The saga of transitioning to desktop Linux continues.

I now officially quad-boot my laptop, a trusty old Thinkpad T43. It isn’t a superhero of a laptop, but it does the job well, is virtually bulletproof, and can be found on eBay for about $300. (Or free from the IT guys at work.) I added a modern 80gb Seagate drive to the existing 40gb Toshiba drive, and the layout looks like this:

40GB Toshiba (in place of the CD-ROM):
Windows XP in its own dedicated NTFS partition

80GB Seagate (default drive in main slot):
Ubuntu 9.04 (default boot partition—grub also lives here): 60GB partition
Fedora 10: 10GB partition
OpenSUSE 11.1: 10GB partition

I chose those three Linux distributions because they are the most popular individual major desktop distros available, where “individual” indicates a choice between, say, Ubuntu and Linux Mint, a close derivative. I also chose to “centralize”, for lack of a better term, around Ubuntu, because frankly I like Ubuntu, its package management, its philosophy, its community, and its tendency to Just Work. I honestly think of the others as experiments, although I feel very comfortable with Fedora’s philosophy as well, having documented derivatives of it at various companies.

The biggest toss-up was between Fedora and CentOS. Both of these distros are derived from RedHat’s offering, I am intimately familiar with both. I actually have a stronger business reason to install CentOS, and I may yet, but to be honest I chose Fedora because I like the community.

All of the Linux distros are set up to use Firefox and Thunderbird profiles from the Windows XP disk. This means they will break if I ever pop out the XP disk in order to use the CD-ROM, which goes in the same slot. I could not think of a situation in which this really mattered. I do have ext2ifs installed in read-only mode so I can access all that data if necessary.

From untested experience, all of the Linux distros run circles around XP when running a web browser, compiling code, or doing pretty much anything else. Fedora and OpenSUSE load at about the same rate as XP (2-3 minutes). Ubuntu 9.04 goes from power-on to a login prompt in about 45 seconds, and to a usable desktop in another 15-20 seconds.

Little things that work well under XP still need help in Linux. For example, suspend and resume are fine in all distros EXCEPT when using the docking station, where XP works every time with one exception—none of the operating systems installed can reliably sense the resolution of the external monitor on the dock when resuming from suspend (which I assume is ACPI S3, suspend-to-RAM). I haven’t tried them from hibernation (ACPI S4, suspend-to-disk) yet based on a personal fear of hibernation.

Since I also use Ubuntu (8.10) on my “main” work desktop, I find that I keep the laptop booted into XP in order to access the applications that have no equivalents in Linux. You don’t need to tell me about similar programs in Linux, I already know—there are simply some apps in Windows that I can’t live without, either for work or for strong personal preference:

Regarding Photoshop—I really, really want to love Gimp, and I force myself to use it whenever possible. But my fingers know Photoshop. Perhaps I am simply getting old. As for that last one, I am trying very hard to like kdenlive and will continue to try.

More notes soon.