Why I’m using Ubuntu now

June 23, 2010

Well, the main reason is because trying out different Linux distributions is so much fun, isn’t it? There was nothing really wrong with Fedora, in fact it did a lot of things right, but I wanted to configure my file server with a lightweight environment and then leave it alone. I’ve spent too much time on that thing already.

Firstly, I replaced Ubuntu with Arch and LXDE, to see if I could get it working with anything else than Ubuntu. I’ve installed Arch probably 50 times before, but this time I couldn’t get the keyboard layout right in X. Hal should take care of that, and yet it didn’t. Also, the screen resolution was way off, and I couldn’t get the nouveau drivers configured, while the chipset was too old for the regular nvidia driver. Exit Arch.

I remembered I had that Fedorea XFCE spin lying around, and I tried that along with Chris Smart’s tips. I got the thunar shares plugin configured, but the share didn’t show up. Using the Samba tool both Windows 7 and my Fedora desktop could SEE the share, but failed to mount it. Both gave an error that the share didn’t seem to exist.

Finally, I slapped regular Ubuntu on the server, and shared both a folder and the printer, which worked immediately. Again, I don’t know how Ubuntu does it, but it does it right. Afterwards I uninstalled things I didn’t need like OpenOffice etc, installed Lubuntu-desktop, and finally got a compromise I’m reasonably happy with. I’d still prefer it if I knew what was actually happening there, but for the moment things work so I’ll leave them alone.

Now, because my (L)Ubuntu cross-breed worked well on the server, because Fedora had one or two niggling problems (it saw two shared printers, but only printed to one and cups crashed if I tried to use the other, and Nautilus and the panels apparently had crashed the day before), and mainly because I hadn’t installed the final version of Ubuntu yet, I installed it on my main desktop.

As always, installing and using Ubuntu is a very agreeable experience. As with Fedora, all hardware worked out of the box, and installing extra codecs and suchlike was a bit easier. It doesn’t look as sleek as Fedora, but it doesn’t look bad either. A bit heavy for a theme called “Light”, but otherwise okay. I do think the focus on looks is a good thing, and I must admit that picture of a PC that runs Ubuntu looks very good.

There was a bit of confusion the first time I had to use the Close-Minimise-Maximise buttons the the top left corner, but it’s something you soon get used to, so I left them there. I didn’t enable the nvidia drivers…I don’t care for desktop effects anyway.

I know I said Ubuntu wasn’t for me a couple of months ago, but I also said things change rapidly…and in fact, there’s still an Arch + LXDE partition on my hard drive, where I have Virtualbox installed so I can study for those Window7 exams…


How does Ubuntu do it?

June 15, 2010

I have an old PC that serves as a file and print server (see what I did there?). It holds a 120 GB disk drive, divided in an NTFS partion, and two others for root and swap.

It used to run Ubuntu 9.04. I had tried to install Arch and a lightweight DE (my boy sometimes likes to use the PC for games), but I couldn’t figure out the Samba settings back then, so I just slapped Ubuntu on it, mounted the ntfs partition, rightclick, share, be advised that a change to smb.conf is needed (in the [global] section), adjusting smb.conf, done. It worked very well, but the OS was aging a bit, and of course a full GNOME desktop was overkill for something that essentially just needed Samba, a browser and some games.

Because of my recent infatuation with Fedora, I tried using that, with XFCE. The experience was frustrating, to say the least. Installing Samba is no problem. Neither is adding a share via the Samba config tool. Nor opening the firewall to allow Samba traffic. However, although the share could be seen on the client PCs (one Fedora, one Windows 7), it could not be mounted. It failed in Nautilus, using the fstab, mounting it manually…nothing worked. The error was something along the lines of “share doesn’t exist”. Trying to edit smb.conf manually didn’t work. Using Ubuntu’s smb.conf, which I had backed up, didn’t work.

Sharing the printer worked beautifully though.

Trying Fedora GNOME didn’t do it either. Then I tried Ubuntu server, and installed ubuntu-desktop on top of it.

Which is an insane thing to do if you just need a file server.

I’m again stuck with a full-blown Ubuntu desktop, full of goodies I don’t need and running much slower than I could make it run. But here’s the maddening part, it works. Right-click folder, share, adjusting smb.conf, done. Even worse, I can’t find any reference to my share in smb.conf ! If I knew where the right config is saved, I could simply copy/paste it to a leaner system, but now I can’t.

Curse you Ubuntu! Curse you for making my life so easy and so difficult at the same time!


PS: Obviously, any help would be appreciated…

Why I’m still using Fedora 13

June 9, 2010

I must say I’m impressed with the latest Fedora. I haven’t met any deal-breakers for me yet, but then again, I’ve only used it for a week. Still, there’s much to like.

[Updated with more likes and less dislikes!]

  • I like the speed. I haven’t enabled desktop effects which helps in that department, but nonetheless the system feels snappy and responsive. I have the impression that Ubuntu boots a bit faster, but performs a bit slower when logged in.
  • I like the looks. Of course, that’s subjective, but again it feels lighter than Ubuntu (which is a bit ironic I guess, since their theme is called “Light”). I don’t hate the default Ubuntu colour scheme as many seem to do, but it isn’t particularly attractive to me either. I think blue’s a good choice, and the default background looks fantastic.
    The Plymouth Charge theme is back too, which marks the first time ever that I think booting the PC looks better in Linux than it does in Windows or OSX.
    Of course, I did change background, theme and icon theme since installing Fedora, but that’s beside the point. Why? Because I said so!
  • I like how I read everywhere that I SELinux is annoying and I’d best disable it…I haven’t, and didn’t notice any problems at all.
  • I like how the screen gets locked after a short time. I always forget to do that. This may well be the default behaviour in other distributions too, but in Arch I never got around to enabling it.
  • I like yum. By now, I’ve been using CLI package management for so long, I dislike using the GUI for it. It’s not as fast as pacman, but commands are a bit easier, and information is presented in an orderly and attractive way.
  • I like how this is the first time ever Thunar shows the thumbnails of cbr (rar) and cbz (zip) files. Using Comix, these always showed in Nautilus and have never ever showed up in any other file manager. This is a first.
  • I like the firewall running by default. I know I should set this up myself (after all, using Linux doesn’t mean you’re safe from the worst the interwebs have to offer), but I can never be bothered. Fedora feeds my laziness.
  • I like Adam Williamson.

There are some dislikes too though. In climbing order of annoyance:

  • Every time I open my Downloads folders in Nautilus, I get a prompt, telling me I can share this folder with Bluetooth. Great. I don’t want to. Leave me alone. Solved this by uninstalling gnome-user-share. It’s not ideal, but I don’t need it anyway.
  • Emelfm2 never fails to crash when I try to create a new directory. I had this same problem in Archlinux a couple of months ago, but it has been fixed since then. I have still to check if Fedora is using an older build. Miraculously solved itself…now it sometimes fails to crash. Most of the time, it still does though.
  • Brasero refused to burn audio cds this morning, telling me it failed because of an Unknown Error. I’m planning to look into that this evening, and I hope I can either fix it or find a replacement for Brasero. Probably due to a weird character in one of the filenames. I renamed all the files I wanted to burn and now the problem’s gone.
  • Nautilus can’t determina the name of the Samba file shares on the fileserver I have running. I enabled smbclient in the firewall. Obvious, really.

So there you have it. Fedora somehow turns out to be perfect.


Why I’m using Fedora 13 now

June 7, 2010

There’s a reason I don’t update that much anymore: I’m no longer as excited by Linux as I was before. What I mean is, I no longer install every OS and every application anymore, just to know what it’s like. Linux is Linux, and no matter what major distribution you install, you get more or less the same product.

I was using Arch and KDE and while everything ran more or less smoothly, I disliked two things about it:

1) As I’ve said before, I prefer GTK applications over Qt ones. I use Pidgin, Chromium, Audacious, Comix and Emelfm2 no matter what DE I’m using, and I prefer Rhythmbox over Amarok, and Thunar over no matter what other file manager because of it’s excellent batch renaming capabilities.

2) I find Dolphin to be slow, and it inexplicably doesn’t sort files alphabetically anymore whenever I want it to sort them by type.

The main reason I used KDE was because it’s fast, beautiful, configurable, easy, and KWin is a far superior window manager than Metacity. GNOME even needs a totally unrelated window manager (Compiz) to have any kind of desktop effects, and even then configuration is a total mess.

But as I said, as my excitement about (but not enjoyment of) Linux ebbed, I found that I no longer needed the latest and greatest of whatever the open source community had to offer, and I planned to install Arch with XFCE or GNOME on a spare partition, use my favourite software, and forget about desktop effects or any other bells and whistles.

I hit a snag though: whenever I installed any DE or WM that used GTK the system became unbearably slow after I was done configuring it. Because the problem didn’t show up right after the fresh install, obviously it had something to do with my configuration. It mainly happened in “Open File” dialogs, and upon logging in. It wasn’t WM or DE specific: it happened in GNOME, XFCE, PekWM and Openbox. It wasn’t distribution specific: I had the same problem in Ubuntu, Mint, and finally Fedora, which I had installed because reviews were raving.

At that moment, I had enough and devoted an entire evening to solving the problem. I looked at logfiles. I installed Arch again, checking speeds every step of the way. I browsed every forum I could find. SVG based icon themes might have been the cause, but it turned out the problem was there with basic icon themes too. GDM was a possible suspect, because that would explain why I didn’t have the problem in KDE, but using SLIM or even “startx” didn’t solve everything. I searched through the logfiles and noticed gnome-vfs errors, which did provide the explanation of that but not a solution. And I still hadn’t found the reason why a fresh install of any distribution would run smoothly as anything.

Finally, I discovered that /etc/fstab (which contained a couple of lines I copy-pasted every time) was the problem, specifically the line that mounted the file server. Prejudice got the best of me for a moment and I briefly blamed Ubuntu, because that was what the server was running. That didn’t make any sense, however. As usual, the fault was entirely mine: I mounted a directory containing over 6000 mp3s, and most of them weren’t categorised into folders. And some movies. And some games. Creating a bit of order in the mounted directory took 5 minutes and solved the problem immediately. Which of course left me feeling a right fool, but I’m used to that.

Of course, at the time I was running Fedora, which was running fine, fast and stable, and had found by network printer just by looking at it. RPMFusion took care of the necessary media codecs and the nvidia driver (although that disabled the pretty plymouth theme, but I can live with that), and while I was surpised I didn’t find Chromium in the repositories, instructions on how to install it can be found here.

In short, I’m not running the latest versions of applications anymore, because Fedora doesn’t have a rolling release schedule. This used to be a big deal for me, now I find that I don’t care. The repositories are extensive, but of course Arch has the AUR which contains almost all open software known to man…but I’m not running anything exotic anymore.

In short, I like it. Let’s see how long it stays.