Ubuntu 10.04 Experiences

More than a month passed since I posted the last time and the reason was that I collected a lot of experience participating with testing of the Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx Long Term Support version (and I also have been ill in the meantime). After the release at the end of April Ubuntu was a lot in the news. At that time I already had made about 4 or 5 test installations. Since the release I installed Ubuntu on several different hardware environments - older and very new. So just about a month after the release I already done plenty installations and tested the new versions of several applications.

I am very well known for finding bugs - and this was one of the reasons why I started participating with testing. Other reasons were:
  • I get a lot of free (but priceless) support from the Linux/Ubuntu community in the forums and at Launchpad so wanted to give something back.

  • After upgrading from 9.04 to 9.10 I experienced several issues with mobile Internet USB sticks. This seems to be a difficult topic because there are many different versions and types of modems out there in the wild, providers and manufacturers only support Windows officially and there are local differences (it looks like different countries and phone/mobile providers sometimes have different variants of firmware). Therefore I found it important to help out. So I either invested in a second different modem model and different provider.

  • In former times on my home PC I switched to every new Fedora version (then stopped because simply too much work, upgrading every 6 months). When I switched for my work notebook to Ubuntu I also upgraded as soon as the next version was available - it worked quite flawless but again some work involved. Therefore I decided with Ubuntu 10.04 to stick to LTS versions only which means: Only update each 2 or 3 years according to Ubuntu release cycles. And so it became quite important for me to get a stable version.

To give a short review:
  1. Already since Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope Ubuntu has everything on the desktop that I need for my daily work and for what I am doing at home even older versions did it. And basically, the OS itself was not the major component where I was waiting for new features, it was the applications. For example, the last thing I waited for, was the TeamViewer getting a Linux version. That is clearly out of Ubuntu scope because the TeamViewer isn't either in the repositories.

  2. The biggest and best new feature in my opinion: Ubuntu only comes with Open Source drivers (this is a need according to the licence under which Ubuntu is released) but after the first restart it immediately recognizes if there is a (better) but proprietary driver for some of your hardware components available out there and offers you a one-click download+installation of those. Awesome!
    Problem: I had one laptop where the WLAN built-in card wasn't working out-of-the-box. So I had to attach it to real network to download the alternate driver. Once installed it worked well. I had two machines with NVidia card where the one-click installation brought the better driver with all fancy desktop effects. I remember this was a little more work in the past (even if not so much). Another issue I had (until applying all recent updates) was cracking noise of the speaker when shutting down. The tipping point (or question) here is: Why are vendors using such shitty hardware that does not offer open source drivers or behave in a non-usual manner (the cracking noise)? For example HP is very good in printers but horrible in notebooks - especially when it comes to Linux support. The webcam on the other hand worked out-of-the-box on the HP while I had an issue with another external webcam although just not working in Skype (while that was the main application that needed it) which was fixable by simply changing the way skype is started.

  3. Current status with mobile internet: If you own one of the supported/tested/working versions of modems, it works flawless - less work to setup as on Windows and seamlessly integrated (no extra application running) and autoconnecting as soon as you plug in the stick. Current status: Some mobile modems might not work out-of-the-box in 10.04. In the best case (if it is not working immediately), a single one-time sudo apt-get install usb-modeswitch (or installing usb-modeswitch using the GUI) is sufficient to make it work. In more particular cases you might need to add some config rules. Regarding the mobile internet working out-of-the-box probably 9.04 was the best release so far - but some newer (and maybe more buggy) modems (or modem firmwares respectively) were not available in these times...

  4. On my about 5 year old home PC I had Fedora 7 or 9 installed and after it got Ubuntu 10.04 now it starts and runs a lot faster. Think twice about that: Older hardware and new Linux version starts and runs faster. I never ever experienced that on Windows. Basically I do not use Hibernate any more because writing the whole memory to disk is much more time consuming than shutting down and starting up.

  5. I don't like the colors of the new theme, I hate the buttons on the left and they removed a button in Nautilus I often used (where I now only have the menu or keyboard shortcut any more). So basically I find the new theme being bullshit. But this can be changed easily through System-Preferences-Appearance and chosing e.g. ClearLooks theme. However, I have added a repository which offers a lot of new cool themes - the Bisigi themes. And the balanzan is my favorite.

  6. Partner and extra repositories have been enhanced - a lot of applications - like Skype or Google Earth can now be installed with less hassle.

  7. I found a lot of bugs - which I wondered as it is an LTS release and should be reliable. One issue was with using the Alternate version to setup a software RAID. The positive: It took about two weeks to fix and it took so long not because of the developers but because I didn't have so much time for testing (basically only in the late evenings). That confirms my former experience with 9.04 and 9.10 that bugs are fixed quite fast. - I say "quite" because it depends on the project. Kernel developers by tendency respond faster than others. When I report bugs in Ubuntu I am directly at the bug tracker together with the developers. That way I really feel a community member in the meantime. Where on Windows you need to pass a selection process or know some people guiding you to the right place getting a contributor, in the Linux world it just happens. When a program crashes you can send an automated bug report by single click - similar to Windows - but then the bug tracker opens and you are right there in the middle of the community and have the developers at hand. Given that direct contact to developers and other contributors I want to ask you for one thing: Treat them well - they work for you!

  8. The first time for backing up I did not work with disk images (where I use CloneZilla usually). I only backed up the home folder (while not logged in as user but as root from a text console via CTRL+ALT+F1 to avoid locking of files) and saved the list of installed packages with dpkg --get-selections. And the restore worked flawless. So backing up data and list of installed packages is really an alternative to have a backup that is not tied to the hardware in any way (but even using disk images portability is better than for Windows machines). Well - this is nothing new with 10.04 and you can do it since ages, but I never tried it before.
In one case I had the chance of trying to setup the same use cases on two machines with identical hardware while one kept on Windows 7 and the other with Ubuntu 10.04. Result: With both machines the desired workflows could be implemented (home user with home office - email, internet, watching videos, print, scan, writing documents basically). Setting up was a little easier on Windows 7 because of the proprietary drivers needed (for the HP laptop) on Ubuntu as well as several restricted extras for playing mp3 and videos. The next time I will prepare a shell script for installing all that stuff at once (on FreshUbuntu podcast I heard, that such a thing already exists). That said, on Windows 7 a lot of applications need to be installed afterwards (like a serious zipping tool or image viewer) to make life easier. And not to forget, that the Windows 7 installation (to save the user from paying extra money) Open Office was installed instead of the Microsoft product and Firefox+Thunderbird - all extra Open Source downloads. Under Ubuntu most software installations are just selecting them in the package manager and clicking "Apply". There you get a huge amount of applications quickly without paying any extra dime. So both systems fit the needs of the user but Ubuntu clearly offers more options without the need of paying extra money. One of my favorite features is to start a GUI application on a remote machine but getting the GUI delivered to my local client through secure ssh connection or using FreeNX you can use this technique for your complete desktop and make a Terminal Server out of your Ubuntu/Linux box that way.

As a critical conclusion I can say that there are still issues that make it difficult for an end-user to get quickly up-and-running by self-installing the Ubuntu Operating System. That does not mean that there are no hardware problems on Windows (indeed I had a printer last week where the software shipped with the printer was not Windows 7 compatible + not 64-bit compatible), but Vendors simply test their stuff first of all with Windows. However, if there is an issue, tweaking Ubuntu/Linux is usually simpler than on Windows (although there are different levels of tweaking - in the worst case you need to compile something on your own, which is not so difficult as you might think). When I have a problem with Windows then the analysis takes longer and there is a lot of trial-and-error involved (although I have more than 15 years of experience with Windows) - and of course less community help. My advise:
  • Check first before you buy hardware, if it is compatible with Linux (e.g. prefer Intel graphic cards for example) - do this even if you are not considering to switch to Linux yet - you might change your mind sooner than you think!

  • If you have people with Linux knowledge around that could assist you and if you are interested in being flexible, you should try Linux/Ubuntu.

Related posts: Why Linux?, Going Linux, Ubuntu 10.04 with docking station part 1, Ubuntu 10.04 with docking station part 2, Ubuntu compatible hardware.


    R-Whited said...

    Hi, I was randomly googling things and I came across your blog. I like your article, but I disagree on one point.

    -> Check first before you buy hardware, if it is compatible with Linux (e.g. prefer Intel graphic cards for example)

    I'm pretty sure you meant Nvidia as Intel's performance is terrible and you can't by discrete Intel cards.

    Also, with the 10.6 drivers for ATI pretty much all of my ATI woes in Ubuntu have gone away.

    Keep up the good work.

    Martin Wildam said...

    My experiences with Intel were good, instead had some issues with particular NVidia card, although I had very good experience with NVidia in the past.

    I have heard a few days ago about a new ATI driver that works much better than in the past. So I hope it gets better.

    Anyway, I did not mean only graphics, but also multifunctional devices (printer/scanner/fax), photo printers, web cams and a lot of other stuff - yes, even mobile phones they want to synchronize with their PC. People often use a lot of additional gadgets.

    One particular thing is also mobile internet sticks: Some work better (just plug and play) than others.

    Martin Wildam said...

    Regarding ATI: Bug #488152 does not look good...

    Alexander Zagniotov said...


    I was trying to install Ubuntu 10.04 (and 9.10) on my new Dell Latitude ("Installing Ubuntu 10.04.1 on Dell laptop" post on my blog).

    The damn Nvidia GFX card makes my life very difficult :( So at the moment I left it alone, as I cant afford to spend too much time on it (did try several suggestions from Ubuntu forum), so I keep developing on Win 7.

    I guess I have to wait for a little bit longer. Such a shame though :|

    Martin Wildam said...

    Regarding the hardware please see my recent post about Linux compatible hardware

    Martin Wildam said...

    See also Ubuntu 10.04 with docking station part 2.