We got a new refurbished laptop for Fe, an HP Pavilion G7. The Pavilion G6 I am now using has been running Mint Linux for a while: I like Mint, it is clean, it works well, and I was able to upgrade to kernel 3.0.1 (and now 3.0.4) with driver available for the ralink wireless adaptor. I had trouble installing Ubuntu GNU/Linux on this laptop, mostly due to cluelessness on my part. Some gymnastics were necessary, first trial and error for some days before I was able to get past the BIOS (F10 would have been good enough, had I known), to boot reliably from the Ubuntu CD; then having to compile the driver for the ralink adaptor.
Mint solved this problem in a roundabout way: deb packages were available on line for the aforementioned kernel, with full support for this adaptor.
Fe’s laptop is an HP G7, with a larger screen, for the most part indistinguishable from the G6. It does, however, have an AMD processor and ATI graphics adaptor. It seems quite responsive. The installation of Mint 11 went without a hitch, once I had repartitioned: shrunk the main partition by 1/2, deleted the HP tools partition, installed 3 logical partitions for a swap space (right in the middle of the HDD space, which I still persist in believing will reduce the travel time of the HDD arm); the root partition of Mint, /; and /home.
Right away the wireless networks were detected, a clue that this machine did not have a ralink adaptor. In fact it has a broadcom adaptor. Historically, Broadcom has been a can of worms for linux users; however, within recent times Broadcom relinquished its stranglehold, at least in theory, and linux developers have generated some drivers, some at least by reverse engineering. The upshot: Linux Mint with a 2.6 series kernel is working with this HP G7, right out of the box. Proprietary drivers are listed as available: FGLRX video for the ATI, and the broadcom wireless adaptor. However, the machine is working ok without either of them.
The big news here is Linux Mint is quite workable. It is based on Ubuntu, but has now gotten out from under that cloud by generating a newer branch, the LMDE—Linux Mint Debian Edition. I have not tried it yet. I am toying with the thought of moving back to Gentoo, or something similar. I really like Gentoo, just don’t want to spend so much tweaking time. I’ve got work to do… that’s always been when Free Software, and GNU/Linux have been about, for me.