To balance my recent Vista exploits, I decided to try out the latest Ubuntu Linux. I downloaded version 6.10 and burned a CD. The Ubuntu cd is a “live-cd” which means that you can boot on the CD and run the operating system without installing anything or changing your current installation. Here’s what happened:
Firstly I tried booting the CD on my two machines at work. Non of them would finish the boot. My old XP box, had issues with my errors on my hard drive, which makes absolutely no sense. My new Vista box, had issues with the graphics card, maybe because I had two monitors attached. Searching for help on Google didn’t help much and I just gave up.
Just to give it another change I downloaded the latest Fedora Core and that booted fine on the XP box. Didn’t try the vista box. Both my machines at work are Dell boxes.
Take the Ubuntu Cd home with me and tried on the home machine (an AMD home build, also dual monitor on a Radeon 9800 card).
Booted fine. Looks good!
But I really want it to use both monitors – I went through a few guides, without any luck. It could be because I needed to reboot my machine, but that doesn’t make much sense with a live-cd, as you always start over from scratch. System changes does not survive from boot to boot. Okay, I’ll have to try later with a real install.
I’ve a secondly 120gb drive in my system that I’ve used for backup and for a period of time MythTV. I decide to install Ubuntu on it. There’s a nice “install” icon on the desktop of the live cd, and after a couple of questions and a wait of 15 minutes it’s installed. Rebooting directly to the secondary drive (using the bootmenu of the bios) doesn’t work, but Ubuntu has installed a new boot manager in the primary harddrive, and the first couple of options are different ways of starting Ubuntu. The “boot manager” doesn’t have a way of changing priorities (I would, still, like windows to be the primary choice), but maybe somewhere in Ubuntu it self..
Okay, so it starts, asks for the name of my user and what I want to use as password and we are there. Nice. Can’t see my primary hard drive (NTFS formatted). Haven’t seen the dual monitor set-up. But I’m on the net.
Ubuntu comes with a nice package of installed application out of the box, including Open Office (a rather old 2.0). And it’s quite easy to install new applications. I start by installing Wine. Click and a message come up asking for my password for “administration”. Okay, I get the idea that it wants an administrator password (root). As I haven’t been asked what I want to root password to be (like when I installed my Debian install, for the MythTV), I tried to leave it blank. No error message, but it just goes back to the list of applications and then tries again to install. I try “root” and “ubuntu” as password, but it just keeps on going in ring. Finally I figure that I want MY password. And it works. I’ve wine.
Wine is a windows emulation layer for linux. It make it possible to run a lot of Windows application under Linux. Quite nice and lots of applications work. So the first thing I do is insert a USB key with the (windows) application I’m developing at my place of work. The key is mounted just fine and I’m pleasantly surpriced that I sees both partitions on the key (a RO and a RW) – I tried at work and Fedora only saw the ReadWrite. I launch the application, which reads the USB keys “hard drive serial” wrong, but I can work around that (we use the key as a token), networking just works and it connects to the server just fine. Then I try to launch a part of the application that uses an ActiveX to connect to a Terminal Service server (mstsax.dll 6.0). No can do. I can run regsrv32 (which is used to register activeX’s in windows so that applications can use them), but Wine gives a lot of “this application tried to use an unimplemented function” (that’s me paraphrasing).
Getting stuff from Server
I’ve a old Windows 2000 box running at home as a house server. It has a mirrored set of hard drives and is used as our document folders and as a media server (I’ve a slimp3). I can browse to this server with the file browser just fine. So I double click on an movie (Xvid .avi) file to see what Ubuntu will do with it. Noting. It launches a media player, but it gives a “can’t read file from that position”. Agh. Crap. So I think, maybe I have to mount the networks drive or something. I right click on the directory on the folder on the network and select “link”. “Operation not supported” – okay, maybe not.
Reading my primary (NTFS) harddrive
I really want to be able to read my Windows hard drive. Makes it a lot easier to move stuff to the new system and maybe run application directly with Wine. I try a couple of guides without any luck. The latest I’ve found is this one that I haven’t tries yet.
What a piece of crap. Sorry, can’t say it any nicer. So many thing just don’t work out of the box. Getting them to work is a question of firing of terminal commands from guides that are often so badly written that it hurts my brain just thinking about it.
Example: Trying to get the “backwards” button to work on my mouse I found a guide that describe some lines to add to a file. It just didn’t bother to mention what file (no link to protect the innocent), you had to dig down to the comments to find out that it’s the xorg.conf file. Hey, that probably obvious – if you are used to X (the underlying desktop manager), but for someone new to desktop linux, it a royal pain in the arse to have fight your way through this stuff. Especially when the results, as often as not, is not even something that works.
I’ll probably boot up the Ubuntu once in a while to see if I can’t get it to work, but it is obviously going to be a major task to get it to work as I want it to. Or maybe I’ll kill it and try to install some other distribution.
Ubuntu is not ready for the desktop. Unless you define “ready for the desktop” as “ready for installation by masochistic nerds with way to much time and the need to do arcane incantations to feel important”. It’s not granny ready, mom ready or even dad ready. It’s not even ready for me, and I develop software for a living and I’ve installed more windows boxes that I dare to count and I admin my own LAMP server.
I really wanted to like Ubuntu, but it just kept being really, really annoying. My life it to short for that.
P.S. Feb. 23th 2007: I needed the secondary disk for something else, so I formatted it (in Windows) and create a new partition and formatted it NTFS. Restarting my machine GRUB (the software that allows you to select what to boot), failed. I couldn’t boot into windows. It makes sense at GRUB stores it’s information in the Ubuntu partition. Damn. As I didn’t have my XP CD around (it’s work license), I ended up reinstalling Ubuntu on small part of the secondary drive.