Now that I no longer rely so much on my “work” laptop (a Dell Latitude D820), I’ve been a bit more open about rebuilding it and playing a bit with it.

Windows 7 PDC Alpha

A couple of weeks after coming home from the PDC in Los Angeles, I bit the bullet and repaved the machine with the Windows 7 Alpha we got. Installation went fine and everything seemed to work fine.

I was, however, not particularly impressed with it. Sure, there are a few nice UI and usability enhancements, but nothing that would make a really significant impact on my day-to-day usage. Performance was OK, but not great, either:

  • General usage performance was, as far as I could see roughly similar to Vista on the machine.
  • Aero was felt significantly slower than on Vista. It was particularly noticeable with effects turned on, like when windows are minimized/maximized, with very choppy animation.
  • Using it as a host OS for virtualization using Virtual PC 2007 didn’t worked too well. It worked, but was noticeably slower than on Vista for me.

Neither of this is really surprising since it is still an early alpha and well, VPC isn’t great at supporting new OS releases anyway. However, it does tell me that we probably shouldn’t expect any major performance changes with Win7 over Vista (Heck, we’d be very lucky if performance remains the same with minor improvements here and there).

Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex)

Last week I wiped Win7 and installed Ubuntu 8.10. This is the first time I’ve installed Ubuntu on this machine. I already hade Ibex running on my older Dell Inspiron 6000, where it works great and with very acceptable performance, and was curious how it would work out on the D820.

For the most part, it went well. Installation worked flawlessly, and all the hardware seems to work (though I haven’t exercised it too much yet). Performance-wise, it seems to behave very well, with good boot times and applications loading in very reasonable times.


The big difference between the two machines (aside from the D820 having a dual core processor) is that this one has an NVidia graphics card instead of the ATI on the Inspiron. I installed the NVidia proprietary drivers (version 177) and it almost works very well.

The reason I say this is that the driver works fairly well, with good video performance and so on. However, the Linux Achilles heel raises it’s ugly head again. Surprisingly enough, Suspend (sleep) seems to work fine and even pretty fast to get in/out of.

Hibernation, however, doesn’t work at all: The machine tries to get into hibernation and appears to almost succeed, but right away restarts as if had been rebooted instead. Haven’t yet dug in to see what exactly the problem is yet.

On the good news good front: On this clean installation I was able to get font rendering right away working correctly, and even succeeded in having the terminal application (gnome-terminal) render Envy Code R correctly!

Tomas Restrepo

Software developer located in Colombia.