My journey into Linux has been great fun. I’ve learned a lot about the inner workings of operating systems that my time with Windows never offered me. That said, it can be incredibly frustrating sometimes working with something built entirely out of the goodness of others’ hearts that was never specifically designed with your computer’s setup in mind.
Very recently, my brother-in-law needed a computer. My mother-in-law had a sluggish old laptop sitting in a closet and gave it to me to give it the ol’ Linux overhaul. If you’re not aware, Linux almost always runs faster than Windows on old computers. The software is just less restrictive and more forgiving. My own computer, the one I’m typing this on right now, cannot handle Windows Vista (or Windows 7), the operating system it shipped with. But when I first installed Linux Mint on it, it ran like an excited pony through a pasture of never-ending green. Because of Mint, I was able to have a laptop that ran well. For this, I will always be grateful.
So I set about pimping out this computer for my brother-in-law. I headed over to DistroWatch, the best place to find the latest information on the latest Linux builds. I wanted to install the most stable, easy-to-use software available. I decided on Ubuntu, arguably the most popular Linux distribution. I installed it effortlessly and the end result was a slick-looking system that ran circles around the Windows OS that had sullied the hard drive not an hour before.
I liked it so much that I decided I wanted Ubuntu for myself. For the past year or so, I’ve been dual-booting Mint and JoliOS, the latter being a super-fast netbook operating system similar to what one might find on a Chromebook. The systems worked well, but there were features in Ubuntu that really jumped out at me. Above all else, I love the interface. It’s clean and polished, like something Microsoft might put out. One of my least favorite aspects of Linux systems is the boxy, pixely, circa-1993 look that a lot of them are cursed with. They may run like Mercedes, but they look like a Bill Gates’ first Volvo. Ubuntu is the big exception- right out of the box, it looks like an OS should.
The second major feature that immediately stole my heart was the Dash. The Dash is similar to the Windows search feature, but way more intuitive and functional. If you’re looking for something, like, say, a piece of software, it’ll tell you if it’s on your computer and, if not, where you might get it. The execution is slick and it takes a great number of pointless clicks out of the computing experience.
So I took the plunge. I installed Ubuntu on my laptop and booted it up. Everything worked like a dream. I was super excited. It was like getting a new computer without having to pay a cent.
But that joy quickly turned to dread the next day after I opened my laptop’s lid. Instead of the hip and trendy graffiti background I had expected to see, I was assaulted by a garbled mess. Something was amiss. When I restarted the computer, everything would work fine, but if the system ever went into suspend mode, everything got all messed up. It was all just aesthetic, of course, but aesthetics were the primary reason I switched over in the first place.
So, anyway. I messed with the settings for a few days and tried around twenty or thirty fixes before I found the one that ended up working. It seems that my problem was my Nvidia graphics card. Linux often has trouble with Nvidia, and the solutions can be kind of evasive. In my situation, the graphics issue was resolved by bypassing the Nvidia drivers suggested automatically by Ubuntu and getting the most current one elsewhere. To do this, I opened a command prompt and executed the following commands (instructions for which I found here):
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-current
I rebooted my computer and voila- no distorted graphics. And, what’s more, the display is clearer than it was when I was running the suggested driver. All good things.