I’m a long time OSS fan: I’ve been using and recommending Firefox from when it was called Phoenix, OpenOffice.org since its StarOffice days, and The GIMP since version 1.0 or so. I also frequently use VLC, Inkscape, Miranda IM, TortoiseSVN, Hugin and of course, WordPress. So, with all the Ubuntu fanboyism going on these days, I decided to install Ubuntu 6.06 on my 2 year old Toshiba Dynabook CX: the installation was a breeze — my CX was suddenly sexy again. And surprise, surprise: in contrast with earlier Linux installation attempts, everything worked out of the box. That is, almost everything… Some things needed additional tweaking (1). And more tweaking. And more. And in some cases, I simply gave up (2).
So, let me first start with (1), the additional tweaks. What follows is an extensive list of Ubuntu howtos/links I found helpful, including a tutorial I wrote myself. For my own and your reference:
- EasyUbuntu: painless installation of video codecs, libdvdcss, flash, rar support and MS core fonts.
- The Unofficial Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) Starter Guide is a must-have bookmark. I used it for installing Adobe Reader, VLC, Wine, Opera, etc.
- Picasa: follow the instructions.
- Skype: don’t install 1.2 (it won’t work), but live on the cutting edge: go with the 1.3 Beta instead.
- Interesting for web developers and masochists: install IE5, 5.5 and 6 on Ubuntu.
- Register Gmail as your default mail client.
- Add a Last.fm protocol handler in Firefox. For use with the amazing Amarok 1.4.1.
- We’ve already installed the MS Core fonts with EasyUbuntu. Here’s how we can make them prettier (autohinting).
- Fix an error in the keyboard layout. Find out your changes are reverted everytime you reboot. Then make the fix run automatically at startup.
- Activate Japanese through System>Administration>Language Support. If you’re not very fond (haha!) of Ubuntu’s Japanese font rendering, this fine optimization guide will come in handy. I believe it disables some of the earlier mentioned autohint enhancements though.
- A guide I wrote myself: how to enable Japanese font support in Adobe Reader.
- Two other links worth bookmarking: How to install anything in Ubuntu and Root Access with sudo and gksudo.
- Google Earth instructions on this page. If it doesn’t work (it didn’t for me), install Aiglx+Compiz (see below) and try again.
Excellent instructions for installing Aiglx+Compiz on the Dynabook CX (or other systems with an Intel Graphics Card).An overview of the default shortcuts can be found on the Compiz site. Drool away.
So far so good.
Then over to (2): the stuff that is and remains broken.
- Skype 1.3 beta sort of works, but the signal is far from optimal. Gtalk replacement Tapioca has similar problems, but I have no idea how to fix it.
- Google Earth and Picasa both work, but with a certain delay (even at low quality settings). Jerkily moving images aren’t pretty to look at.
- Metacity is stable but looks boring, Compiz is great but has its bugs.
- Flash animations and movies work,
but there’s no sound. You can fix this, but then you’re stuck with a 1 sec time delay. Also: CPU usage always hovers around 100% when opening a flash file.
- Video works better than I thought,
but also here: serious CPU usage issues.DVD playback is partly broken: no access to menus or subtitles, no forwarding or rewinding either.
- Bluetooth doesn’t work. Built-in SD slot isn’t recognized.
- Beagle is a fine search tool, but it’s definitely no Google Desktop Search. Doesn’t find the files I expect it to find.
Aptana, my last hope in my quest for a decent auto-suggest enabled CSS editor, doesn’t work for some reason or another. And yes, I did the extra required steps.
- I probably haven’t searched enough, but I can’t find a TortoiseSVN like tool for Gnome. There are Nautilus scripts, but they definitely can’t stand the comparison with TortoiseSVN.
- No Suspend nor Sleep functionality. Shut down + restart is the only option.
Sudden 100% CPU peaks: checking the system monitor usually doesn’t make me any wiser (= the percentages displayed do not add up to 100).
- The temperature!! According to my CPU Frequency Scaling Monitor, the CPU temperature starts at around 45 degrees (bootup), only to move up quickly to 70, 80, sometimes even +90 degrees. This results in an unpleasantly warm keyboard and a continuously noisy fan. Annoying.
So, although Ubuntu is the best Linux distro I’ve used so far, there are still some clear defects that I don’t know how to deal with (other than filing bugs and waiting for updates).
To me, Ubuntu has no real benefits over XP at this point. Yes, there’s the powerful command line, a better security model, a couple of nice Linux-only apps (like Amarok), and if you want, the OSS ideology, but still — I want to start getting things done after a while.
An XP reinstall isn’t far away, to be honest…