Updated: September 15, 2017
My HP pavilion laptop comes with roughly seven years of nice memories. I remember buying the machine, configuring its dual-boot setup, playing games, enjoying the benefits and thrills of the i5 family of processors, this be the first generation I believe, a nice Nvidia graphics card, and 4 GB RAM, which were not negligible back then.
I even used it to put together my very first serious Dedoimedo video production, the artistic Frankenstein movie, with kdenline and other sweet tools, and then for a while, it ran Linux Mint, and I did a lot of testing with distros installed to external disks, then it became a pure test machine, but now I've decided to repurpose it for a more permanent usage, Linux wise. The reason? The near-perfection that Kubuntu Zesty gave me, and the decision to have some near-future edition of this distro powering my next laptop. So this is a primer, if you will. Let's see.
So, a few more words about my escapades, if you're interested. Call it nostalgia trip or some nonsense like that. The laptop ran Macbuntu for a couple of years, and it really looked the part, especially in the old Gnome days, while also offering very decent performance - still does actually.
It proved itself again with Fedora recently, when I had version 24 installed, and in the end, had a fairly decent and functional setup. But then, we need to notch this higher. Hence my decision to go with Kubuntu 17.04 as the dual-boot partner to the resident Windows 7.
The installation was relatively simple and straightforward. The usual deal. However, the system wasn't behaving its best in the default form. The laptop was super hot, and I guess this has to do with the Nouveau driver. There were also logout errors, and the Wireless network disconnected once (Broadcom). Not as bad as my Realtek saga on the newer Lenovo G50 machine, but something that highlights the fragility of Linux. Anyway, long story short, the system installed and was working well. I reused the home directory, which comes with seven years of legacy and data.
After the installation
I set about making the distro do all it can - I did mark the media codecs and plugins in the installation wizard, but we definitely need more. And so, the checklist that is required to achieve the necessary levels of pimpdom include:
Install proprietary drivers.
Update the system.
Install additional themes and icons.
Install additional software and import configurations.
Customize look and feel of the desktop.
A few other tricks.
The wizard did offers a whole bunch. Only the Wireless driver was in use, but Nvidia and Intel microcode were not. So I had these installed and rebooted. The effects were immediate, including a significant reduction in noise and heat.
Even more importantly, the font rendering is significantly improved with the Nvidia proprietary blob. I do not know why exactly, and frankly, I don't care. It just shows how important it is to have good drivers. Performance benefits are another strong point.
System update & software
Kubuntu in its naked form is decent, but it does need extra juice. First, I enabled the partner repo. Then, I installed Steam, Skype (the new modern 5.X branch), VLC, Google Chrome, Clementine, GIMP, and several other programs. Both Skype and Chrome require external packages, but Google does configure its own source, so it will be up to date. I believe Skype will eventually be added to the partner repo. Hopefully.
With VLC, annoyingly, predictably, I actually had to configure Samba access, in order to play media files from remote shares. Media wise, my next step was to import my custom Clementine configuration from the Lenovo G50 Kubuntu instance, as it was already set up the way I like it, look and feel and whatnot.
I installed WINE, configured IrfanView as the default image viewer, because it's an excellent little program. For fun, I also added Firefox 57, to see how the brave new browser will behave and what kind of limitations it will rain down on its unsuspecting users. For more doomsday stuff, read my Firefox 54 & future article.
This was the really fun part. Icons-only task manager, because it's more fun, with several custom launchers. In fact, there's so much magic here that I have perhaps three or four separate articles on more Plasma secrets coming in the next few weeks. It should be really interesting.
I customized the lock screen, the login screen, the splash screen - some of these tweaks will even give you a slight speed boost, and added a dope avatar that matches the pimp character of the desktop. If you were in doubt, that should tell we mean business.
Then, I also fiddled with the digital clock - more wizardry coming here, weather applets, power management. Fonts, did I mention fonts? That's another one. The combination of the laptop's screen, the graphics driver and the distro's behavior lends to a fairly crisp presentation, with solid contrast, suitable for prolonged use, and much better than the Fedora experience. And still it can be improved more. Yes, you guessed, another article.
But software games are just part of the equation. Let's talk some more about the platform and how well it behaved. You know a part of this story, but let's elaborate. With all the right drivers in place, the system was working really nicely. Suspend and resume worked just fine. All the Fn buttons did their thing. The camera works. Bluetooth works.
Performance utilization is higher than on the G50 model, and this is probably because if the graphics driver. The idle memory penalty is about 770 MB, and the CPU is rather quiet, at about 2-3% tops. Very nice for a 2010 laptop. You can contrast this with my slightly older LG laptop, but then, the CPU architecture changes are quite fundamental.
It's not the fastest thing in the universe, but it responds relatively well. Only if you do intensive tasks do you notice the age. Web stuff, especially with lots of media playback and such, takes its toll, with alternating cores spiking up to 100% easily. But it's not too bad. Just noisy. Again, it's funny how seemingly small differences make for a big end state delta. Two other examples are the eeePC machine and my heavy-duty desktop. The former completely borks when trying to play a 720p video clip on Youtube, showing that modern browsers eat as much as an old processor just spewing some music at you. But the desktop is a beast with a modern graphics card and multiple hard disks, and it chews anything without raising a brow.
Then, smartphones - worked fine, again, including media playback, so that's quite nice. Let's not forget KDE Connect, another nice little feature. Furthermore, I had write access to both Android and Windows Phone, so whatever glitched Plasma in the past has been resolved with recent updates. All in all, I was having a lot of fun, and every facet of the desktop usage was turning up these little nuggets of gold.
So remember my bold claim that Kubuntu 17.04 is a perfect little distro? Well, the HP test confirms this claim. We did have a few small initial niggles, but once we had the drivers in place, it was all sorted. And not a worry since really.
Media playback, check, including local, remote and phones. Graphics drivers, check, including decent performance, less heat, a good, stable system without any crashes or problems, seamless suspend & resume functionality. Applications, check, all the goodies are there. Customization, check, including fancy little extras that will make you smile for weeks to come. Full hardware support, no bugs, no complaints.
Very rounded, very smooth, very elegant. Beautiful, practical, functional. Extremely fast for an old box, surprisingly swift for KDE. Modern, accessible. You have the programs you want, you have the system updates in the background, if you want them. Everything works. And so, the perfect little system is here indeed.
I only have good things to share here. It wasn't the most trivial of tests: a system that is seven years old, runs a dual-boot setup with tons of old data, lots of hardware that needs tender care. But it was a breeze - literal and figurative, he he. I had the drivers sorted like a charm. The system is reasonably fast and fully usable. All the peripherals properly behave. Fun stuff, extra software, wicked looks.
Now imagine what this distro can do if you give it ultra-modern hardware. That will be the topic of my future laptop purchase. Whenever it happens, whatever Kubuntu version will be the default out there, I shall attempt to twine the two. I am not deluding myself that Linux can replace Windows in every aspect. Far from it. But the combo shall make for a splendid workhorse, and that's what I aiming for. My current tests, and this one in particular, show that Zesty has all the right ingredients to be the perfect match.