A couple of days ago I came to a realisation: I run so many gnome applications I might as well try to use Gnome again, instead of Openbox. It’s not that I think Metacity is a better window manager than Openbox, because it isn’t, but configuration is (a bit) easier, and I’ve had so many trouble lately with burning software, I wanted to check if the desktop environment makes a difference. It doesn’t, but that’s another matter.
I was a bit tired that day, and I had a copy of Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) lying around, so I thought, why not? I love Arch, but it can be a bit time- and energy consuming to set everything up. I decided to keep my old Arch+Openbox partition, and install Ubuntu on the partition I normally use to test distributions.
Before I go on, I want to stress that I like Ubuntu very much. I think it provides a high-quality solution for people who want an OS that isn’t Windows or Apple. I’m not one of those Linux users who have to be elite and snub Ubuntu for being to noobish. Yes, it’s aimed at people who don’t want to tinker with their OS. That’s just fine. Most people are like that.
The Ubuntu-CD I found was an alternate-install CD (instead of a Live CD), so I just fired up the installer. Install took longer than Arch, which didn’t surprise me, but also seemed to take longer than previous Ubuntu installs. All in all, I guess it took 25 to 30 minutes. Anyway, it may have been slow, but it did the job just fine, and after rebooting the familiar desktop was visible in all its glory.
Okay, it was a bit slow, but not much compared to Arch with Gnome. And yes, it’s brown, but I guess I’m one of the only people who doesn’t mind that. I do prefer the Human-Murrine to the normal Human theme, but the difference is minimal. I liked how my fonts looked out of the box (I can make Arch fonts look better, but it needs some configuration, because without it, Arch fonts look horrible), I liked the easy installation of things like restricted drivers (nvidia), codecs when trying to play an mp3, and flash from within Firefox when visiting a site that needs it. Those little details really add up to a great user experience. Last but not least, I LOVED how adding the printer was just a matter of switching it on. I had just tried and succeeded to get that printer to work in Arch plus Openbox, but this was a lot easier.
Ubuntu is fragile. As soon as you start messing around with the settings, things can go wrong. It’s just that sometimes I have to mess around. When I check out all the processes that a default Ubuntu installation starts, I get shivers down my spine. I don’t need bluetooth support. I have no bluetooth using hardware anywhere. I don’t have wireless either, so I don’t need that. I opened System > Preferences > Sessions, unchecking everything I thought I didn’t need, including gnome-power-manager. Next thing I know, clicking the Shutdown-button doesn’t do anything for ages, and then pops up the wrong window. Understand, at the time I didn’t link my actions with the sudden weird behaviour. How could I? What does gnome-power-manager have to do with showing the logout options?
Well, apparently, it’s a known bug. There are quite a few threads about it on ubuntuforums.org, but it took me some time to find the bug report. By that time, I had already installed Arch again, with Gnome, and made it look like KDE4, just because I could.
I just don’t dare to mess around in Ubuntu like I can in Arch. In Arch, I know what I did when I installed it. In Ubuntu, I don’t, because everything has been taken care of for me. Which is great if it actually works.
Another thing is that the people on ubuntuforums.org are, sometimes, less knowledgeable than those on the Arch forums. There are a lot of Ubuntu users who know very well what they’re talking about, but they are outnumbered by the enthusiasts, who can give you some very bad, or outdated, or dangerous advice indeed. I think Ubuntu is the victim of its own success here. It was inevitable, but I think Canonical should put some serious thought into managing the forums and the wiki a bit more strictly.
And if you want an idiot-proof OS, the ideal number of bugs would be zero. Of course it’s impossible, but I can dream… . By the way, this bug has been around since July 2007, has 13 duplicates, is well documented, graded Medium, and is still around.
So for me it’s still Arch. And yes, the Brasero habit of crashing and spitting out coasters is still there, even in Gnome. So I’ll just use Serpentine for audio-cds and nautilus cd-burner for isos. Whatever works.