Saturday, September 04, 2010

New HP laptop - Not very happy with the machine.

I finally saved up enough money last month to buy a new machine.  I wanted a laptop that was fairly powerful, inexpensive and could run Linux.  I finally dedided on the HP Pavilion DV6 as it fit everything I wanted and I couldn't see any problems when I did online searches.

For the first month it was fine.  I had Linux (PCLinuxOS) running on it without a problem.  I then had a problem with the network connection.  I tried 3 different cables at home in different plugs in the router, but, the machine couldn't make a connection.  I brought it in to work and tried there without success.  Knowing that it was not the network itself, but, a hardware problem I took it back to Staples for them to send it to HP for servicing.  It came back a week later with HP saying that they could make a connection and there were no hardware problems with the laptop.  Trying it at Staples we could make a connection and it worked for a few hours at work. The screen then went black and I could not make it work at all.  I tried several different Linux Distros and not one would work.

I took it back to Staples and they confirmed that it wasn't working and it was probably a motherboard issue.  The laptop was sent back to HP for more servicing and after a week it came back.  They had to wipe the hard drive, but, that is not a problem as I had a full backup.  It was running Windows 7 and appears to work without a problem.  I left the machine alone without trying to install Linux for a week to ensure that the machine is working without a problem.

On the weekend I tried to boot the machine to Linux and I got a black screen again.  I booted to Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, DSL, Sabayon and they all won't display the screen.  Right now I am very unhappy as I wanted this machine to work with Linux and dual boot to Windows for some programs that are windows only and don't have a Linux equivalent.  I suspect the HP service team did a quick-and-dirty fix that was enough to get Windows to boot and not a proper repair.  I have spent almost 1,000 dollars on a  machine that will not work the way it was before I had the hardware problems, but, I suspect HP won't do anything as Windows boots up and they will say it is an O/S problem and not a hardware problem.  If you are thinking of buying a HP laptop for Linux I would recommend you look somewhere else and save your money.

For me to use Linux I have to borrow Jane's machine as it still has my old profile and restore all of the files to that machine.  That is a royal pain as I bought this laptop to be my main work machine and it is now just an over-priced Windows gaming machine and not a work machine.  Why?
  1. The current EPSON scanner that I have is not supported by Windows 7.  It is only 2 years old and they don't have any drivers.  This is fully supported in Linux.
  2. Security in Windows is a joke.  Every week I see so many security notices that it is not funny.  Linux may not be 100% secure, but, it is a lot more secure right away.
  3. I like GIMP in Linux for my photo editing.  
  4. Linux makes better use of system resources than Windows.  I was getting Linux up and running in about 120 megs of memory used vs Windows taking over 1 gig and Linux boots faster than Windows.
  5. Digikam is a wonderful application and I have thousands of photos, family documents and other files stored here.  It would be a major effort to find the Windows equivalent and move all of the over there.
  6. All the other machines at home are Linux and I like to have one O/S to support rather than two.

Update 2010/09/14:

I was reading the Knoppix knowledge base and found that there was an option XMODULE=VESA that could be used if you had problems booting.  I tried the option in Knoppix and the laptop booted to a working KDE4 desktop and I could work in Linux.  I checked my PCLINUXOS CD and it also had that option.  Using that option I could boot up and get to the PCLINUXOS desktop.  I went to the hardware and checked the video option so that the system properly detected my video card.  When I applied the settings the machine did crash and I had to power down and start again.  This time I picked the normal boot (not VESA) and the machine booted up without a problem.  I will try again later with PCLINUXOS and a few other live distros, but, having PCLINUXOS detect the video card for some reason allowed me to boot again in Linux.

I am still not 100% happy, but, at least I think I can get Linux installed and go dual-boot.

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