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Ubuntu 9.04 64-bit on Acer Aspire 4535

I recently said goodbye to the Acer Aspire 4920 I was using for a brand new Acer Aspire 4535, a decision I might ultimately regret, time will tell.

As the Acer Aspire 4535 comes with an AMD Turion x2 64-bit processor, I thought this was the ideal opportunity to install a 64-bit operating system to see if 32 vs. 64 means anything to me. So I downloaded Ubuntu 8.10 Jaunty Jackalope 64-bit Edition and installed it.

Without going into detail, the default install went smoothly and everything worked fine. The ATI Radeon HD 3500 graphics card driver was made available, which installed and worked out of the box. Even got desktop effects going without having to tinker around at all. Everything else worked like you’d expect it to.

I started hitting snags when I downloaded new stuff though – Firefox 3.5 was first and installation failed a few times before the 64-bit version worked for me. Maybe I just don’t understand it so well. The next snag came when I tried to install the Flash plugin for Firefox – by default Adobe doesn’t offer an option for 32 or 64-bit versions, so you think you’re merrily downloading the correct software, only to be told “incorrect architecture” when you try to install it.

There is, of course, a workaround for this, but I haven’t gotten to it yet, because I encountered a fatal error when trying to set up dual screens with an extended desktop.

On the Aspire 4920, which has integrated Intel graphics, I had dual monitors working like a charm. I have an Acer (9:6) screen at home which is positioned above the notebook while at work a BenQ (4:3) screen is positioned to the right of the notebook. I think I had to fiddle with Xorg to get it working initially, but I don’t remember it being a pain. Point is, I had it working and Ubuntu intelligently remembered when I was at work and when I was at home, using the correct rez and positioning in each location.

So here I was with Ubuntu 64 on the Aspire 4535 and struggle as I might, dual monitors would not work for me at all. Accessing the properties through Ubuntu’s Display manager makes it hang, and ATI’s Catalyst Control Centrer refuses to give me dual monitor options – even though it happily clones the notebook’s output.

After struggling with it (and a slow internet connect), for a day, combined with tech-fatigue of a mammoth restore and a learning curve with the subtle differences of 64-bit software, I gave up. I’ve decided to go back to 32-bit and see if my life is easier.

However, I will be upgrading to Karmic Koala at the end of the month anyway, so I decided I may as well try Karmic Koala Beta now. So I’m downloading Ubuntu 9.04 Karmic Kuala Beta to give it a run and see if it plays nice with my new lappie.

Watch this space.

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