Linux on laptop, 2013 [EN]

So, I’m installing Fedora 20 KDE on my laptop now. It’s a fun thing to do, especially when you’re all bored and you feel like searching through old forums what the heck is going on with your laptop.

First, UEFI. I got to learn a bit about UEFI these days, mainly because after installing Fedora 20 on my laptop nothing worked. And I feel like sharing thoughts on this issue. The only things you need to know about UEFI are that:

  1. Your distribution should support it by now
  2. Your distribution might be stupid.
An idea by Radu L.
An idea by Radu L.

The short story: UEFI requires a special partition on the hard drive, partition that will be used to store important stuff like stuff that Windows needs and things that Linux doesn’t care about. It would be wise not to delete the partition, but if you have, just like me, you should be ok (unless your hardware provider is stupid and only allows Windows on your box, which you should protest against, and get your money back).

By default, Fedora creates a 1 MB partition for UEFI. This is all nice and dandy, however, the truth is that it DOESN’T create a 1MB partition for UEFI by default. No, it creates an LVM partition, which is a totally different thing, that allows partition resizing. A thing not recognized by BIOS. Therefore, when you’ll try to boot, and the BIOS will start searching for UEFI partitions… it will find none.

So you have to choose to create Simple partitions, not LVM, how the default says. By making this choice, Fedora basically threw away all the not-so-expert users that might ever want to install Linux on their laptops – or, better, they should go with Ubuntu anyway.

Second: KDE is unable to map the WIN key, the one that we have on the keyboard and we tend to trip on it whenever we’re playing important stuff like Borderlands. Instead, KDE uses the Win key as a modifier. Why? I have absolutely no clue. It makes absolutely no sense, although it seems it has been mapped in several combinations by default. Good, but why not behave as you should, like, say, when the WIN key is pressed, pop up that damned menu!

But no, this seems like an impossible feat under Linux, or, at least, under KDE.

Third: KDE feels unpolished. KDE was by far the best desktop environment for Linux for quite some time, and it still is better than GNOME, another system that is lost in transition. I must confess I like Unity, and the fact that it’s obvious that Ubuntu people work on it hard to make it as smooth as possible. KDE feels like a piece of software from the previous millenium, and it’s no fun whatsoever.

Fourth: KDE is fast. Things load fast, they run fast. And knowing Linux, this is how it will behave 6 months from now as well. But then again, who knows what improvements they have in mind?

Fifth: Steam on Linux is by far the best application I seen to run on Linux. Chrome is a badly integrated application, and, while I need it, I really don’t like it. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly on Linux, compared to the Windows counterpart. Font rendering is bad, icons look awful, it’s like they seriously didn’t work on it at all on Linux. Steam, on the other hand, looks amazing. When you see the Steam login splash in the system, and you compare it with other windows, the difference is from here to Neverwhere.

Sixth: RPMFusion is sanity! For Fedora/RH/RHEL/CentOS users, there were three RPM sources that you could’ve used to complement the standard repositories (which are pure open-source). Those were RPMFusion, Livna and freshrpms. The three made an alliance quite some time ago, and rpmfusion is king. Follow the installation guide here, and you’ll be able to yum install steam. Triple thumbs up.

Seventh: Suspend actually works OUT OF THE BOX. It’s such a huge wow, you can’t believe it. Traditionally, Linux systems were a total failure when they were doing complicated things like suspend/standby. With Fedora, it works now out of the box. It’s stupid to congratulate a distribution for doing what should’ve worked since 2000, but hey! 13 years later, it works!

Eighth: The DigiNet stick works quite well as well. Connect it to the laptop, ignore the drive that’s automatically mounted, make a new Mobile Broadband connection in the Network management tool – Select Romania->Digi Net Mobile. It simply works. It’s not obvious, but it works cleanly.

Fedora is not a distribution that the usual user can really use, but after the initial setup it is quite nice. Unfortunately, KDE integrates badly almost everything – disintegrates, more like it. But it looks solid so far, and I will continue to use it. For a while.