Linux Chronicles: Dell Latitude XT2

It might seem difficult getting your new Dell Latitude XT2 to work with Ubuntu; however, taken one step at a time, it’s pretty easy.

My Dell Latitude XT2I got a new computer the other day. Well, that’s a partial truth — it’s a machine that’s new to me. (The machine was shipped to its original customer in February 2010.) It’s a Dell Latitude XT2, a notebook computer that converts into a tablet PC with a resistive touchscreen. It came with a neat little stylus that works quite well for being a pressure-activated screen!

I bought the machine from Dell Financial Services’ Direct Sales unit for cheap. With shipping and a one-year warranty, I only spent about $500. By comparison, when the machine was shipped new in 2010, the street retail price started just under $2,000! It was a good purchase for me because as I’m starting to run more and more errands for my consulting, sometimes schlepping around an iPad alone just doesn’t cut it. There are times when it’s important to have a full computer. As I do a lot of commuting by bicycle and public transportation, I also don’t want my MacBook Pro to suffer the wear and tear of my commute…or worse, get damaged or destroyed if I were to get in an accident. The XT2 was a small purchase that, although I’d be sad to destroy or damage this machine, I can afford to purchase a replacement should I need to.

Enough philosophy: let’s get to running Ubuntu on this machine. The machine came shipped with Windows Vista but that was the first thing to go. I replaced it with Ubuntu 12.04.2, codenamed Precise Pangolin within minutes of turning it on for the first time just to make sure that it worked well. I read through several online guides about how to make this machine work and although the steps seemed daunting, I found that they were largely unnecessary and not needed. In simple terms, my steps were this:

  1. Ensure that the system OS is up to date with the latest standard Ubuntu kernel
  2. Update the system’s BIOS to the latest version (at this writing, it’s version A12)
  3. Check the system BIOS to see what wireless cards are enabled or disabled
  4. Install the Magick Rotation utility
  5. Have a lot of fun!

If you’re interested in my steps that I took in greater detail, I’ll go through them. Do note that most all of this is done from the terminal so your typing accuracy has to be spot on. Your results, although they should be like mine, may vary: please make a backup of your data before embarking on this journey (and don’t blame me if anything bad happens!).

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Creative Computing I: Linux on Netbooks

Computing in K-12 educational environments takes creativity especially when resources are scarce.

One of the big initiatives that I worked on at/for Arizona School for the Arts was the creation and standardization of mobile computer labs (MCLs for short) around the campus. The centerpiece of this initiative is a fleet of fifty MacBooks — more on that in another post. Predating those MacBooks is a collection of about thirty netbooks, or sub-notebooks: computers that are inexpensive but are woefully underpowered. On a good day, the netbooks could barely run Windows. On a bad day, they just didn’t work.

Ubuntu on NetbooksWhile it’s the dream of many in the faculty as well as the school’s administration to replace those netbooks with MacBooks, that’s a pipe dream that won’t happen. The least expensive Mac notebook is $1,000; it’d be foolish to spend that money. We’ve got these netbooks so let’s make them work better. Seeing how Windows is too bloated for the limited processing power of these machines, I thought of experimenting with a different operating system on these machines: Ubuntu Linux, a free/libre operating system.

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