After reading about Canonical Software’s philosophies upon September 15th’s Ubuntu Linux preview release, I knew my dial up was about to be hurting. Three days later when I had the ISO in hand and Ubuntu installed, I knew the experience had to be shared. Hopefully this article will offer some insight into this wonderful, though buggy, Debian and Gnome distribution.
Introducing Warty the Warthog
Ubuntu Linux represents a crisis in my life, the likes of which aren’t supposed to happen at the age of 22. This distribution has promised to be everything I was looking for in my first two years of Linux exploration, and it’s simply not fair. Ever since my initial experiments with the trio of Mandrake, Slackware, and Debian I’ve been in search of a distribution which is based on Debian’s powerful package manager, is as user friendly as Mandrake thinks it is, yet is as lightweight as Slackware is capable of being. However, three months ago I discovered Arch Linux with it’s minimalist simplicity and incredible Pacman and ABS package management. Ease of use is non-existent, but hey, two out of three ain’t bad, so I gave up the search.
Now here comes Ubuntu, seemingly attempting to merge these three worlds. Of course, compromises have been made: it’s not as minimalistic as I’d now like, non-GUI administration can be a bit difficult, and you don’t have the complete control which I’ve fallen in love with by using Arch. However, I believe Ubuntu strikes closer to the target for desktop Linux than ever before, and is set to be suitable for users and hackers alike. That is, if Canonical manages to get the bugs in order.
Please keep in mind, this article is coming from the perspective of someone who’s used computers for 17 of their first 22 years, but has always focused more on hardware than software. Like I mentioned, I’ve been using Linux for two years, but I’ve only felt like I understood what I was doing for the last three months, when I gave up Windows for Arch Linux. I’ve also never been a fan of desktop environments, preferring Fluxbox, PekWM, and Enlightenment in addition to the console.
Now on with the adventure!
Stumbling Through Installation
Freedom Doesn’t Come Easy: A Glimpse of History
Debian has a long and storied history with installers, which tends to hold down distributions rooted in it’s code. When I started with Debian Woody the install process was long and drawn out, but most of it was just pressing enter to confirm Debian’s choices. This behavior wasn’t all bad, as it got the job done, but it had this tendency to drive me insane as a new user. Others have been trying to improve the process of installing Debian for ages, but most I’ve encountered have been nearly unusable *cough*Progeny*cough*. Both Xandros and Libranet have capable installers, however, proving that it can be done; and while Xandros’ felt like more show than functionality, Libranet actually affords an admirable level of control with it’s hybrid text and graphical solution.
More recently, Debian has been working on a new installer of their own which is still ncurses, prompts minimally, and is destined for the upcoming Sarge release. I previously tried this installer with the May 30th test candidate net install. Even then the installer promised to be much less frustrating, though I encountered a nasty bug with systems not on a network, where I was nearly trapped in a hellish loop of dialogs. Ubuntu uses a modified version of this new Debian installer, and I’m glad to say I didn’t encounter any bugs, just design flaws.
Pack Your Bags for Adventure!
Before booting you’re offered a large number of boot options which can easily be ignored unless there’s a problem as, unlike Debian, Ubuntu uses the latest 22.214.171.124 kernel by default. The only option which might be considered without a hardware demand is expert mode, which I would strongly suggest avoiding unless you’re both incredibly patient and know what you’re doing. Simply put, it’s a convoluted path of installer hell, and I wish I didn’t need it.
You’ll want your / partition to be at least 1.8GB for the installation to complete, and the standard install will take 1.4GB of space. If you’re short on space you can boot with ‘custom’ or ‘custom-expert’, which only takes about 350MB, and install more software with apt. If you’re just short of 1.8GB, you can try booting with the ‘archive-copier/copy=false’ option, as was suggested on the mailing list. I haven’t been able to confirm that option works, but I think you can pass over copying archives in expert mode if it doesn’t.
Following the Chosen Path
After a few locale questions and a force loading of modules, I was alerted that my via_rhine network card was detected, but that it appears to not be connected to a network. It hit the nail on the head and offered to let me configure a static network, or to not setup a network at all. It would be nice if the installer were a bit clearer that not setting up a network is in fact properly setting up a loopback interface, like Slackware does.
Next you’ll be given the option to allow Ubuntu to auto-partition a given hard drive, or partition manually. I tested this on my 8.4GB /dev/hdd, and it adequately set an approximately 350MB swap, and mounted the rest to an ext3 root. I decided to go back and set a 256MB swap with the rest a reiserfs root. Let me give you a bit of advice, save yourself some trouble and drop to vc/2 to partition with cfdisk.
The first problem is that the partitioner displays in MB, but switches to GB when possible. This makes it extremely difficult to calculate your space provisions. Second, the ‘make swap’ option is hidden under a menu which defaults to a format option. I won’t tell you how long I overlooked it for, expecting it to be found under the mount points menu, but it was long enough that I embarrass myself just thinking about it. You’ll still have to mount the partitions with Debian’s tools, but at least you can partition with something a bit more refined.
Note that the disks don’t use the normal /dev/hdX syntax in cfdisk, but instead /dev/discs/discX/disc so that the first disk is /dev/discs/disc0/disc and the second disk is /dev/discs/disc1/disc. Like Grub’s (hdX,X) it’s channel agnostic and ignores opticals, and if you ever want to specify a partition replace the last ‘disc’ with ‘partX’ starting with 1.
After the partitions are finally given filesystems and mounted, the installer goes on to install packages without any prompts for customization. This takes a good while, rivaling the length of time a Conectiva 10 or Suse 9.1 install will consume. The installer then reboots into your system for stage 2 of the installation.
The Scenic Route, Apparently
After setting up a user account and a PPP connection with pppconfig (which no longer detects my hardware ISA modem’s port, like it used to with this same modem), I realized that the installer hadn’t yet finished installing software. Instead it had only installed the base system and copied packages off the CD. It took even longer to install and configure the rest of the system, making this, even with it’s minimal interaction, one of the longest installs I’ve been through. Luckily, the Canonical developers have expressed a concern over this two stage installation which is inherent to Debian’s installer, and it appears that plans are in the works to do away with it, probably when it goes graphical with HoaryHedgehog. I imagine this will also reduce the 400MB installation buffer mentioned above.
There are two more things about the install which I should note. First, Ubuntu disables the root account by default, instead using sudo and the first user’s password. This is no problem for me since it’s actually more handy for single commands, and you can still enter a persistent super user session with ‘sudo -s’. The problem is that during install, while they mention that you’re creating a user account to use instead of root, they don’t explain sudo’s use at all. If I didn’t already know about this before hand I may have missed it altogether.
Second is that the installer didn’t give me an option to pass on the boot loader in standard mode. In expert mode, it gives the option to install Grub or Lilo to any partition or MBR you want, or to skip it altogether. In standard mode, it only gives the option to install Grub to your chosen partition or MBR. I don’t personally care about not offering Lilo here, since it is indeed more advanced, but I feel every good installer should offer the option to skip the boot loader. It would also be nice to still be given a menu.lst as expert mode did not, since this makes configuration a snap in this age where every distribution uses slightly different parameters.
The Search for the Perfect Interface
What’s a Scenic Route Without a View?
On Ubuntu’s first boot I was welcomed by GDM and the familiar nv skew, as I’ve come to call my screen’s offset in the absence of Nvidia’s driver or further configuration. My first impression of GDM is how clean it is with it’s solid light tannish backdrop and minimalistic interface: quite the contrast to Libranet’s clutter, and much more subtle than KDM implementations I’ve seen in the likes of Conectiva and Lycoris. Upon logging in I was impressed by the speed of Gnome’s load, I dare say nearly as fast as Yoper’s prelinked KDE, though I haven’t timed either. Overall, the entire system is very responsive, especially for a desktop environment.
Sane defaults seem to be quite a talking point here at OSnews, and I think this philosophy could very well define Ubuntu Linux. The entire desktop is extremely cohesive, and the brown on blue/gray theme is surprisingly smooth and subtle. That should be expected with earth tones, but expected it was not. Of course, I’m just relieved that it’s not filled with gaudy colors and flashy effects: I’m not exactly a fan of glass and plastic themes.
Sanity By Mine!
To continue with the sane defaults theme, Ubuntu is another in the newish breed of single CD distributions. Exploring the applications menu reveals software highlights which include Firefox 0.9.3 (1.0PR available), Evolution 2.0, Gaim 0.8.3 (with Evolution integration, 1.0 available), Open Office 1.1.2, and Gimp 2.0.2 in addition to more standard Gnome applications such as Rhythmbox, Sound Juicer, Eye of Gnome, and of course we’re dealing with Gnome 2.8 here. Just about the entire package selection feels just right, except I prefer Abiword to Open Office and MPD to Rhythmbox, but this is remedied easily enough. An obvious absence is a CD burner outside of Nautilus’ CD writing extension, though K3B is available in the repositories (this is more a Gnome deficiency). The focus on cleanliness in Ubuntu’s Gnome implementation is also readily apparent in the application menu. Perhaps this is partially thanks to the divergence of the computer menu, allowing the application menu to contain nothing but launchers, but the solid organization should not be understated.
The cleanliness of Ubuntu extends into their interesting approach to the desktop, or perhaps this is more it’s foundation. I’ve been trying to minimize the use of desktop icons since Windows 3.11, so imagine my astonishment when I discovered their complete absence in Ubuntu! Even if you love your icons you probably won’t feel you’re missing anything, as they’re replaced extremely effectively by the computer menu and trash applet in the panels, in addition to your standard launchers. In fact, those who fill up their desktop with icons may even prefer this design, as it frees up space and organization possibilities.
So what is this fabled computer menu I keep mentioning? It’s very simply a menu on the top panel beside the application menu, replacing the actions menu. It functions as a launchpad for Nautilus, a centralization for configuration which Microsoft’s control panel can only dream of, and also a collection of the common tasks it would normally handle as the actions menu. It’s very effective at providing a divergence point from the desktop and applications menu, in order to keep them from becoming cluttered.
This menu happens to fit very well with Nautilus’ spatial browsing by offering links to home, desktop, disks, network, recent documents, and search. However, it’s still annoying since I have to mouse to the corner of the screen, so perhaps this functionality would be best served in a desktop context menu or bound to the keyboard’s evil keys. It would also be nice to have a link to the root directory. Still though, this menu is a nice step in the right direction for Nautilus.
And also for configuration. This distribution has the easiest UI configuration I’ve seen on any operating system, and I believe anyone who’s ever configured Windows or KDE to their liking would have no problems, and likely be relieved. Again it comes down to a simple diversion, this time between ‘desktop preferences’ and ‘system configuration’. Canonical doesn’t slip into splitting things into too many groups, and this keeps it elegant.
Capturing the Power of Time
It was during this very quick configuration that I noticed that my clock was set properly. This may sound like a strange revelation, but it’s significant. Not once did Ubuntu ask me if my system clock was set to UTC, just which timezone to use. Yet it was properly detected that it is in fact set to UTC, and the proper offset was applied to Arizona. This is something I couldn’t even get working properly in Conectiva with a good deal of effort, which, for the record, also has a nasty habit of resetting the system clock to it’s liking. Ubuntu’s handling of time, like so many other things, is refreshing.
Trouble in Zululand
The Battle for Copper Pair Pass
There are problems, however, as at this point I decided to connect to my dialup account. Having run through pppconfig during installation I expected this to be cake. Unfortunately, when I ran the ‘pon’ script, I was prompted to execute ‘mknod /dev/ppp c 108 0’ as root. I would later find from the mailing list that this device node is made by udev when hotplug detects the ppp_generic module being loaded. This module isn’t loaded by default, so it must be added to /etc/modules. However, at this point I simply made the node, which also loaded the module, and tried again to connect.
This time the modem dialed, and successfully connected. Unfortunately I couldn’t sign into Gaim or resolve a DNS despite properly setting up my static DNS in pppconfig. After some playing I discovered that I had to register my DNS addresses in the Gnome Networking utility (Computer->System Configuration->Networking). Hopefully this will be automated in the future.
Alright, so everything’s working properly, but I still have to run ‘pon’ from a terminal or run dialog. To remedy this right click on the panel at the top of your screen, select ‘Add to panel’, and choose ‘Modem Lights’. Right click the new panel app and change the lock file to your modem device, unless it’s ttyS0. For me this is ‘/var/lock/LCK..ttyS1’. Now run pppconfig to modify your connection, and make sure that your users can all dial out (from advanced options). Log the user out and back in to set the group changes, and you can now launch your PPP connection from the panel.
Obviously PPP connections can run much more smoothly in Ubuntu. However, once configured properly this Gnome desktop is very convenient in this regard. Though I still have a problem where, after disconnecting, I have to run pppd with ‘pon’ and then ‘killall chat’ before I can successfully dial again. I thought udev had fixed this, at least it did in Arch, but apparently not here. Please note that this problem is by no means limited to Ubuntu, or even Debian, and I’ll most likely be able to work around it in the ip-down script.
Managing a Newfound Power
At some point during this process I halted my computer and discovered a problem here as well. Not only would it not shutdown automatically, but I couldn’t briefly press the power button to turn it off like in most distributions where this happens. No, I had to press the power button for a full five seconds, or it would just sit there. Obviously this won’t do! Luckily I knew perfectly well that the problem was my BIOS which, being older than 2001, doesn’t support ACPI. Instead I added ‘apm’ in /etc/modules, and everything is perfect in power management land.
The Struggle for Strengthened Vision
Next on the list is the Nvidia driver, which luckily is in Ubuntu’s repository. So start synaptic and activate the main/restricted and security repositories. I would suggest not using Universe unless you know you need something from there, as this repository contains unsupported Sarge packages. Refresh your package lists, search for ‘nvidia’, and install nvidia-glx. The package will be downloaded and installed automatically, but the configuration isn’t so straight forward.
Open a terminal and load the nvidia modules with ‘sudo modprobe nvidia’. Now that the module’s loading has been verified, add ‘nvidia’ to /etc/modules, and run ‘sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xfree86’. You could also manually edit the file, but dpkg will no longer manage it if the md5sum doesn’t match. So run through the configuration script, choosing ‘nvidia’ to the first driver question, and enabling glx while disabling dri and GLcore from the modules list near the end. Unfortunately there’s no way to disable Nvidia’s splash screen without breaking dpkg’s handling of the file. For all the other options, the choices will default to the previous automatic selection except for, I believe, the mouse device section, though I may be mistaken. This would be a good time to disable ’emulate3buttons’ if you’d like, and also to ensure that your monitor frequencies are correct (if you know them, otherwise leave them at default which is probably correct, but at least safe). You can now restart your xserver with ctrl-alt-backspace.
Digging Deeper… Briefly
The Search for the Source
Now that I’ve been digging deeper into the OS, I took my first look at the /etc and /home directories from an analytical standpoint. I was quite astonished. Most user friendly distributions are unable to reach a high level of integration without a good deal of bulk, which to me, actually makes the interface seem less cohesive and more likely to break. It also makes us hypocrites in one of the larger arguments against Microsoft, if you hadn’t noticed. Ubuntu, on the other hand, manages to make the experience feel extremely feature rich without a great deal of software installed. This less is more philosophy seems to result in the most cohesive desktop I’ve personally experienced, but I haven’t used OS X either.
The Great Assent
Don’t get me wrong, there are some things I’d rather not have, such as Postfix and Mutt. I figure if someone wants these things they’ll know how to install them, and they’re pretty much unnecessary with the very excellent Evolution 2. But then, Postfix follows Canonical’s no listening policy by default, which makes it practically a non-issue. The point is that there’s nothing that I absolutely can’t stand having installed, and that’s an accomplishment. Remember, as an Archer I’m used to the absolute minimum.
An lsmod has similar results. The Ubuntu team has made it clear they don’t want anyone to have to compile their own kernel, and while there are a great number of modules available, only the necessary ones are loaded by default, for the most part. This is why I had some issues with PPP and APM, but I’m sure they’ll be straightened out. As far as the ease of installing Nvidia drivers, I know Canonical is working on a smoother solution.
The King’s Library
Debian’s package manager is more complex than most, both checking dependencies and handling configuration dynamically. For the record, both of these traits can also be thought of as weaknesses, but they’re generally considered strengths. Now, being so complex, apt and dpkg have a great deal of functionality which takes time and patience to master.
But you thought I said this is a user friendly distribution, did you? Well I did, and this is where synaptic comes into the equation. Synaptic is a graphical front end for apt, created by Conectiva when they modified apt to work with RPM’s. It’s been available in every Debian distribution I’ve tried, but people seem to forget it when they decry apt as too complicated.
I could talk about package management all day (imagine that), so let me tie this up quickly. Synaptic adequately captures the base power of apt into a front end which is easily usable by novices. However, if you know what you’re doing, or if something goes wrong, apt and dpkg are still fully functional on the command line.
It should also be noted that Canonical is maintaining a full repository of it’s own to avoid the pains of compatibility with Debian’s. For this reason, only about 1000 packages are officially available according to the website, but there are many unofficial packages available in the unsupported Universe repository. I fully expect the official repository to grow over time as Canonical gains the capacity to maintain it.
The Struggle’s End
Most distributions in this choice saturated GNU/Linux community exist on a niche feature. They’ll do everything at an average level, or even subpar, and then have one thing that sets them apart. For Arch it’s simplistic minimalism, and Yoper’s is prelinking and other speed enhancements. Vector and Deli are for various ages of old hardware, and Gentoo is for the hardcores with bandwidth and CPU cycles burning a hole in their hard drives. There’s Debian for those who believe strong package management negates the need for releases, and RPM based ‘user friendly’ distributions for the people who prefer off the CD solutions with constant release cycles.
Canonical Software is a veritable all star team of developers, mostly from the Gnome and Debian projects, and it shows in their design goals. Ubuntu is fast, yet feature rich. It’s up to date, yet capable of being run on relatively old hardware. They take a traditionally bulky desktop environment which is near to their heart and prove that it’s reputation was due to years of misimplementation.
What’s more is they plan to blend one of the best package managers in the community with a steady six month release cycle, and are doing so with their own package repository. With this they set the foundation for a distribution which could be perfectly acceptable to hardcore hackers, yet perfectly usable by your average user. Ubuntu may finally break free of the niche.
The Cost of Knowledge
Unfortunately all of this is moot if Canonical can not come through on their aspiration to just work. We must keep in mind that this is a preview release, and a well publicized one at that. After all, that’s just a fancy way of saying public beta, so there are bound to be bugs, hunting them is the purpose. However, there are still a lot of them, and many quite serious.
The most common seem to revolve around network detection, and these are usually easily resolved by manually loading modules during installation. It also appears that many such cards are actually addressed by the detection routine, but simply slipped through glitches. I’m no developer, but that suggests to me that there’s a good auto detection/configuration foundation in place, and that fixes will be fairly easy.
But that’s not to say some bugs aren’t more severe. An official kernel not finding /proc is simply unacceptable. Abnormal IRQ conflicts with parallel ports and empty PPPoE symlinks can’t be fixed by your average user. Even a webcam not working properly or the aforementioned network detection problems will be deal breakers for many. If you’re interested in more information I’d suggest perusing Ubuntu’s bugzilla and subscribing to the ubuntu-users list.
But again, this is a public beta, it exists to find bugs, and that’s what it’s doing. It’s true, the amount of configuration I had to perform is unacceptable for a distribution with Ubuntu’s goals, but at this stage it’s at least understandable. To be honest though, I am irked by the quantity of the bugs, and curious about Canonical’s capability to fix the vast majority by late October. But then, that’s practically overnight, and I’m perfectly willing to give them a year, as a new distribution.
Staying the Path
According to Ubuntu’s website, their namesake means “humanity to others” in an African language. Just like this greater philosophy, I believe the desktop design philosophies behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution have been within our community for years. What Canonical has done, is to take an introspective look at said community in order to finally bring both the moral and technical philosophies, together, towards fruition. It’s my opinion that Ubuntu, at it’s root, is what Linux is all about as a whole. But then, I wear hemp too.
I’m not going to be switching to Ubuntu, as apt simply can not compete with Arch’s package management. I am, however, still very much excited by the prospects for this distribution. It’s amazing really, a week ago hardly anybody had heard of this nameless project, and now they’re already beginning to set benchmarks with their very first public beta. If Canonical is successful with their graphical installer, and they manage to get this very serious bug problem straightened out without ideological compromises, Ubuntu could become the first distribution I feel comfortable recommending to the average user.
That’s right, with patience and perseverance, Canonical might turn Ubuntu into the distribution which the mainstream has been constantly reminding us about, or waiting for, as it were.
|Asus P3V4X (VIA Apollo Pro 133a)||working, as detected|
|Coppermine Pentium3 800EB||working|
|1GB PC133 SDRAM||working|
|Nvidia GeForce3 64MB||working, optional configuration|
|Hercules Game Theater XP (CS46XX)||working, as detected|
|D-Link 530TX 10/100 (VIA Rhine)||working in loopback, as detected|
|Jaton Com V.90 ISA (Ambient 56xx)||mostly working, heavy configuration|
|Acer 12x8x32 IDE||reading and writing, as detected|
|IBM Deskstar8 8.4GB IDE||working, as detected|
|Cornerstone P1600 monitor||working, as detected|
|USB Keyboard and Mouse||working, as detected|
|APM Power Management||working, manual configuration|
|A healthy dose of contempt|
for desktop environments
About the Author
Michael Salivar is a 22 year old student of Earth from Arizona with images of carbon fiber laptops dancing in his head. He is a recovering Linux newbie of two years who has forsaken life’s complexities in favor of our planet’s beauty.
View Evolution 2.0 on Ubuntu Linux 4.10 here http://www.linuxbeta.com/slideshows/slideshow.php?release=120&slide…
Now that’s what I call a good review. Not that I agree with the author on all points (for example I think synaptic is terrible for novice users, but the ubuntu devs are working on their own apt frontend so that shouldn’t be a problem), but it really gives you a idea about Ubuntu and it addresses the problems. In fact, I have encountered a lot of the problems the author mentions while trying out Ubuntu.
And I agree with the author, Ubuntu still has some serious issues, but it really is promising.
I agree, it was surprisingly good. I have become weary of the cookie-cutter distro reviews:
1) describe installation
2) give vague impression of packages/desktop
This review was well-written and extremely descriptive. I would like to see more distro reviews written by this guy.
All that said, I’m still not budging from slack
I installed Ubuntu on my Apple G5. Certainly PPC version of the Ubuntu. It has full 32 bit support. Installation went flawless. The thermal driver is also working. The only thing not recognized is the sound card. Ubuntu folks promised they will have PPC64 support in the near future. For those of you not having technical expertise to install gentoo or debian or do not want to pay yellowdog, Ubuntu is the distribution.
I almost didn’t read it because I was expecting something similar to the other reviews on this site (install, small rant, done). But I am glad I read this one. It sounds like he actually used the distro. Good Work.
My Ubuntu experiences:
Setup x to use nv for my nvidia card, but my card doesn’t work with the nv driver they ship (6800gt).
Desktop nice, simple, just works. Doesn’t hurt your eyes with gradients.
They installed the gstreamer backend for totem, which unfortunately does not work well. The gstreamer backend will be sweet when it works, but for now using the xine backend would have been better.
Lots of polish that I am not sure whither to attribute to them or gnome 2.8
They default to firefox as your browser. I like epiphany, it integrates much better with the desktop.
Overall quite nice for a beta release.
(install, small rant, done)
Kinda like your post If you had posted this yesterday it might have made the news as a review hehe.
Has anyone had problems with the iso being burned on the cd? I been through many downloads of ubuntu and i burn it to cd, but when i go to install it on a machine, it gives me errors at the step of when it varifies the pacakges. But it will complain about different packages and not just the same one. Am i getting corrupted iso images? Any suggestions to a successful burn?
Try another machine. It most probably is not a burning issue (provided that your CD-R is not faulty, that your CD media is not brand-less and that you tried different mirrors).
Try another cdrom
Looks like the Mona Lisa from far away.
Does anyone know what direction this distribution is going, will be it a user friendly distribution to contend with Mandrake, SuSe, Linspire, etc?
Can we anticipate a graphical installer, not menu driven?
Check the md5sum, it should be on the ftp right next to the ISO. If you’re in Linux use the md5sum command, if you’re in Windows try http://www.md5summer.org
It is a great distro, installed flawlessly on my dell precision 450 workstation. By the way you can request a shipment of Ubuntu from their website. I think they will be shipping them in October. Nice review.
Yes, they’re planning on a graphical installer, and I believe the ETA is Hoary. I read somewhere that they’re considering porting Anaconda, the Red Hat installer.
Ubuntu Linux is impressive. Just one example — I tested on a desktop machine with a USB network card. Once I had configured the IP address (network doesn’t run DHCP) the USB network card just worked. Every other distro has required me to hand edit a config file to get it working.
On the Ubuntu mailing lists they’ve outlined their plans to add a simple application GUI that will make it easy for non-technical users to install applications. When that happens, I’m looking forward to seeing large-scale availability of Ubuntu Linux pre-installed and available from computer retailers.
Congratulations to the Ubuntu Linux team, a brilliant effort for a beta release.
Does anyone know what direction this distribution is going, will be it a user friendly distribution to contend with Mandrake, SuSe, Linspire, etc?
No, it will be a user friendly distribution to beat the crap out of Mandrake, SuSE, Linspire, etc.
I’m not going to be switching to Ubuntu, as apt simply can not compete with Arch’s package management.
A curious statement. Left me wondering what’s wrong with APT in Ubuntu? Ubuntu is practically Debian, right? And Debian’s APT is clearly superior to pacman (more packages, more features, better stability).
What have Ubuntu developers done to APT to make it appear worse than Arch’s pacman?
I knew this one was coming
I’m not saying that pacman is better for everyone, just for myself. In fact, apt/dpkg are much better suited to user friendly distributions because of the handling of configuration files, which would have to be added by a user friendly distributor if they were to choose pacman.
But that’s also the primary thing I don’t like about Debian. I much prefer to be in complete control of my system, to know everything that’s being run, and most of the options they’re run with. If something needs to be changed, I want to be the one to change it, because then I KNOW if there’s a security issue.
Plus I’m a minimalist, and pacman has, mostly, only the bare essentials in it’s functionality. That made it much easier to learn, and it also makes it easier to use. But that’s just for me, most people will prefer Debian’s system because they want things to work, and continue to work.
I know it wasn’t clear, but the “I won’t be switching” implies personal opinion applying to myself.
I forgot an entire point.
Yes, the Pacman repository is much smaller than Debians, more in line with where Ubuntu is at (though I expect Ubuntu’s to grow faster). However, there’s also the Arch Build System, which negates that greatly. Not only does it allow you to very easily compile a package from the official repositories, changing ./configure options, but it also provides a very easy means to compile your own packages into pacman packages. It takes about 1-3 minutes to write the PKGBUILD which the script calls upon, and then it downloads the source, extracts it, configures it, builds it, and packages it, ready for a ‘pacman -A foo.tar.gz’. This makes uninstalling and upgrading said package much smoother.
Ok, but if your reason to write “apt simply can not compete with Arch’s package management” is that arch does less and requires you to do more manually, then you have to admit that you were provoking a discussion about it.
Yes, I see. Some people would argue that neither APT or pacman can compete with Slackware’s package management. 😉
Is its name. I mean, what the hell is an Ubuntu? I could think of a million names better than this one.
That is why it is a comment not a review
It also has a lot to do with the factors such as: I just finished installing ubuntu, and I don’t think people reading comments want to read a comment long enough to describe everything. It was intended to be more along the lines of a blog entry.
Ok, but if your reason to write “apt simply can not compete with Arch’s package management” is that arch does less and requires you to do more manually, then you have to admit that you were provoking a discussion about it.
Subconsciously maybe, but I really didn’t intend it. Besides, package management is always a good debate.
Yes, I see. Some people would argue that neither APT or pacman can compete with Slackware’s package management. 😉
Quoting the review:
Debian’s package manager is more complex than most, both checking dependencies and handling configuration dynamically. For the record, both of these traits can also be thought of as weaknesses, but they’re generally considered strengths.
I had you Slackers in mind with that
Thank you for your opinion, I’ll certainly keep it in consideration, honestly. However, I do wish you’d accept what I say as my opinion, and if you disagree to please explain why instead of insulting as many people with as few words as possible.
“Ubuntu” is an African word, meaning “Humanity To Others”. The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.
that was the very first sentence on the very first page of their website…
all I have seen is praise for the name elsewhere…you are the first one I have seen to complain about it.
I for one like the name, it actually “means” something
“Is its name. I mean, what the hell is an Ubuntu?”
“humanity towards others”
“I could think of a million names better than this one.”
I think it is an excellent choice. Unique, appropriate to open source idealism, short and easy to spell. What’s not to like?
Wow, just got done reading the review, this guy deserves a job reviewing things .
I have been using Ubuntu since the day it came out, mainly because It had Gnome 2.8. I must say i have enjoyed the experience, although its a little more work than KDE, it seems to let you learn more. I also really like Yoper so I am gonna wait and see if they come up with a Gnome version as well. I did find the install tough at first, then realized I had burned a new coffee coaster hehe. After remaking a new one it went flawlessly. I found it easy enough and I have only been using Linux since June.
I’m now running ubuntu on a Pentium II machine and an athlon64 x86_64 machine. Bye bye fedora, bye bye 5 install cd’s, update problems, constant breakage.
I’m enjoying ubuntu, 2.6 kernel without selinux problems, gnome 2.8 without bluecurve problems, synaptic/apt update system, debian, python. It’s clean, fast, and for the most part it just works (still a few areas that need some improvement).
I’m running firefox and thunderbird, evolution is just a bit “too much” for my taste at this point.
Congrats to the ubuntu developers, keep up the good work. ubuntu is already quite nice as a beta release and should only get better.
All this fuss about the name Ubuntu is interesting. Who knew what a Gentoo was the first time they heard about Gentoo Linux? I still don’t know what Suse means (if it even has a meaning), and wasn’t sure how to pronounce it for a long time. Debian didn’t sound like much at first either. Nothing about Ubuntu sounds stupid or strange to me, even when I didn’t know its meaning. But… what do I know? I thought “PlayStation” was a stupid name for a game system targeted at teenagers (which I was at the time), “Sounds like a Fisher-Price toy for toddlers”, I said. Look at the PlayStation brand now, practically synonymous with video games as a whole, like Nintendo (which sounds kind of stupid if you think about it) used to be. I bet it won’t seem weird or even funny to anyone after its hung around for a while.
But I have one question for Ubuntu users out there. Is mono/monodevelop/gtk# in apt-get respo?
> I still don’t know what Suse means (if it even has a meaning)
It means “Software- und SystemEntwicklung” (Entwicklung is the german word for “Development”).
Mono is not (yet) in the repositories, but they’re working on that. If you really want them you can add this line to your sources:
deb http://www.getsweaaa.com/~tseng/ubuntu/debs ./
Among others, it has mono, monodevelop and muine.
See the ubuntu-users mailing list archives for more information.
I tried installing Ubuntu for a friend on his really fancy 10.4″ Sony Vaio microlaptop. The installer was great, in my opinion, except the partitioning tool was clunkier than cfdisk and way slower (for an advanced user) than fdisk. Everything was detected, except the centrino wireless was not available in the install environment. This is not a problem, as long as it works once installed. However, Ubuntu misidentified the ipw2100 adapter (centrino wireless) as an ipw2200 (pci wireless). The boot process would hang on loading the ipw2200 module, whether booting in normal mode or single user mode. Sure wish there was a way to remove ipw2200 from modules.autoload or configure kernel modules in the installer. If they want to rely entirely on automatic hardware detection, they either have to get it right every time or let the user verify/change the configuration.
I also thought that this review was a refreshing change from the steadily decreasing quality of distro reviews.
a temp solution is to rename the ipw2200 module in /lib/modules/126.96.36.199…/kernel/drivers/net/wireless, or copy the ipw2100 module over the ipw2200 one.
This is definitley a cut above the rest. I’ve ordered an install CD from the web site – this will be my first serious use of Linux in a year. I can only hope that they iron out some of the issues that this review points out!
As far as a boot loader goes, I’m going to try using BeOS’ bootman. I’ve never used LILO and I can’t really get GRUB.
The install went well, but after I switched to the left-handed mouse option both buttons acted like the right button for a right-handed mouse. My system was useless…so I reinstalled and tried it again. Same result.
Well, I have personally given up. Ubuntu sounds great, the screenshots look great, but once the first stage install is over and Aptitude begins, the show is over. This is just a mess for people who do not have a valid Geek license.
Hope it gets better and i can try it again sometime, like when they use Anaconda or YAST to do the install…
I agree that the name isn’t a very good choice. It just doesn’t roll of the tongue nicely, like say ‘Gentoo’ or ‘Debian’ does. People will ask you how you write it.
As people in marketing know, this is the no. 1 problem to have with a brand name. It has to be both easy to remember and write. This is not. You won’t have this problem with a ‘Mandrake’ or ‘Red Hat’.
Can someone tell me, what is this menu by the notification-area?
He didn’t get around to submitting a bug because it worked after a round of upgrading and installing the Nvidia driver.
You might also check to see if there’s more than one mouse protocol in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4, but don’t edit that file by hand unless you have to or the dpkg handling breaks.
Hope that helps,
During installation you can switch to vc/2 and load the proper module, and then go back steps in the installation until it detects network hardware again. This should (should) fix the problem for the current install, hopefully.
You might also try downloading a daily build, as it appears it was fixed here:
It sounds like you’re trying to install in custom mode? Did your ISO turn out to be corrupt?
If you can get standard mode working it should be much easier, Aptitude intimidated the hell out of me the first time I installed Debian.
Excellent choice of name. Just to clear one up. Ubuntu means humanity/community/together. “Humanity towards others” is redundant. Humanity can only be expressed towards other people.
Keep up the good work.
This might be considered bad form from a reviewer, but I’ve only written one review in my life, so I don’t really care
I just want to thank everyone for their kind words, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Between the positive feedback and the Slashdotting I’m absolutely floored and ready to write another (if Eugenia can stand more of my rambling). I just wanted to send out a big collective thank you!
And a big ‘thank you’ for your efforts and sincerity – it has been most refreshing to see your comments here. Your ubuntu spirit has raised the caliber of OSNews a notch.
On another positive note, I think it is most refreshing to read Mark Shuttleworth’s posts in the ubuntu-users lists. Suprising that such a powerful man has the time and interest to help common users. He seems to have a very good grasp of the technical issues.
Me thinks Ubuntu might be a good thing.
I gave it a go, but I’m finding it difficult.
The first problem was the installer didn’t seem to like my Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop keyboard and mouse when they were both using a single USB port. All I got was a repeated “%%%%%%%%%%%%%~*~@ ~%%%%%%%%%%%%%”.
When I connected the keyboard via the PS2 connector it got better.
The next problem was a cd-burning error, the installer got stuck on the package bsd-utils, so I had to boot into Windows, burn another CD and restart.
I had some trouble understanding the partition manager, choosing a partition format and mouting it as “/”, but I got there in the end.
I formatted my partition as reiserfs, coz everyone keeps saying its really fast an stuff, and it worked to begin with, but the next day when I started it up it told me the filesystem was readonly and wouldn’t boot.
So I formatted it again with ext3 and reinstalled.
I managed to follow the instruction for installing the nvidia drivers, but I’m having trouble mounting my other partitions. I have a few that are NTFS and a couple of fat32. Using a root console and
mount /dev/hda1 /mnt/windows -t -ntfs
seemed to mount it, but nautilus just gave an error when I tried to browse to that location
I wanted to get to my mp3s, but I had trouble working out which hdxx was the right partition. It turned out to be hda5 so i tried
mount /dev/hda5 /mnt/music -t -vfat
This made a nautilus window appear, that seemed to show the right files, but everything was labeled as Unknown, and the files all disappeared when I tried to right-click on them.
In Xandros I didn’t have to worry about locating and mounting my partitions, it did them all automatically, at the very least there should be a GUI for it that scans the disks, autodetects the partition types, shows the volume labels and asks you where you want to mount them.
I’ll try it some more later on, but so far I’ve edited Grub so it still defaults to Windows, at least I know what I’m doing with that.
After reading the review on Ubuntu, and doing a little research on the distro, I downloaded it, and gave it a try on a HP Omnibook 4150 laptop. Very impressive for a “beta” release. At install, this was the first distro I have tried that not only detected my wireless card, but then prompted me for the options, and activated it. X configuration was transparent. Kudos to the developers.
Ubuntu is the most impressive Linux distribution I have ever tried. I did run into some installation problems, but the community mailing list was very fast and very willing to help me fix the problems. Some very smart and friendly people on there. Once installed, it works and upgrading packages is a matter of point and click. Cool.
>>>>> I have a few that are NTFS and a couple of fat32. >>>>>Using a root console and
>>>>>mount /dev/hda1 /mnt/windows -t -ntfs
>>>>>seemed to mount it, but nautilus just gave an error
>>>>>when I tried to browse to that location
mount /dev/hda1 /mnt/windpws -t ntfs (no – to ntfs)
you can’t browse to the location because only root can browse it, not normal users. I found that I had to change the “umask” so that the file permissions would allow me to view it as user.
In my arch linux setup, I have this line in /etc/fstab:
/dev/discs/disc0/part1 /mnt/win ntfs user,ro,noauto,umask=000 0 0
in your case, it should look like
/dev/hda1 /mnt/windows ntfs user,ro,noauto,umask=000 0 0
now all you need (as root or user) is to mount /mnt/windows (it should also appear in the “Computer” location in nautilus, afaik), and you should be able to browse it no problem. Change noauto to auto if you want it to mount automatically at boot.
“ro” means read-only – yuo don’t need it, since mount will realize it can’t write to the partition and mount it read-only – but adding ro here will prevent having an error message saying “mounting as read-only”.
>>>>>I wanted to get to my mp3s, but I had trouble working
>>>>>out which hdxx was the right partition. It turned out
>>>>>to be hda5 so i tried
>>>>>mount /dev/hda5 /mnt/music -t -vfat
again, no -vfat but vfat You can also add a line in /etc/fstab
/dev/hda5 /mnt/music vfat rw,user,noauto 0 0
no need for a umask here, and be careful with the rw, it means “read-write” so you will be able to erase, create, modify files. Use ro if you want to keep it read-only.
>>>>>This made a nautilus window appear, that seemed to show
>>>>>the right files, but everything was labeled as Unknown,
>>>>>and the files all disappeared when I tried to
>>>>>right-click on them.
now that’s weird, and I haven’t used ubuntu or gnome 2.8 yet so I can’t answer.
mount -t ntfs /dev/hda1 /mnt/windows
mount -t vfat /dev/hda5 /mnt/music
Note, you don’t have to mount under /mnt, but it’s more standard. Using a /data directory, which is like a public /home/user is also quite standard. You’ll also probably want to set the options below with the -O option.
You can also use the fstab to either make mounting easier, or to mount automatically on boot. This is highly recommended, even when experimenting with settings. It’s much much simpler than -O.
To mount manually with ‘mount /mnt/windows’ and ‘mount /mnt/music’ add these lines:
/dev/hda1 /mnt/windows ntfs noauto,user,ro,exec,dmask=000,fmask=111 0 0
/dev/hda5 /mnt/music vfat noauto,user,rw,exec,dmask=000,fmask=111 0 0
To mount automagically at boot:
/dev/hda1 /mnt/windows ntfs auto,user,ro,exec,dmask=000,fmask=111 0 0
/dev/hda5 /mnt/music vfat auto,user,rw,exec,dmask=000,fmask=111 0 0
I think, it’s been awhile.
By the way, it’s -o not -O, and the fstab is /etc/fstab.
But then, that doesn’t matter since an Archer already beat me to it. Typical
i installed it yesterday, just for fun. it’s just great. almost everything worked out of the box, there are some rough edges, but nothing that i didn’t manage to handle. having all the debian-packages available is another plus. great stuff!
i am a huge fedora-fan, but i will not remove ubuntu for now. i just might stay with it for a long time…
i even thought about writing a review, but this one is so long and good, there’s nothing to add. good work!
Hopefully that will attract other African countries. I will try it when I got another harddrive from my computer.
I installed and am running Ubuntu and I have to say the installation was pretty much flawless, except I would like it to have detected the fact that I have SMP and then installed an SMP kernel for me.
Sound works, applications work… I miss a few applications, but nothing critical (Pan, for instance).
I tried installing their nvidia-glx package[s] but when I did that, the sound stopped working and none of my GL screensavers would work. So I reverted and left it as a non-GL nv driver.
Looks slick! Not as “quick” as Slackware. Feels less bloated than FC. I’m going to give it a whir for awhile and see what happens!
Plan to install Ubuntu on a Via C3 powered machine, with 128 mb ram. Ubuntu kernel is compiled with :i386 support:? (that’s way via c3 must work) How Gnome 2.8 affect pc’s performances ? It’s slower than previous 2.6 version ? Opinions ….
Yes, the default kernel is i386 and others are available in the repository as linux-source (NOT kernel-source).
I think the CPU will probably be alright, especially if it’s one of the later generation C3’s. It’s the 128MB of RAM that I’d be concerned about, maybe it will be usable with enough swap. Is your motherboard’s RAM maxed?
Is a Via Ezra CPU. It works as an generic ‘586’ on Gentoo, Slack/Slax, Vector. It is detected by Knoppix / Morphix.
Have only one 128 MB sdram module (even so, gentoo works very well, but with fluxbox ). Perhaps i should create an swap partition with an least 256 megs.
Anyway, good article.
Ubuntu installed with all kinds of server agents, usb support, pcmcia support, and other stuff I don’t need.
I’d like an installer that starts with a hardware detection routine that leads to a confirmation… and a chance to plug in support for hardware that got missed.
Then I’d like to get to a kernel, and _then_ give me a chance to pick and choose what I want in my base system.
I only took the Ubuntu install to the end of getting the “base system”. There’s too much stuff I don’t need. As easy as the gnome set-up might be, I hope I can pick-and-choose my gnome packages.
For each part of what I want an installer to do, there’s a different distro that does what I want. I want a compact kernel for low-end hardware (Damn Small Linux), conformity to the gnu standards and the apt-get mechanism (Debian), a user-friendly installer (Red Hat), and good hardware-detection and a live CD (knoppix and dsl), gnome and lilo (NOT knoppix). Nothing I found yet gives me everything I want. In fact, knoppix will not detect my ne2000 card automatically. Also, some systems don’t seem to want to work with grub.
I’m new at a lot of this, maybe there’s a way to do it that I’m overlooking.
Anyway, my $.02. Ubuntu is on the right track, but ease of installation should not come at a sacrifice of control over the install.
Good article, thanks a lot.
I just downloaded the latet build of Ubuntu Linux dates 09/15/2004, now I can boot from the cd but while detecting my video card, the installation kinda hangs. I have a PowerMac G5 with ATI 9600 pro, has anyone tried this distribtion of Linux. Thanks in advance. Is/are there any tuturial/s available for installing Ubuntu on G5, please help.
I really do like Ubuntu, but my only complaint is that the sources.list file is read only. I read on the Ubuntu website that it can be edited by enabling Universe mode. Can anyone explain to me how Universe mode can be enabled???? Thanks!!
Nevermind, chmond works great for chaning the permissions on sources.list. In case anyone else has the problem; I was in terminal and used su to change me to super user, entered my password. Then used chmond 777 /etc/apt/sources.list to change the permissions to read, write access. From there you can get rid of the cdrom source if you wish and update your http or ftp sources.
chmon, not chmond my bad; late night eyes are crossing