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Ubuntu Linux, Dapper Drake Flight 7 - How Linux is getting very close to mass adoption
I decided to try out Linux again. A couple years ago I gave SUSE Linux a shot for the desktop, and it was not quite ready for primetime. UI elements were all over the place, the system would not always respond as intended, it was a bit messy. Today I thought it would be fun to try Ubuntu
respectively). I could not remember which I liked better, so I gave them both a shot. My setup is a Fujitsu TabNote 4020d
To make a long story short, I found that I liked Ubuntu or the GNOME distribution a bit better. This is purely personal preference, I just liked the way things were organized. I did like some elements of KDE more than GNOME, but I decided upon Ubuntu for my final Linux test. I downloaded the Drapper Drake
builds of both Ubuntu and Kubuntu (Flight 7) since I wanted to be bleeding edge here. Ran the live CD and was able to install on a second/third partition right from the CD. The Kubuntu installer had a few more problems than Ubuntu did, but it is a beta and both installed just as easy if not easier than Windows XP. I was very impressed. In fact, the only operating system I know of that is easier to install is Mac OS X.
Within about 30 minutes I was up and running on Linux. This was awesome and I must give kudos to the Linux community for making the install process so simple. I had access to Firefox
and a few other nice tools. I was able to install Thunderbird
and set up my IMAP e-mail very quickly and easily. I would say that within 1 hour I had my system running like I wanted with browsing, e-mail and system prefs all looking good. If this is where the story ended I would be porting every system I own over to Ubuntu Linux right now. Actually, I would probably be a convert from Mac OS X to Ubuntu yelling the praises of Linux from the hilltops.
Alas, there were a few smaller items that ended up being big gotchas. My Atheros WiFi card was not seen at all. After messing around for a couple of hours I was able to get the MadWiFi driver
up and running, which allowed me to see my adapter. There was no way to scan for networks, so I manually typed in my WiFi network name. My network was encrypted via WPA, which was not supported, so I turned encryption off for this test. As much as I tried I could not get WiFi to connect. It didn't give me an error, it just would not connect to my WiFi network. Even if I was able to connect, not supporting WPA security is a big no-no for me. I would have liked to have seen much broader WiFi support built in, with a much better toolset for joining wireless networks. Nothing too fancy, actually I would love to see something as elegant as what Apple has built in to Mac OS X. I'm sure that if I messed around for a lot longer I would have been able to not only get the WiFi adapter working but also using WPA; however, that's not the point. Users should not have to work for hours to get devices working on any platform. The geeks can do it, but for mass adoption the process needs to be as simple as humanly possible.
Other little items didn't work too. My SD/MMC/MS reader would show up as not supported nor would it mount any media, my keyboard shortcuts for screen brightness did not work, no fingerprint sensor, and the pen of the tablet did nothing. The non-integrated devices such as my Logitech camera, PC-5740 EVDO card and USB headset all failed as well. Most of these are not big items, but they do add up. Of everything in that list it's the EVDO card that would have hit me the hardest, but it would have been nice if all of them worked. Once again, with enough time and patience it's possible to get all of these items working very well, but I'm going for the whole package here. I want to be able to give this system to my brother (not a techie) and have him install from scratch. The moment that happens is the moment Linux can take over the world.
Frankly, if I had more time to get WiFi to work I would have probably kept Ubuntu on the system, alas, I needed to get some work done and restored my system to the original XP Tablet Edition. The other items such as the memory card readers, keyboard controls and whatnot were not big deals to me but each one became one additional device that was not working. What would be really, really, really cool is some form of an automated driver downloader. When Ubuntu is first installed it will scan the system for all hardware. From there it will query a centralized, user contributed server of packages that contain the drivers for the device. These drivers would be listed off by device and the user could simply click 'install' to active each item, or 'install-all' to get all devices working. Even Microsoft does not have something like this, and I think it would be very powerful to be able to have the latest and greatest driver for my specific system. This would enable the Ubuntu team to keep the distribution of the actual core OS small yet support just about any type of device that they can create packages for. This would also improve the user experience as the end user would not need to make anything, it would just install and work. There are probably some pretty big technical hurdles keeping this from working, but I thought it was a fun idea.
My last gripe is networking in general. I have a Broadcom 10/100/1000 NIC in the laptop and on the dock. I was able to connect fine, but was unable to find where I set speed negotiations in the GUI. I'm sure I could do it via ifconfig, but I wanted to be able to do everything through the GUI, just like Windows or Mac OS X. Keep it less geeky. The problem was the connection speed itself. All networking tasks were painfully slow. I'm not sure if it's because Ubuntu was unable to auto-negotiate 1000 full-duplex or if the TCP/IP stack still has some optimizing to be worked out before the beta is done. I would say that pages in Firefox rendered in 2x slower than they do on my Mac or Windows systems. File transfers were painfully slow. I think this is less of a beta issue and more of a needing to properly set up my network, which I could not figure out how to do in the GUI.
I only played with Ubuntu for about 6 hours today, then moved back, so I openly admit that it's not a fair test. I also understand that I was using a beta, so additional bugs and problems may have been introduced by that. I will say that I was very impressed overall and once the driver support is as vast as Windows or Mac OS X, then it will be a very, very, very amazing platform. Microsoft should be worried, there are a lot of things that Ubuntu is doing a lot better than Windows. It is my hope that within the next year or two the Linux community will find an amazing new way to support hardware and install software packages. Once this happens the flood gates will open, and Linux will crush everything in its path. Until then, I see Linux remaining a server product where items like WiFi, Bluetooth, and EVDO cards don't really matter,
To be perfectly fair to Ubuntu I had also played with a copy of Vista beta. My sound card was not found, the ethernet adapter was not found, and my graphics has severe issues. So all in all the Ubuntu beta is ahead of Vista right now. I'm excited to see where both of these systems go in the next year. Since I didn't play with it for very long I may have missed a few items, and if you're an Ubuntu expert please feel free to put me on the right path in our comments.
2. Posted by: Johan Clasen on May 19, 2006 1:23 AM:
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I'm glad you liked Ubuntu, I'm my self very fond of it. Your worst problem seems the Wifi. You've got som options, on this matter. You could try the network-manager, search for it in Synaptic. It is still beta, and didn't work very well for me the first time I used it, but it is a very nice app, that finds the different networks around. I my self have set my wireless-router to wep-encryption, so I can just use the built-in network-monitor.
The camera is a strange problem, as far as I know all cameras with usb-interface should be detected as a normal usb-stick (probably a beta-issue)...
Regarding the SD-reader, you should ask on ubuntuforums, maybe there is a driver for it, maybe not... I've got one in my X40, that dosen't work, but I have never cared about it, I dosen't use it.
Generally, the problem with drivers is not the fault of ubuntu or linux in general, the problem is that the hardware vendors often do not ship drivers for linux, and this means the programmers have to guess how the hardware responds, that is not allways very easy, but in most cases they can get it to work. More and more vendors ship drivers for linux, so this problem will probably go away by itself in some time, but it can be pretty annoying until then I admit...
By the way, as you have said yourself, it is a beta, so try it again when it is finished, probably some of the problems are solved at that time.
3. Posted by: Kimothy on May 19, 2006 2:05 AM:
Nice article. I was a bit surprised that Ubuntu didn't reconice you're Atheros WiFi. I have one my self and it works without lifting a finger (Kubuntu Dapper Flight 7) with my D-Link DWL-G650 (Atheros AR5212 Chipset). Not sure if WEP works. I don't think it does. As for the "download all drivers function" is a good idea. Hardware support is being built into the linux kernel, so downloading won't be needed. Linux is very plug and play today because of that. Of course lots of drivers are not GPL and so it cannot build in. Distoros like SUSE, Mepis and Linspire (just to name a few) automaticlie downloads and installs ATI/nVidia driver when detected. (K)Ubuntu does not.
Many manufaturers are opensourcing there drivers, and that means they can and that it's highly likely they will be built into the kernel.
One other thing... You can't really compare the Vista beta with (K)Ubuntu beta because it over 5 years since MS upgraded their OS last, while (K)Ubuntu has a 6 months between releases. But I allways love bad talk abouts MS :-)
Also I want you to keep in mind that linux has it hardware support without or with little help from hardware manufacturers. That is impressive! Just think of what the linux guys can do if it gets main stream! Also lots of hardware is made to work only with MS Windows. The old winmodems is a good example.
Hope it was worth writing this comment :-) Thanks for the article.
4. Posted by: Limulus on May 19, 2006 2:11 AM:
I use Ubuntu, but regarding KDE distros, some people swear by PCLinuxOS so you might want to give that a try.
For future testing, instead of going through an install, just use a Live CD; not only will it leave your HD intact, but you can very quickly determine if it 'just works' with your hardware.
If you want to look for help on problems in Ubuntu, the best place is ubuntuforums.org
If you want to help the developers out, BTW, next time you run Ubuntu on that computer, go System Tools -> Ubuntu Device Database; it will collect info about the hardware (as well as your comments) and send it off to Ubuntu so they can try to get it working in future versions.
5. Posted by: Tolis Sisiaridis on May 19, 2006 3:55 AM:
If you were impressed by a Ubuntu beta wait until you try a Linux distribution were everything really works out of the box and it's a breeze to install. Give PCLINUX a try from htttp://www.pclinuxos.com !
6. Posted by: Jorge Azevedo on May 19, 2006 6:00 AM:
Thank you for your review. I have been playing with Ubuntu and Kubuntu for 1 year now. Just 2 points:
- When it comes to wi-fi support. I think Atheros cards drivers are in the package repository (you may need to enable the universe and multiverse repositories, i.e., the unnoficial ones.)
- If you install network-manager (sudo apt-get network-manager), your wireless experience will be painless. Basically, you'll have a small applet in your panel that will allow you to change between wired and any wireless networks detected on the fly. I think it also supports wpa).
7. Posted by: suuperjan on May 19, 2006 6:28 AM:
you should give suse another shot. I think some (a lot) of the issues you have with hardware are solved with suse. I use suse because of its wacom tablet support. Ubuntu may be the best looking linux distro out there, but i think suse is more userfriendly (yast!). 10.1 is one week old, if you'r thinking about switching to linux, you should look at suse. There is a PPC version also available. www.opensuse.org
8. Posted by: E@zyVG on May 19, 2006 6:43 AM:
I just wanted to ask you to try out latest SUSE Linux 10.1 and write a review comparing it to Ubuntu - will be an interesting read. You will need probably to install MadWiFi drivers with this distro, too, but maybe with ndiswrapper using your windows drivers will give you better results.
If you will decide to do a review on SUSE, let me know once it's ready.
BTW, check my blog, you might find some usefulll info relating to SUSE install and Linux and Open Source in general.
9. Posted by: Rohan Dhruva on May 19, 2006 9:26 AM:
Well, your screenshot looks like ubuntu breezy 5.10, and not dapper alpha7 .. I hope you have reviewed the correct thing .. heh, just joking. But, update the screenshot atleast, to a dapper one !
10. Posted by: Benjamin Higginbotham on May 19, 2006 10:45 AM:
Amazing comments by all. Allow me to sum up a few items in this one post:
1 - I'll try a couple more distros of Linux when I have a free chance. PCLinux and SUSE sound nice. It's simply a time issue.
2 - The screen shot is from Google images. I was playing around but never thought to take a screen shot. It's for reference purposes only, so yeah, it's a bit old.
3 - While WiFi was by far the bggest problem, even after it's working there are still a lot of components that didn't work. I'm sure I could get 95% of them to work after playing around for a while, but the point is to install and run. Maybe I just chose the wrong distro, which is fine, I'll try another and another and another until I find that golden item that just works with everything out of the box. I will say that I loved Ubuntu from every other standpoint.
I am AMAZED at ow helpful this community is. I always thought of Linux users as snobby elitists who would only help if you spoke their language without fail. I must say, I was horribly wrong and very surprised. Thank you all for your ideas, I'll work on as many of them as fast as I can. This will be fun!
11. Posted by: Anders on May 19, 2006 6:37 PM:
+1 on changing the screenshot to an actual flight 7 screenshot!
12. Posted by: [GEEKS ARE SEXY] Tech. News on May 19, 2006 7:18 PM:
Suse is indeed getting mature enough now to consider it as a good replacement for most people, at home or in the office. I think we won't see this happening anytime soon tho..Linux is still a LONG LONG way from mass adoption. Any linux distro can only be used by computer enthusiasts, Mr. and Mrs. Everybody won't be interested, and probably won't even hear about it..
I personally think that having Linux everywhere would be an *awesome* thing, but hey, it's an utopian dream.
13. Posted by: chipzz on May 19, 2006 9:52 PM:
I linger on irc, #ubuntu-devel (not being an ubuntu developper myself), and your review was actually picked up by some people there. Snipped irrelevant parts of the conversation and obfuscated nicks to protect the innocent ;):
[a] "I'm not sure if it's because Ubuntu was unable to auto-negotiate 1000 full-duplex or if the TCP/IP stack still has some optimizing to be worked out before the beta is done."
[b] [a], odd that he had issues with his madwifi card
[c] Sounds like a laptop
[c] It's probably a card that's only supported with madwifi-ng
[c] Though it turns out that there are cards that only work with madwifi-ng and which have the same PCI IDs as cards supported by madwifi
Ok, so a few comments: I doubt the "download all drivers" idea is a good one; the philosophy of ubuntu is to have as much working as possible out-of-the-box, so it really shouldn't be needed. But then there's the licensing issues with things like nvidia and ati.
I disagree with people claiming other distro's will work better wrt hardware support (as I'll explain below). Ubuntu really tries to get as much hardware working out-of-the-box as possible. I have 2 laptops, and had all of the hardware on both of them at least working out-of-the-box. With the exception of the above mentioned nvidia, which did work, but with the opensource driver (ie no accelerated 3D) and the alps touchpad (scrolling functionality not working).
Back on-topic, as it says in the irc log, some vendors totally misbehave. The problem here is that these vendors (prism is very notorious for this, and apparantly also atheros) change the actual underlying hardware, without changing the PCI ID (which is a unique (or should-be unique) number identifying the hardware. In laymens terms, the 2 different cards lie and claim to be the same hardware, while in reality the hardware is *totally* different. Maybe ubuntu will come up with a better solution in the future, but there basically isn't much you can do about it. I suggest you go yell at atheros for being liars. :P As a concrete (and more constructive) suggestion, you might want to try madwifi-ng.
Also, like other comments mentioned, you should try network-manager for WPA.
14. Posted by: nathaniel on May 20, 2006 12:56 AM:
Sounds to me like you need to try SuSE again. The latest release (10.1) has some very nice features such as KNetworkManager which seemlessly handles all your networking issues.
15. Posted by: John on May 20, 2006 1:54 AM:
So... just a technical point regarding your "download all drivers" idea. You're bigest issue (as stated above) was with the drivers for your wifi card. How would it be able to download the drivers for your wifi card if it can't get a network connection without the drivers?
The idea would work for many things, but it presumes you have a working network.
16. Posted by: Derek on May 20, 2006 2:35 AM:
The solution for your networking issues exists and is a simple "sudo apt-get install network-manager-gnome" away. This install a very OS X like way to connect to wireless networks. Granted, you need a supported wireless card and I'm not familiar with the Atheros. It works wonderfully on my Centrino and I've also used it on a Broadcom. I wish it was on the Ubuntu live cd, but I'm not sure if it will be when dapper goes final.
In any event, try that out next time!
17. Posted by: Sceptic on May 20, 2006 2:43 AM:
Unlike Windows a forum has been setup for "driver problems"?!! That is so chronically laughable ... I cannot remember a single driver issue I've had with WinXP or Win2K3 in the last 2-3+ years. Why because Windows has an excellent microkernel and driver architecture.
The Linux kernel and it's driver architecture has always been turd that's probably why you need so much help with it? Just upgrade your kernel version and ohhh ... time to recompile non-standard drivers.
I too took the plunge (for my own benefit) and setup Ubuntu 64-bit under a Virtual Machine. Hmmm .... can't remember how many MB of patches and fixes ... glad I wasn't running on native hardware since VMware does a good job of providing their Tools to save me the misery of having to get Linux to integrate with real hardware (how do I dual side collate print to my HP 1320tn again in PCL6 over IP?).
Ready for mainstream ... please just buy a Mac.
18. Posted by: Burhan on May 20, 2006 2:46 AM:
Hello, good review. Maybe I can help you with somethings and clarify issues. I have been using Linux on and off for about 3 years.
First, let me say that is really is not fair for you to compare Ubuntu Flight 7 with Vista. Of course Vista will have problems with your hardware, its a very early beta stage. I tested Vista and Ubuntu on a dual boot setup (on a Thinkpad T43); on my system, everything was detected fine on both Windows and Ubuntu.
I am surprised you had problems with your network card. On my system with a gigabit card, it auto-negotiated the correct speed both while docked and when the wire was connected directly. I will agree with you on the wireless. During my install, the wireless card was detected, but not activated. Once the system was running, I was able to start and stop the wireless card from the system using the Networking utility (System -> Administration -> Networking), and later on using the Network Monitor applet in the panel.
By the way, what USB headset do you have? My logitech worked great without any fiddling.
I would recommend (as a service to Ubuntu) that you detail your hardware issues at the Laptop Testing Team wiki so that they can work on getting your laptop model working.
19. Posted by: SM on May 20, 2006 3:29 AM:
"How Linux is getting very close to mass adoption"
Linux will never be mass adopted without one critical point: familiar applications.
If one chooses to swtich to Linux without having learned cross platform applications then not only would you have to learn a new operating system, GNU/Linux, but would have to learn a new email client, office suite, media player, stats package, browser, etc. etc all at THE SAME TIME.
You have to get people used to cross applications first on windows which allows them to slowly work their way towards Linux in a staggard fashion.
Thus if you are interested in GNU/Linux being adopted then help promote cross platform appications like Firefox, OpenOffice etc.
20. Posted by: Justin on May 20, 2006 4:00 AM:
I liked the review as well, but you missed some other problems:
1) The way the kernel is it is not very easy at all to add/remove new drivers without recompiling the kernel OR having them for that specific kernel. When you get a kernel upgrade, they may break.
2) When you download updates stuff may just break, sound can be very dodgy. (This is my biggest moan!)
3) Debian Kernel recompiling is too damn specialist.
4) Doesnt come with developer tools as default (But that is the way a lot of software is installed into linux systems even if it is automated like VMware and NVidia drivers (ones from the site)).
5) There is no builtin sytem file corrupt repair. If someone shuts it down without turning it off correctly, it can really screw it up badly (appears to be worse than Windows in this respect).
6) Ubuntu installer had a problem configuring Grub for a laptop that I had (Fedora had no problem) Also has problems with LCD screens (Easy to fix if you know how, but not a gui thing) and USB support is still incredibily flaky in Linux still.
7) The regular system file checks that happen when the computer is rebooted every so often are annoying and I dont think that they make too much difference.
8) Anaconda is a far better installer I dont know why they dont adopt and develop it (Its open source).
9) The network settings GUI isnt as comprehensive as it should be.
10) I cant keep my setting DHCP yet change one small thing like my DNS server very easily, has to be my the terminal and a LOT of forum searching.
11) File Hierarchy Standard FSH is an excellent idea, but I wish software would stop using prefix=/usr/local on home pc's as it is never in PATH by default. Dont see why they just cant use it in a home users home directory so that a user can install and organise things normally without administrative rights very easily/by default eg:
bob james sarah
bin etc usr opt var lib my_documents desktop etc
Trust me I could go on, AND I could do this very easily for Windows as well as I have real problems with it also. Currently there is no OS that really satisfies me. But when it comes it will have to be Open Source. :)
21. Posted by: Joe on May 20, 2006 11:32 AM:
I tried ubuntu and didn't care for it. Running PCLinuxOS now and it is a much better linux desktop in my opinion. Also, many hardware vendors do not supply drivers for linux with their products. Neither do many seem to be linux friendly probably because MS wouldn't like that. When buying hardware now I do not buy anything that does not have a linux driver. If there is something I want that does not have a linux driver I make a point of letting the company know I would of bought their product if it had a linux driver.
22. Posted by: mark turing on May 20, 2006 2:47 PM:
I run Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron and a Sony Viao, both Dothan chipsets etc, modern hardware, both run no probs, beta or not. Card readers work fine, USB for cameras fine, BLUETOOTH mouse works fine...GOLDEN RULE: If in doubt, type 'ubuntu wiki' in google and the world is your oyster, even restricted formats.....you will have to use a terminal, but so what?
23. Posted by: JOSHY on May 20, 2006 10:20 PM:
Guy's i've been trying linux and i should say every time i try it it does seem to get better. But one reason i wanted to try linux 2 years ago is because i heard it was open source, meaning i can see how they wrote the xmms visualization plugin and i can modify it and them write my own. Ever since i've known linux i have been searching for source code files but i am not really sure where i get it wrong. i try searching on the net. some people say the code is on the installation disk's or may be the live cd. i stiill cant find it. please some one out there help me i am desparate to know how to write a visualization of my own. and if u could be so kind please send the help to firstname.lastname@example.org , cuz i aint sure if i'll be visiting this site again.
24. Posted by: Dominic Eckert on May 21, 2006 7:48 AM:
This review is nice, and it is more interesting to have an opinion from someone who doesn't know Linux than from the usual people who install 3 Linux OS per week.
I'm running Ubuntu for more than a year now, and according to me it is clearly the best OS I have ever used. From your review, I see that the biggest concerns you had about Ubuntu are about the support of some exotic hardware. Although the hardware support on Linux is now a lot better that it used to be, it is certainly the point where Linux is still not always as easy as Windows. But most of the time, this problem doesn't come from Linux itself, but from the hardware companies that don't produce any Linux driver for their peripherals... Windows doesn't have a very good built-in hardware support, but the manufacturers always have a driver ready for you, which is not the case on Linux.
To conclude, I'm asking hardware manufacturers to create Linux drivers for their peripherals as much as they do for Windows, in order for the people who don't know a lot about computing to have a real choice between (at least) 2 OS.
25. Posted by: Col on May 21, 2006 2:39 PM:
Just a quick howto for your atheros card. Ubuntu is quite special compared to many distros because it bundles the drivers for this on the cd.
All you should need to do is
sudo apt-get install linux-restricted-modules-$(uname -r)
sudo modprobe ath_pci
Then configure it either manually or with the gnome network manager.
26. Posted by: tbuitenh on May 22, 2006 6:02 AM:
JOSHY/zenerkid: please look over here: click!
27. Posted by: James Susanka on May 22, 2006 7:53 AM:
" Users should not have to work for hours to get devices working on any platform. The geeks can do it, but for mass adoption the process needs to be as simple as humanly possible."
It isn't a matter of being able to do it. It is a matter of copyright and license.
What you need to do is commit to linux and tell your manufacturers that you will not buy their equipment unless they have a linux driver. That is what needs to happen for mass linux adoption. Linux is licensed under the GPL and that is the reason it be brought to you free of charge. It also respects copyrights and authors.
What these companies want to do is to keep their drivers secret because they believe their business would go away if they were open sourced.
Whether that is true or not I don't know. but what would be the best thing for linux is users like these writing their hardware manufacturer and demanding linux support. that is what really needs to happen.
28. Posted by: tjotser on May 22, 2006 11:38 AM:
All newbies should take a look at Automatix
It's an automated script for ubuntu (5.10 only still)
for Codecs/DVD/Nvidia you name it.
29. Posted by: jualins on March 12, 2007 9:04 PM:
actruly ubuntu it be far the popluar linux ever right know 60%of linux of ubuntu. wiat fro final with cnr being intergraded by the time ubuntu reache 10 it will be better then windows maby ever mac
30. Posted by: jef on March 13, 2007 9:32 AM:
if you can't get ubuntu to work, there's no hope for you. give up.
"I want to do everything by GUI" - These are the sort of things that waste time. coding GUI's over and over and over for the easiest things.
a) everyone knows iproute2 is better than ifconfig.
b) both of these are faster than using some gui.
c) linux is also a server os, what are you gonna do when you can't configure somthing through ssh.
onto wifi. I use ubuntu on one of my boxes, and like Kimothy, mine works fine without lifting a finger, if you tail the logs i'm sure you'll find some form of error, especially if you're doing this properly with iwconfig.
"linux was not ready for prime time, UI's were all over the place" - This is not linux's problem. this is KDE/Gnome's problem, use fluxbox if you want a tidy GUI, and use BSD if you actually did mean that namespacing etc. was messy in linux.
my last point is if you like ubuntu, and want to try _real_ linux, try debian.