Saturday, January 17, 2009

Docking / Undocking

This article is part of my series on exploring Linux. In my last article I was quite disappointed at how difficult it was to get my dual monitors configured just the way I wanted; although it sounds like a lot of the fault lay at the feet of ATI and their proprietary drivers.

My multi-phased procedure for getting a perfect monitor configuration made me doubt whether my settings would be permanent. Would my configuration survive an undocking and redocking of my laptop (my 2nd monitor going away and coming back)? It was time to test!

I decided to kill two birds with one stone and test the networking results as well. Up to this point I had been using the internal Wifi features of the laptop and ignoring the wired ethernet port on my docking station. By configuring the laptop to use the wired port, I could see what happens when I undock and leave that port behind.

Talk about another easy process! I connected the dock to the wall via RJ-45 cable - Ubuntu immediately noticed and connected to my wired network. Not only did it start to use the wired network, but it remained connected to my wireless network as well:

Interesting result. Not only does the network drop-down give a wonderful summary of my network status, it also lets me disconnect from my wireless connection if I wish.

Now that I'm using my dock's wired network connection and a desktop spread onto my dock's monitor, it's time to disconnect. I turned off the laptop and took it out of the dock. I powered it back on and everything worked perfectly! My main desktop panels had moved to the small laptop screen (normally they were on the large LCD) and Ubuntu kept my mouse from wondering off the screen realestate. Clearly the desktop occupied only one screen. The networking also worked flawlessly. I was surfing wirelessly with no configuration required.

Satisfied that the test was a success, I was eager to see what would happen once I rejoined my dock. Would the dual-head screen configuration I had worked so hard for be a distant memory? I needn't have worried. When I rejoined my dock, Ubuntu started using my two screens and wired network connection as I had configured previously. This is the kind of professional, smooth experience I expect from my operating system.

BTW, have you noticed the screenshots I've been adding to my articles? These come to you courtesy of GIMP, the graphics program bundled with Ubuntu. GIMP really puts MS Paint to shame. Have you ever seen such pretty icons?

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