Monday, November 26, 2007

Fun with operating systems

Last weekend I reinstalled Windows Vista on my Toshiba A135-4527 laptop. Or rather, I used the system restore discs that came with the notebook to restore my PC to its factory default settings. But that didn't solve the glitches I was hearing when playing and recording audio.

So today I decided to install Windows XP. Of course, if you want to create a dual boot system, the experts will usually tell you to install your Windows operating systems in reverse chronological order. That's because while Vista recognizes the boot manager for XP, Windows XP will not recognize Vista's. That makes sense, because Vista wasn't around when XP was released.

But what that means is that if you've already got Vista installed, you'd better make sure you have your Vista installation disc handy if you plan on installing Windows XP without eliminating Vista. Because otherwise, you'll find that you can only boot into Windows XP once it's installed. Fortunately, the fix is as simple as putting your Vista installation disc in the drive, rebooting, and using the startup repair tool.

Once I decided that what I really wanted was a triple boot system, with Vista, XP, and Ubuntu 7.10, I went ahead and repartitioned my hard drive to accommodate three operating systems and a shared partition for storing files. My plan was to install XP, then Vista, then Ubuntu. But when I got to Vista, it wanted to overwrite XP. I assume this is because I was using a system restore disc, and not a standalone Vista disc. So all in all, I've done 4 complete operating system installations today.

I suspect I'll spend most of my time using XP, but I wanted to keep Vista around in case a future Windows Update fixes my audio problems. Also, since I write about software, it's nice to have the newest version of Windows handy in case I want to check out any applications that don't work with XP.

I like Ubuntu, but there are a few problems that keep me from using it full time. First, the audio drivers for the Toshiba A135 series are a bit... nonexistent. While there are a bunch of posts on the Ubuntu forums from users who have come up with workarounds, they're a bit of a pain to follow. I've managed to get audio to play in Ubuntu, but the headphone jack doesn't work at the moment. And second, there's no user-friendly way to synchronize my Windows Mobile PDA with Evolution, Thunderbird, or other PIM applications. I've tried using SynCE and MultiSync, but I just can't quite get things configured properly.

And while the Toshiba A135-4527 was designed to run Vista, XP runs like a dream. It boots about 1000% faster than Windows Vista, the audio is glitch-free, and overall the OS is much more responsive than Vista. There's no support for some of the hardware buttons (like the keys that dim the screen brightness or control media playback), but that's a small price to pay.

You will need to install some drivers manually. Not only did I have problems getting the WiFi adapter to work when I first loaded XP, but I couldn't even get the LAN card working. But it turns out I'm not the first person to try loading Windows XP on this model of notebook. Someone has been kind enough to post a file on RapidShare containing pretty much every single drive you'll need to configure the audio, wireless, ethernet, and other hadware.

I do kind of miss some of Vista's eye-candy. And I'd gotten kind of used to being able to launch programs just by typing their names into the start menu. But Google Desktop and Launchy are pretty decent replacements.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tip: If you add a shortcut to the program in c:\windows or c:\windows\system32 then you can type the program name in the "run" box.

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