Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
I put a straight Feisty Ubuntu installation on my fastest machine (1Ghz 🙄 ) yesterday. I don’t have to tell you that I’m not a real big fan of Gnome or the default Ubuntu environment, but I have to admit that things are looking very good.
It took a while to get it all in place, but the default partitioning and hardware setup was exceptionally easy to handle. I used the alternate installation (the live CD is a waste to me), and it’s almost step-for-step the same as previous versions. Start to finish was about an hour, with a slight delay here and there while it probed my oversized hard drives.
When it was done, Feisty had configured my Intel PRO 2200BG wireless perfectly, found my modular hard drive, sound card, USB, PCMCIA, DVD+-RW … pretty much everything, which is what I expect for a 7-year-old computer. I would have been highly disappointed — and probably shocked — if something had fallen through the cracks.
Gnome runs a little sluggish. Boot times are about twice what I get with Openbox or even straight Beryl, but I anticipate that with a full desktop environment. I would be unnecessarily critical if I made a point of harassing Gnome for doing so much more than Openbox does alone.
There are a couple of weird things that I just never see under my stripped-down versions of Ubuntu. The Gnome Keyring Manager seems like a good idea, but it keeps my network from simply jumping online when I turn on the machine. I have to give it the password, and I haven’t found a way around that yet. I’m sure I will soon.
And until I actually hand-edited the fstab file to include the modular drive, I had to remount it every time I started up — although not with a password. It would show up in Nautilus, but wouldn’t mount until I double-clicked on the icon. Not a major point, but I keep some of my preferred wallpaper there, and it meant I was losing the background image on startup since the drive wasn’t accessible until I poked at it. A minor quibble, I admit.
But this is a strong improvement over the last time I used Gnome … a year ago. What impressed me the most was how much more seems integrated into the GUI. I can remember fresh Breezy installations needing a mess of editing to bring into line. You had to manually install Flash, DVD decoding, MPlayer for video inside Firefox … it was like an entire second step for installing.
But yesterday I installed Flash, MPlayer and the Mozilla plugin, Deluge, Audacious, proprietary Nvidia drivers and a list of other things without ever opening a terminal. Heck, all but one of those I installed without even opening Synaptic. This might put Automatix out of business.
Now a sour note: Since I mentioned it, I have to admit that my biggest problems have been the proprietary drivers. My 64Mb Geforce4 440 Go simply doesn’t work with 96xx-series drivers — no matter what Nvidia says — and it’s been a real hairball to figure out a workaround.
But without some sort of intermediary nvidia-glx package, I’m stuck using nvidia-glx-legacy, and I get very weird X lockups with that. Everything freezes, the mouse stutters impatiently, and eventually I have to cut the power completely to get my system back. I noticed that installing nvidia-glx didn’t install linux-386, so as an experiment I put linux-386 on there. Still no luck. Dead X within seconds of booting.
So that will be my personal Feisty cross to bear, and I’m not sure how much of it is really Ubuntu’s fault. Without a proper open source Nvidia driver, problems like mine don’t go away. Nvidia probably won’t be jumping in to save me any time soon, so I’ll go back to building the 8756 driver myself, and seeing how close I can get to proper video acceleration. Things could always be worse. At least the nv driver is working.
So in short, I give the Feisty beta a big +1. It’s smooth, it looks good, it’s easy to set up and it is manageable with almost no need for a terminal (provided your hardware will play nice, but that’s always a caveat). It’s not going to convert me into a Gnome user, but the fact that it impressed an Openbox fanatic says something.