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.

8 thoughts on “Life and Work with an Ubuntu Linux Laptop”

  1. We rely on users to do that hardware testing. The 150-ish Ubuntu Developers cannot possibly have every possible hardware combination out there.

    Debian has an advantage over us that really hurts us in the hardware area. 70% of their users run Unstable. The bugs get caught before they hit Testing. Very few of our users are willing to run Beta (by which point it is too late to really expect hardware debugging to bear fruit before release–it’s only 3 weeks out!) let alone Alpha releases.

    1. Hardware difficulties are only one part of the problem. Even so, it is not hard to pick up lots of two to three year old computers for almost nothing – sometimes for exactly nothing. It is not usually the brand new hardware that is the problem but older hardware.

      This also does not explain how USB 2.0 was summarily useless on Ubuntu Karmic because of the failure in EHCI (which could neither be removed or disabled).

      More testing is required, and a longer time between versions. If bugs are to be expected, then Ubuntu should be classed as a cutting-edge release and Ubuntu LTS recommended for normal users.

    2. Ubuntu relies on users to do hardware testing but fails to repond to bug reports as simple as that. F.i. the problems with the rt2860sta driver has been known since alpha 1 and have not been addressed. This is a major issue considering the usage of this chip. Ubuntu is missing opertunities just to facilitate the hype, like cloud computing, stores and other misschief that does not belong in an OS.

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