Life and Work with an Ubuntu Linux Laptop

I’ve been using a Ubuntu Linux desktop for over a year, and haven’t regretted it. The experience is beautiful and cost-effective.

I’ve learned to use Linux for everything. I used it to maintain HP-UX systems via screen and ssh; I’ve used it to write articles here using browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome or editors like BloGTK.

One of the nice things about Linux (in contrast to OpenSolaris, for instance) is that an installation of Linux has everything it needs on disk to work in any system. Moving the hard drive from one system to another causes no difficulty as the appropriate drivers are loaded as needed. This allows things like moving a virtual environment to a physical environment without problems.

Nothing is perfect, however. In running Ubuntu, it seems that the six-month turnaround leads the developers to push off fixes until the next release. I am also finding that there are many bugs in new releases of Ubuntu; the latest Lucid Lynx showed about a half-dozen bugs within the first day’s operations. Recently an article (and follow-up) expounded on the poor bug-fixing process in Ubuntu, with the author Caitlyn Martin blaming the six-month cycle – and pointing out that several Ubuntu-based distributions were changing to Debian instead. She wasn’t the first; Christopher Smart bemoaned Ubuntu stability in an article back in November 2009.

I’ve not had a lot of problems, but some. One was that my USB 2.0 device refused to work with Karmic. The solution was to stop using EHCI (yow!) but that could not be done because the kernel for Karmic has EHCI builtin, and EHCI could not be disabled. Another was bzflag, which died with a segmentation fault in Karmic and refuses to run in Lucid.

For my part, I would not only make the same recommendations as Caitlyn Martin, but would add one more: test on as many different kinds of machines as possible, specifically including older machines and strange machines as well. With better testing, most of the hardware related problems could be eliminated. This includes testing with add-on hardware as well.

I’m probably going to reacquaint myself with OpenSUSE again – though Debian does have the best LISP support on the planet… but then, trying different distributions is part of the fun of it.

Living with Linux is definitely possible; working with Linux is only slightly harder – but it can be done, and is worth it.