Some time with the IBM Lenovo X300 laptop on Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

One of the consequences of the macbook dying was that I had to cast around for another laptop fast to work off of. Luckily, we happened to have a Lenovo X300 laptop in we were testing with the (pretty amazing actually) 64GB solid state drive it has.

Not being a windows fan, I installed Ubuntu 8.04 on it. Here’s my impressions.

First off, the laptop is light and fast and really well thought out. As a response to the macbook air, it’s an excellent one and at least from my perspective there is no gap between the functionality of the two. In fact, I’d have to say that the IBM actually goes one further having the DVD built into such a small frame and a full range of ports.

Surprisingly to me, everything worked out of the box for me with the exception of the audio on it. Big surprises for me here were that even the video camera worked, which meant my dear parents could see my via Skype (even if they couldn’t hear me). The lack of sound was really annoying me, but compiling the also sound drivers from the 6/6/2008 snapshot worked wonders for me. I’ve now got the sound working though it seems that mixing it still not working which means only one application seems to be able to hold sound at one time (causing some issues). The laptop screen is also very bright which is very nice (though the Ubuntu distro seems to dim the screen at times and then not bring it up to full brightness which can be annoying.

This means I can play videos fine via VLC (watched Unleashed off DVD), the latest Miro downloaded episode of BSG and got Amarok to play most of what I’ve been able to salvage from my iPod of my music collection (which makes me happy as most of my rare and hard to find tracks are saved). The microphone in is still not working though which made the Skype conversation one where I could hear and see my parents, but they could only see and see my typed messages. Good enough though and it seemed to make them happy.

I’m totally shocked at how far Ubuntu has come in such a short time. It is very fast compared to OSX and has made leaps and bounds in terms of usability. You could replace OSX or Windows no problem with Ubuntu at this point I think. In fact, I think just theming the thing a little more like Windows, most people wouldn’t even notice at all. OpenOffice has worked fine for me and using Sunbird as a calendaring client (surprisingly more featureful than iCal in places) and ThunderBird as a mail client has worked fine. It’s funny that the thing that is driving me crazy the most is not having access to QuickSilver (though I’ve installed Gnome-Do on the machine), TextEdit (though GEdit is ok) and the damn addressbook app on the mac (it’s well integrated with things like AdiumX (I’m using Pidgin at the moment), Mail and etc., OmniFocus (the GTD app I use on the Mac) and Journler (which holds my mental scribbling.

Rather surprisingly, since I use the excellent MarsEdit on the mac, switching over to ScribeFire has been fine and in fact, I’m using it right now to write this and its integration with my Simplelog blog seems great.

Overall, I have to say I’m super impressed. The X300 is a fantastic laptop and despite the price (£1k more than the SSD equipped MacBook Air is one damn fine machine). If you’re Linux inclined and have the cash to pony up, this is probably the best machine you’re going to be able to find after they get the new sound issues dealt with.

(The other interesting thing this entire episode has raised with me is the issue of whether I should actually be looking at moving back to Linux. Depending on a proprietary operating system, commercial apps, and proprietary file formats has left me down at a time when it doesn’t really make me happy. And does bring up the issue of greater portability between platforms. I am doing a little work on seeing what else I could be using to replace some of the things I’m currently using, but you do notice the extra effort you need to put into things to use Linux at times. And particularly, the lack of polish in some apps. I don’t want to say ugly and functional, but it is one thing that comes to mind. I expend less effort on the Mac getting things done compared to me pounding away at the keys here. And I know it would be difficult for me to do the long term strategic stuff I normally do on my machine with this machine until i find replacement apps for organizing my stuff. Anyone else got opinions? Haven’t checked out KDE apps compared to Gnome ones so far, but it is kind of interesting.)