Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Agony and the... well, more agony

I'm now about 18 hours into my new computer setup. The good news: for the first time since I started building boxes, I managed to complete the entire physical setup without a single injury. I usually anoint a new computer with blood at some point of the process, but I seem to have passed that hurdle.

The bad: Vista stinks. Badly. I spent several hours last night trying to get my wireless card to work, but no dice. The install was bug-ugly at first, but improved a bit when I installed my video card drivers. It all felt pretty useless without a network connection, though. I abandoned my initial plan and instead shifted gears to Linux.

I couldn't get my card working in Linux either, but at least there the problem was clearer: Netgear hasn't provided good 64-bit drivers for this card. I hadn't realized this before buying, but there are actually 3 versions of the WG311, each of which has a different chipset and separate, incompatible drivers. Version 2 evidently boots out of the box on Ubuntu, but Version 3 uses ndiswrapper. My heart sank when I read that - I had to wrestle with ndiswrapper for hours on my last computer, and I was never very satisfied with the results.

Stayed up until nearly midnight trying to get that to work, then tackled it again this morning. I got closer after I removed the included version of ndiswrapper and installed it from source, but I still couldn't load the module. Finally, because I didn't have anything else to do, I plugged in my old, inferior USB adapter.

Surprise! It was automagically detected. Turns out that, starting in gutsy, they have a native driver for the WG111 (v2!), rather than the crummy ndiswrapper/XP one. I just plugged in my WEP information, and now I'm flying.

I'm currently downloading what feels like the entire world... there are a ton of tools I want on here. I figure I'll spend the weekend getting Ubuntu configured the way I want it, and next weekend take another swing at Vista. I love what I see so far, though. Other than gaming and a few programming tasks, I should be able to live in Ubuntu for the next few years.

Update: Well, I'm ready to declare this PC more or less complete and screw in the side panels. This is the quickest to date on any machine I've built, notwithstanding the time I spent/wasted on the WG311. And, hooray! I was able to get Eclipse and my development tools up and running. I was delighted to see that I can launch into my debugger in about 10 seconds, as opposed to about a minute under Windows on my old PC. Since that's the single factor that convinced me to upgrade, it's a welcome validation, even if it feels like half of my computer is still broken.

Update 2: Heh, wow... I just shoved the new tower under my desk, and ended up on an archaeological expedition. I was literally pulling out cables whose purpose I did not know. It's simply amazing what kind of detritus can accumulate over just a few years. Among other things, I found the jack for a cheap desk microphone that I had bought in my waning Kansas City days. I'd never been able to get it working properly and forgotten about it, even though it was on my desk the whole time. Since I've been on a roll, I figured I'd plug it in and give it another shot. Thirty seconds later, I was recording lo-fi sound clips in Ubuntu. Hooray! Man, it's going to be such a letdown when I return to Vista next weekend.

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