats Audio.  In this case, it's three distinct speakers that can be used to improve sound.  While HP has software to help manage the sound and power consumption of the speakers, Ubuntu nor Mint have anything for Linux.  In fairness, I found some instructions on setting the speaker pins to the correct values to utilize the speakers, but since there was no power management, the speakers were on 100% of the time and using more power on battery.

Just three days ago,  I backed up the home drive from Ubuntu and factory reset the computer.  With Windows 8.1 booting to the traditional Windows interface, consistency with the wireless card,  Beats Audio in place and the positive boot up speed,  I'm happy again.  I can still run my VMs now that I know more about it.  In fact, I booted up my Windows 7 VM to get some files off of there.

Now, it's off to Windows 10.  I've just loaded it onto VirtualBox....