Ubuntu? I barely KNOW you!

So apparently the whole wide world is going nutso for Ubuntu. LinuxJournal has an interesting writeup in the Linux In Government series. The author writes: “The Ubuntu distribution uses Debian as its base, as does Xandros and Linspire. Debian-based distributions have not impressed me in the past. However, Ubuntu combines the stability of Debian with the leading-edge features of RPM-based distributions such as JDS, Red Hat and SUSE. Therefore, I see Ubuntu as the best of both worlds.

“I put the distribution through some tough tests and found that I had to do less customizing with this desktop than any of the others I have tested.”

While this comment is a bit interesting, and perhaps is a warning for those of us who like to customize our desktop, I decided to give Ubuntu a try. I’ve been meaning to dual-boot my WinXP game machine with Linux anyway, and this seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.

Ubuntu uses a slightly-modified version of the new Debian installer, so installation was a breeze. Ubuntu found all of my hardware and configured itself for my network. After a reboot, I was up and running. And, after I logged in, I found my first major annoyance with Ubuntu: Gnome. I don’t like Gnome. Not even a little bit. I figured that it would be easy to install Ubuntu, then apt-get install xfce4. It turns out, though, that xfce is not in the standard ubuntu apt repository. I had to modify Ubuntu’s source-list to enable access to Ubuntu’s “unvierse” to nab xfce.

So a quick apt-get update followed with apt-get install xfce4 and I should’ve been up and running. Unfortunately, xfce from Ubuntu’s universe has ROX installed as the file manager for some unkown reason. That had to change ASAP. So I had to figure out how to get ROX out of the friggin’ way.

Things then proceeded to mplayer. I like to compile mplayer myself, so I can squeeze out as much performance as possible. However, I could not get mplayer to compile the way I wanted on Ubuntu. After about an hour of struggling, I finally gave up and said, “Screw this, I’m gonna go play a game.” TuxPuck was up first, and it ran as well as ever.

I didn’t have good luck with TuxRacer, however, and thus started the straw that broke the monkey’s back. TuxRacer was running like crap because x.org wasn’t using nvidia’s accelerated driver. So I nabbed nvidia’s installer and launched it. The first time through, it choked because it couldn’t find the kernel source code. So I nabbed that (after taking about 20 minutes to realize that Ubuntu names kernel packages as “linux-image|headers|source-2.xx.xx” instead of the standard “kernel-image|headers|source-2.xx.xx”) and ran through the installer a second time. This time, I received a “missing libraries” error. So I nabbed the missing libraries and tried the installer again. And again the installer failed. And this time, I said, “screw this!”

So I nabbed the newest Debian Sarge netinst CD. Booted from that, walked through what is basically the exact same install process, nuked Ubuntu and installed Debian testing over it. After the install and reboot, I was dumped at a standard console login. One quick apt-get install x-window-system xfce4 and then I downloaded and successfully installed the nvidia drivers. I started up X and everything was nice.

Fortunately, I know the applications that I like to use, so it was easy to get them installed. It’s one massive apt call, and it took a while to download everything, but it’s magical: one second I have a plain vanilla XFCE install, and the next second I have my workstation up and running.

apt-get install amarok konqueror konq-plugins liferea liferea-gtkhtml mozilla-firefox kmail knode korganizer kontact gaim xmms xmms-alsa modconf logjam tightvncserver tightvncclient

I’ve learned my lesson. I will never, ever stray away from Debian again, just to try out the Flavor-of-the-Day. If you’re a newcomer, either to Linux or to Debian-based distros, Ubuntu might be for you. But if you’ve spent a couple of years using Debian, then there’s nothing to see here.

Related posts:

  1. My xfce desktop
  2. PCWorld.com writes up my desktop manager: Xfce

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Profile picI am a 40-ish uber-geek, Daoist and family man. Blessed to have one incredible wife and three wonderful kiddos. Dao has been kind to me.

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