Ubuntu 5.1

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (452 Words)

Well, I’m blogging this from Ubuntu 5.1 which I just installed this evening. It’s been a little while since I used desktop Linux, I’ve been using Debian or Gentoo on servers with a command-line interface alone for the past year and a bit and enjoy using them. However, the Ubuntu desktop install experience has left me somewhat underwhelmed, for a number of reasons:

  • Installer wasn’t much above the bare Debian installer, and had a habit of just sitting on a blank blue screen whilst examining and / or formatting partitions, which can be unnerving.

  • The default nvidia driver was totally fubarred, resulting in garbage as X started even with basic resolutions. This problem alone would no doubt have put off most new users. The answer was to get the real driver, and reconfigure X. Not that difficult provided you know how to switch from X to a background console, know the apt command you need, and know how to restart X. In other words, not intuitive at all.

  • Monitor settings still needed manual configuration. I had to look up the specs of my monitor to get the horizontal & vertical refresh rates to get access to decent resolutions

I can’t quite believe how badly the automatic X configuration still sucks. I remember having these problems years ago when I tried Linux for the first time, and here they are again, no better than they were - the only difference is that I’m using Xorg instead of XFree86. Sure, you only have to do this once, and it’s not that difficult provided you know how to search a few forums and are willing to get your hands dirty, but with that simple step you’ve alienated almost everyone except enthusiasts. It utterly galls me that with all the hype about Ubuntu being pitched as a friendly distro that someone hasn’t grasped onto this properly yet and provided a distribution agnostic, almost totally safe and automatic video configuration of the likes Windows has had for years. Perhaps other distros have solved this with custom tools.

On the plus side, Ubuntu’s default choices of packages are pretty sensible (except for the preference for Evolution over Thunderbird, which I disagree with), and apt still rocks. I’m going to play a while and install some dev packages now. It’s a shame you can’t indicate your preference for a profile - I have to install all the prerequisites like cvs, gcc, make etc since they’re not installed by default. Still Synaptic is quick enough to find and install packages in, reminds me a lot of aptitude which I’ve used on servers. Of course it’s apt that’s doing all the clever stuff underneath it, and that’s as solid as ever.