Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ubuntu Upgrades

Recently Linux visitors to my site seem to outnumber Mac visitors, sometimes by 2 to 1. Ten percent of visitors are from Japan (at the moment), so those LXers are not just me re-loading my own page. I really do think there could be a stampede to Linux in the form of Google's Chrome OS. I'd like to see Chrome pass Mac OS and get alot of attention in the process, bursting Steve's bubble. I expect that it has a fairly good chance of doing that and becoming a phenomenon similar to what they've done with Android. This might make a major dent in the Microsoft monopoly or Win-Mac duopoly.

I recently upgraded two machines to Ubuntu 10.04.1. I hadn't made the change earlier because Lucid came out in late April, several weeks into the first semester of the new school year in Japan. And since I immediately went on vacation in August, I didn't have a chance to install until late August. The exception is the Asus Eee 4G, my most expendable computer and therefore a test bed, which has had Xubuntu 10.04 on the SSD and Ubuntu 10.04 on the SD card and which performed excellently as a vacation computer, within the limitations of the 7" screen and a slow processor. That's a configuration I can recommend; I usually boot the SD Ubuntu rather than the Xubuntu option.

The two others were the Asus 1000HE and the Apple Mac Mini. I upgraded the 1000HE through the Update Manager (Preferences>Update Manager>Distribution Upgrade). That seemed to go well, but afterwards the computer had devolved into the Netbook Edition that it had begun as long ago when I first made it dual-boot. I despise the Netbook Edition since it uses space less efficiently than regular Ubuntu. However, it was a deformed and disfigured Netbook Edition, with a stub menu and nothing there. I was able to add an item to the menu and restart it. I found that the solution is to select a GNOME session at startup, not Netbook Edition, and then use Synaptic to remove all Netbook Edition packages so it can only boot as GNOME or something equally reasonable at startup. If Lucid is stable on this machine I may be able to stick with that for a few years. Some Skype test calls were a little dodgy at first; I'll have to check some real calls to see if audio is really OK.

I was a little worried about the Mac Mini since the install seems rather fragile, and after rEFIt hands the boot off to GRUB2, it all took about 5-7 minutes to re-boot. Of course, you could go months between reboots. I usually log out and log back in if something appears glitchy. Sometimes it froze during bootup and I worried that it was lost. I used an Ubuntu Studio DVD for this upgrade. It went very well, although it didn't seem to transform from Edubuntu to Ubuntu Studio as I had thought it would. Perhaps only packages relevant to Edubuntu were upgraded from the DVD as one source, the rest from the internet. Performance has improved: the Mac Mini goes to sleep and the on/off/sleep light pulses gently as it does as a Mac, Bluetooth is working perfectly now where it didn't before (or maybe I was just doing it wrong before?), and that troublesome bootup is now about 2-3 minutes, slightly long but better than some Windows machines I use in universities and perhaps just about par for the Linux-on-a-Mac course.

The UNE is a waste because you can simply set your top (and bottom) panels to auto-hide by configuring them with a right-click. This saves more space than the UNE. In addition, the UNE launcher is a huge waste of space and time. Using GNOME Main Menu, you can have a single icon in the auto-hide menubar and with a single click, drag, and release open any application. Using F11 toggles the tab I am viewing in and out of full screen view. The "Run" applet in the menu bar lets you launch an app with a few letters of its name. By comparison, the launcher of UNE requires a click (on the ever-present menubar) to bring it forward, another click to navigate to the right section, a few more clicks or scrollwheel to scroll down the list of apps (which are not the size of text but have huge space-wasting icons and the name of the app in a box!) and finally a click on the icon to launch the app which will then appear in the tiny space left available to you in UNE. Just use regular Ubuntu is my advice (or Debian or Mint or Mandriva or openSuSE...). I am not a fan of "Docks" either.

Update: Not only does sleep work, bluetooth work, and bootup go faster, "Restart" works properly now, too. In 9.10, I had shutdown but restart went to darkness requiring physically powering off. There have been a few new Linux kernel updates and thus a few restarts recently. It takes about 1 minute 15 seconds from selecting "Restart" until the EFI/rEFIt/BootCamp stuff goes away and GRUB comes into the scene, then one minute to my Login screen and about 30 seconds (?) more after that. I guess it's OK. Anyway, there is much better support for the 2009 Mac Mini in Lucid than in Karmic.

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