I’ve been asked for an update of my experiences with my HP Pavilion dv6 3042TX - in particular with Ubuntu. A reader has found that this notebook can now be purchased here in Australia for $1,299. That is a fine price, indeed! However, I must say that I sometimes have regrets about not getting a Mac. Here are some of my experiences and advice:
Aesthetics are good. Quite a good looking laptop. Not as good looking as the MacBook Pro.
Quad-core. 8G RAM. 1G graphics.
The keyboard is fine (our reader had heard otherwise). Compared with MBP it even has PgUp and PgDn keys :)
The touchpad is fine (again, not sure why our reader would have heard otherwise). Not quite as pleasant as the MacBook Pro touchpad though - particularly for scrolling.
Some ports that MacBooks don’t have: HDMI out, eSATA out, fingerprint reader, Blu-ray.
Running GeekBench on Ubuntu 10.10 can yield up to 6300, so I assume that it is more performant than Windows 7, which gets about 5600.
Battery life is only 1.5hr - just for light web-browsing tasks
When running Ubuntu 64-bit, you will run into the 100% CPU problem caused by npviewer.bin. AFAIK it’s a program that helps interoperate with the 32-bit Adobe Flash plugin because there’s no 64-bit one for Linux yet…
The fingerprint reader isn’t used for authentication out-of-the-box on Ubuntu 10.10 although I haven’t searched for any solution (pain threshold too low).
It runs hot. Even when doing little CPU-intensive work, the fans turn on, and it sounds like it’s going to take off! I’ve had one or two blue-screens of death which I imagine are related to the heat. Lately, I’ve been using FlashBlock, which seems to have improved things somewhat.
With Ubuntu 10.10 after resuming from hibernate I get odd graphics flickering “effects” which is particularly bad when dragging or playing video. You will end up rebooting to resolve it. I have found no solution for this.
With Ubuntu 10.10, the touchpad will not work well. Dragging sends the pointer crazy, and right-click does not work at all. I found a solution https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/maverick/+source/linux/+bug/582809/comments/94, but unfortunately, now the pointer moves too slowly and increasing the sensitivity does not work.
Stick with Ubuntu 10.04
The touchpad problems didn’t happen with Ubuntu 10.04, and I’m reasonably certain that the screen flickering following a resume didn’t occur either. So if you’re going to install Ubuntu, I’d currently recommend 10.04.
Run Windows 7 with Ubuntu 10.10 in VirtualBox
Sadly, this is the option I’ve currently adopted. This way, I have no problems with Google Chrome and npviewer.bin because there’s a 64-bit version of flash. It also has other good effects such as being able to run the latest version of Skype, have my fingerprint reader work for logging in (this is quite a time saver because I tend to use strong passwords). Of course, to get software development done, I installed Ubuntu 10.10 with VirtualBox. In this way, I have no problems with the touchpad. Running the operating system that the manufacturer intended has certainly caused fewer headaches and time wasters. Using VirtualBox seems quite performant, and I’m not stuck with a compromise such as Cygwin.
Buy a Mac
The other option is, of course, to buy a MacBook. Since I already have an iMac in case I need more power, I’ve been thinking about purchasing an 11-inch MacBook Air next year. I’ve tested one in-store, and it seems quite nimble for such a little beast, and the screen resolution is the same as my current laptop — 1366x768. I’d certainly have no more need for my 11.6" netbook (which won’t run Ubuntu Unity btw because of gma500/poulbo graphics driver issues - sigh!). Perhaps the 11-inch wouldn’t cut it for Java development though. I haven’t tried IntelliJ on it in-store yet. A fine but more expensive option is the 13-inch MacBook Air. The same resolution as a 15-inch" MacBook Pro. Currently the 13-inch MacBook Air will set up back $2,078.00 including 4G RAM and 3-year warranty. If I had to choose again right now, I’d be picking between 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs.
Since I won’t be purchasing a new notebook until next year, I am hoping that the rumoured April MacBook Pro update will make the decision easier. Hoping for higher resolution displays like MacBook Air, cheaper SSD storage option, quad-cores, Mac OS X Lion and more affordable 8G RAM option. Hopefully, a combination of Apple and a rising AUD can deliver. The AUD could possibly come crashing down before then though :(.
Plea to Canonical and manufacturers
Perhaps it’s just that 10.10 is a disaster (at least running native/raw on HP hardware). Still, I can’t help but think that it’s imperative that Canonical find a way to have manufacturers buy into Ubuntu and test/preinstall it on their hardware. Dell was doing this in the US and EU for some laptops I used to enjoy the days of searching for solutions for hardware problems, diving into configuration files and configuring X etc. I learnt a lot through those experiences. However, now that I’m older, I suppose, I value my time more. I hear this argument from Apple fanboys all the time. Unfortunately, it’s true. I do think that Linux and Ubuntu, in particular, is a better software development platform. The wealth of software available using APT is a big part of that. Also, that APT uses binary packages. Easy software installations aren’t so important if you don’t experiment with new programming languages and libraries etc. that often.