So I've moved on to a different organization. Once at the new office, I received a new laptop: a Dell Latitude E6410. This is a pretty nice machine. A bit heavy and bulky for my tastes, but more than enough power for the things I need to do (write documents, edit spreadsheets, read e-mail, browse the web, etc.)
It came from the factory with Windows Vista Basic pre-installed, but of course I wanted to put Linux on it. Our standard here is Windows 7, so it needed to be re-installed anyway.
What a perfect opportunity to compare the ease of installing Windows on a new laptop, versus installing Linux!
Knowing that Windows would try to clobber any pre-existing Linux installation, I let my tech support team install Windows first. I'd install Linux afterwards. All I asked was that they leave about half the hard drive space unallocated, so I could install Linux later.
We haven't ordered very many laptops before this (most of our users have desktop PCs) so our tech support team didn't have a Windows 7 image to lay down. Instead, our tech person had to install from scratch - and experienced a nightmare in getting Windows to run on this laptop.
First, the Windows 7 installer refused to recognize the nVidia GT218 [NVS 3100M] graphics card, and would only drive the system in standard VGA mode. Not exactly easy to use. The solution should be simple, though - right? Just download a new driver from nVidia's web site, and you're up and running. Except that the Windows installer also failed to recognize the Intel 82577LM Gigabit network adapter.
So he had to use another machine to download the network driver from Intel's support site, copy to my new laptop via a USB flash drive, and install it. A few reboots later, he was finally on the network.
Only then was he finally able to download the nVidia driver, to get video working on my new laptop.
From start to finish, installing Windows 7 (from scratch) on this laptop took over 6 hours. And that was just for Windows 7. I still don't have Microsoft Office installed, but since I rarely boot into Windows (and use Google Docs for most everything anyway) I doubt I'll bother.
Installing Linux was pretty straightforward for me. First, I used my bootable USB flash drive to boot the laptop into Fedora 13, to verify that everything worked. I immediately got on the network, and had access to full resolution via the Nouveau driver (an experimental open source software driver for nVidia cards.)
Satisfied that everything was compatible, I rebooted the laptop using a bootable USB live installer (thanks to LiveUSB Creator) and immediately proceeded to install Fedora 13.
Installation took about 20 minutes from start to finish. And that includes all the bundled applications, such as OpenOffice suite, too.
Easily, I'd say Linux "won" this one. But it would be dishonest of me to ignore that I've had some issues.
To be honest, I'm not all that impressed with the graphics on this system. I have the nVidia graphics card. The free Nouveau driver gives me video, and it drives my second just monitor fine. But very occasionally it has problems initiazing itself during boot. My temporary solution has been to reboot, and that seems to work. I sort of blame nVidia for that; the error message indicates the card wasn't ready for use by the time Nouveau loaded itself.
Eventually, I installed nVidia's proprietary driver. Actually, that was painless, but I did need to install the C compiler. Reboot your system into text mode, then run nVidia's install script. It does everything for you, and sets up the configuration for graphics to display properly.
The only thing you'll need to do is disable the Nouveau driver. The easiest way to do that is by passing these options at boot time:
Unfortunately, this has the side-effect of disabling the graphical boot. Rather than seeing the nifty Fedora "F" logo at boot time, you'll see a text-mode multi-coloured progress bar at the bottom of the screen. It's a decent compromise for working video.
You may need to re-install the nVidia driver whenever you update your kernel package, but that's pretty rare. Aside from that, it's worked out pretty well.
I'll add that all this would be completely unnecessary if nVidia would wake up and support open source software. Release the specs, and let the Linux developer community write their own free driver. The Nouveau driver is a great effort, but they'll never be able to support all the features of the hardware without knowing how to program for them.