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Installing Ubuntu On an OLPC XO

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the call-me-when-it-runs-quake dept.

Portables 50

Matt Lincoln Russell writes "Installing Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the OLPC XO is not for the faint of heart, but Drew Beckett has got the process down. This setup is pretty slow on the XO, but the good news is that Netbook Remix is a work in progress, and can be expected to get better."

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24064311)


Don't forget... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24095629) pay your $699 licensing fee you cock smoking teabaggers!

So the only question is... (5, Funny)

clarkn0va (807617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064333)

Will these children in developing countries have access to an AMD64 machine with Gentoo in order to be able to follow these instructions exactly?


Re:So the only question is... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24064383)

Why would they want to? Sugar is more than adequate as an educational UI and has great collaboration abilities and sits on top of a Fedora port.

Re:So the only question is... (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#24075123)

Why would they want to? Sugar is more than adequate as an educational UI

Citation needed.

Sugar seems to be an embodiment of somebody's unproven hypotheses about education. (Good discussion here. [] )

Sadly, I think it was the OLPC project's decision to go with such a strange interface that opened the door to people wanting XP on the things - you show it to a bunch of government executives, and they ask, "Is there some way to get this thing to act like, you know, a computer?"

Oddly, I've heard of people putting Debian, and now Ubuntu, on on OLPC, but not of bringing it up to a more standard Fedora distro. (Anyone? Anyone?)

As for why, most of us who got one for hacking value are not using it educationally. I wanted something physically tough enough to take camping, that (with my phone as a a USB modem) could be used for ssh-ing, e-mail, and web surfing, that could handle a little dirt or dampness, and was power-frugal and could recharge from 12 VDC, so I bought an XO on eBay.

Re:So the only question is... (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064531)

My name is Mike Abacha, I am the son of former Nigerian President Sana Abacha. I will send you $1M (ONE MILLION) US dollars if you send me your AMD64 machine with Gentoo.

Re:So the only question is... (4, Funny)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064755)

This guy is totally legit, I sent him my PC last week and... *clicks refresh on UPS site a few more times* Ahah! He just got the package.

Any moment now the escrow service he recommended will wire me the funds.

Re:So the only question is... (-1, Offtopic)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064757)

I lol'd, then i ate some crackers. Now I'm tired.

Re:So the only question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24065163)

Go use Twitter for information like that.

Re:So the only question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24066505)

@world I lold then ate crackers, now tired.

Nothing to see here move along please (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24064357)

Nothing new here.
I have ubuntu with xcfe running on an XO for quite a while. Dual boot off of a SDHC.

teapot is the one to thank for this.

It *IS* new (4, Informative)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#24065179)

I have ubuntu with xcfe running on an XO for quite a while.

You are dualbooting *STOCK* ubuntu of your card.

What TFA's author is trying to do is to test Ubuntu *Netbook Remix* which is a distro variation specially developed for sub notebooks.

He wasn't just trying to get ubuntu up (as already done by countless other howtos) he was willing to test the new flavour specially geared for this kind of machine.

Verdict : kidda works, not snappy enough, but will probably improve in the future

Re:It *IS* new (2, Informative)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073071)

You realize that the netbook remix at this point consists of like five packages added onto Ubuntu in a PPA?

Community help (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#24074995)

On the other hand, some people *have to* test it while it is still at this point, in order to provide useful feedback.

It's because *today* people are already trying Netbook Remix on OLPCs (and pretty much every other similar platform like Asus' EEE PC, MSI Wind, etc.), that the developers will get some valuable feed back (in this case : the interface is sluggish compared to what stock ubuntu achieves) and that down the line, five years later, netbook remix will be a successful and valuable platform as today the Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu family are.

And given the TFA content, it was worth testing because even if it's only still 5 packages currently, as those seem to make a significant difference : the UI doesn't work optimally (yet) on the OLPC.

Re:Nothing to see here move along please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067031)

what is the point of running ubuntu on the olpc? to make it slower? ubuntu is so sluggish and slow, and the hardware for the olpc isn't the greatest... it seems to me that using that using gcc 4.3.1 to recompile everything (including glibc) with the new geode optimizations, as well as forcing all fpu ops to single precision would be the way to go. maybe a geode optimized gentoo?

Ubuntu on XO (5, Informative)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064381)

When Ubuntu Hardy was being released in April, I have posted installation instructions [] for it on XO. This is still probably the best way to install a "mainstream" Linux distribution on that laptop -- XO has rather unusual screen pixels layout with 1200x900 "visible" resolution, so Xubuntu desktop with a GTK theme made to accommodate XO's unusual screen behavior is better suited for it than a desktop made for plain low resolution and mostly touchscreen input that XO does not have.

I have posted videos of this version of Ubuntu in action [] on Youtube, and photos of the installation procedure [] (still with old GTK theme) on my Livejorunal.

How do hackers get these? (1, Troll)

VoyagerRadio (669156) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064421)

How in the world do hackers get their hands on these while the children they're intended for don't? BTW there's an interesting article about the OLPC XO's current situation in a recent article in Business Week.

Re:How do hackers get these? (2, Insightful)

Daniel Weis (1209058) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064435)

Hackers have money. The children do not.

Re:How do hackers get these? (4, Informative)

clarkn0va (807617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064439)

How in the world do hackers get their hands on these []


Re:How do hackers get these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067755)

That doesn't work anymore, they ended the give-one-get-one thing last December.

Re:How do hackers get these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24064447)

The children that they are intended for are receiving them.
G1G1 contributors got them by paying for 2. One for a child and one for themselves. Developers get them as a tool for developing software for the project.

The Business Week article was not interesting at all. The Business Week article was a misinformed piece of junk. But then Business Week is of dubious quality anyway.

Re:How do hackers get these? (4, Interesting)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064555)

You mean this article? []

The leaders of OLPC believe the laptops must be much more than electronic substitutes for textbooks if they are to profoundly effect learning. The group, an offshoot of MIT's Media Lab, which Negroponte launched 23 years ago, has based its educational philosophy on the theories of Seymour Papert, a Media Lab professor who pioneered the use of computers in elementary education in 1967. Papert, now retired, developed a theory called Constructionism, which posits that young children learn best by doing rather than by being lectured to. So to create a tool that could deliver more than rote lessons and e-books, OLPC designed the machine and its software to enable collaboration, exploration, and experimentation. "We're hoping that these countries won't just make up ground but they'll jump into a new educational environment," says David Cavallo, OLPC's chief education architect.


While this philosophy is essential to the mission of OLPC, it's also a source of tension. Current educational leaders in Peru embrace Constructionism, but most countries base their education systems on the idea that teachers pass their knowledge to receptive students. That was a problem for OLPC in China as well as India. India's education department, for instance, calls the idea of giving each child a laptop "pedagogically suspect," and, when asked about it recently, Education Secretary Arun Kumar Rath barked: "Our primary-school children need reading and writing habits, not expensive laptops."

What's misinformed about it? It's skeptical coverage rather than the uncritical puff pieces you'd get in Wired or a blog but I don't think that's a bad thing.

Re:How do hackers get these? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 6 years ago | (#24065029)

Well,while i don't know about "cultural imperialism" I can tell you that while my nephews can run circles around their teachers as far as research and coming up with professional looking layouts on their papers even though they are only 13 and 15,their handwriting REALLY sucks. And I recently tried to write cursive and found that I have been typing everything for so many years that writing anything other than my name in cursive was pretty damned hard. So maybe giving them laptops at such an early age really isn't the best of ideas,unless all you want them to do is print.

Personally with computers being an everyday fact of life here in the west and my oldest busting his butt learning anything pre-med he can get his hands on for medical school I'm not too worried about his handwriting. In fact our family doc says that just makes him more ready for his role as a doctor as all doctor's handwriting sucks. But I don't know how computer centric jobs in the third world are,so it could actually hurt them in the long run to not get a grip on penmanship. Maybe someone here could tell us how important penmanship is there? And as always this is my 02c,YMMV

economic revolution (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073319)

Control over knowledge is the most effective way to maintain monopolies and totalitarian regimes.

Many of the poor countries are in the awkward position of one totalitarian regime having said, "Okay, let's see if the people can handle freedom." and no one in their society able to fill the power vacuum. Teaching the children how to access knowledge is a great way to help them (and their parents) figure out good ways to fill the power vacuum.

Now, why do the established educational institutions find the concept uncomfortable?

Re:How do hackers get these? (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068639)

a theory called Constructionism, which posits that young children learn best by doing rather than by being lectured to.

Thank you. This is the way I think most of us learned everything we're good at. I did with reading as a 3 year old, English, programming, computers in general including Linux-*BSD-whatever, and basically everything I know about the world.

The stuff they tried to teach me was either useless, boring, and/or just plain stupid. Including religion.

Re:How do hackers get these? (2, Informative)

ya really (1257084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064457)

How in the world do hackers get their hands on these while the children they're intended for don't?

There was a promotion when OLPC came out that allowed you to purchase one. In doing so, another OLPC was sent to a child as well.

The OLPC project had stated that a consumer version of the XO laptop is not planned.[8] However, the project established in 2007 the website for outright donations and for a "Give 1 Get 1" offer valid (but only to the United States, its territories, and Canadian addresses) from November 12, 2007 until December 31, 2007.[9] []

You can also find them on ebay [] It doesnt take a hacker to find them, just someone willing to use Google.

Re:How do hackers get these? (1)

VoyagerRadio (669156) | more than 6 years ago | (#24066533)

Ah, right -- I believe that promotion was mentioned in the Business Week article.

Who really gives a flying fsck? (0, Flamebait)

incripshin (580256) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064495)

I installed Gentoo on my Vaio S460. You guys want to read about that? Or how about the time that I installed OpenBSD on my desktop? I know, it's amazing the way operating systems can be installed on computers.

Re:Who really gives a flying fsck? (2, Insightful)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064733)

troll? no seriously who does give a flying fsck its been done before aswell

Re:Who really gives a flying fsck? (1)

Linegod (9952) | more than 6 years ago | (#24066249)

I say 'insightful' not 'flamebait'....

Apparently Uruguay really loves the OLPC (4, Informative)

ya really (1257084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064501)

I guess this is a real item, though it seems a bit strange OLPC Postage Stamp []

Re:Apparently Uruguay really loves the OLPC (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24070999)

It's in commemoration of the international day against child labour. It says "12th of June, International Day against child labour - EDUCATION: the correct answer to child labour".
Over here in Uruguay the XOs have been generally well-received, and the government is very proud of their program (called CEIBAL BTW)... I guess this is the kind of stuff they do to show how proud they are, and yes, it looks rather weird.

But, but..! (5, Funny)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064559)

..when will the one-iPhone-per-middle-class-white-man campaign start?! I can't bear the view of those still not having one :(

Actually, I'm jealous, I'd really like to have an OLPC =)

Re:But, but..! (2, Interesting)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#24064633)

Well if it you want a cell phone that is analogous to the OLPC, then then you want the Neo FreeRunner [] from Openmoko, not the iPhone.

OLPC PCs have microphone, speaker, wireless mesh (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073353)

While I'm wondering how to find out whether the current openmoko is compatible with my docomo foma contract here in Japan, I'm also wondering how to hook a keyboard up to it.

It's really hard to blog on a phone pad, and I can't see a touchscreen of that size being much easier than a phone pad.

An OLPC with a phone modem in it, or a rollout of wifi hotspots equivalent to the cellphone networks would either one make the iPhone obsolete.

Re:OLPC PCs have microphone, speaker, wireless mes (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#24076857)

It has USB host access [] so I don't see why a keyboard is out of the question.

Re:OLPC PCs have microphone, speaker, wireless mes (1)

Ancient123 (724901) | more than 6 years ago | (#24080519)

The contract shouldn't matter as long as it is GSM service as the phone companies normally don't care about the phone your using.
As for the keyboard you have a choice of usb or bluetooth.(I recommend bluetooth for geek cred)

Overly complicated (1)

mrslacker (1122161) | more than 6 years ago | (#24065685)

Qemu? Oh dear. I guess this guy never heard of debootstrap.

Why Ubuntu again? (1)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24065729)

Why Ubuntu gets again this kind publicity and not other GNU/Linux distributions what has be working on it long time and has instructions too?

Is this again one kind trick to separate Linux community by promoting Canonical as 'superior' OS manufacture?

Doesn't Ubuntu users anymore know what Ubuntu means?

Re:Why Ubuntu again? (1)

pdusen (1146399) | more than 6 years ago | (#24066083)

What in blazes are you babbling about?

Re:Why Ubuntu again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24068967)

The GP is just jealous that Ubuntu is more popular than his distro of choice. Don't worry, Fri13, before too long another distro will probably pop up and become more popular than Ubuntu.

Re:Why Ubuntu again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24066383)


I run CentOS servers so I wanted to have a similar environment on my laptop.

I'm a Red Hat man, have been for since I bought Red Hat 5.2 for $300 in 1998, and have continued using Fedora and CentOS on the server ever since (I run a hosting farm).

I tried CentOS 5.2 -- had to re-compile the kernel with 8K stacks to get ndiswrapper working, there's no networking manager built-in for wireless so had to go with wifi-radar (excellent on its own btw). The battery indicator doesn't work. The suspend/hibernate doesn't work.

I tried Fedora 9 -- it froze halfway through its install process. And yes, I checked the media and tried another disc, and yes, I tried the i386 version too.

Ubuntu with a default install worked perfectly. I had to spend an evening going through my homemade recipe for a source LAMP server, all I had to do was google for equivalent libraries (ie "yum install bzip2-devel" becomes "apt-get install libbz2-dev") -- I got the same kind of source-built customized web server on Ubuntu as I have on my CentOS boxen. Oh, and everything I've wanted has been available via apt-get -- not like RHEL where I have to use additional repos like rpmforge and atrpms, or Fedora where I have to use livna. And don't even get me started on yum conflicts.

But Ubuntu is clearly the better desktop. By a mile.

The issue is -- can Ubuntu leverage its success on the desktop to the server? Probably. RHEL and Fedora are fine as non-graphical servers. However, they do not have any inherent advantage over Ubuntu. So Ubuntu's ability to do both roles compare to Red Hat's ability to do one role suggests to me that Red Hat will be superfluous in the long run.

At the moment, we have:

1) CentOS/Fedora: web hosting servers.
2) Ubuntu: desktops.
3) Other distributions: irrelevant.

contrary data point (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073367)

I have quite successfully used Fedora on laptops.


Ubuntu live CD boots fine on an old clamshell iBook, but does funny things to video on similar vintage iMacs, making it impossible to install from a live CD.

Again, YMMV, but I think having both is a very good thing for the desktop, as well.

too late? (2, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#24066665)

I'm not trying to bash olpc -- I liked it enough to donate one. But I wonder whether the olpc is simply coming to market too late, and at too high a price, to be relevant. This article is an example of how fuzzy the boundary is between xo+sugar and a standard linux distro running on commodity hardware such as a eeepc or a standard laptop or desktop machine. There are basically three reasons I can see why olpc can be relevant:

  1. It's so cheap that it can be given away to lots of kids in developing countries.
  2. It's rugged and portable, can run on a generator, and has a combination of price and features (like wireless) that you don't see in ordinary laptops.
  3. There's something really cool and innovative about sugar that makes it better suited for use by kids than a standard desktop environment.

I've never tried sugar, so I can't say anything for sure about #3, but I'm pretty skeptical. My own kids use gnome, and it works fine for them. The fuzzy boundary demonstrated by the article makes me doubt whether sugar by itself is all that relevant.

Re #2, I'm not convinced that it's really all that important for these kids to have this particular combination of features. Is portability really that critical? How much does it matter if the machine stays in the kid's home, or at school? Is the wireless really that useful in real life, in the environments where xo's are getting used? These features seem to be tied to a particular educational philosophy and imagined model of use, but it's not clear to me whether that's really happening. One of the big killer apps for olpc was supposed to be distribution of free electronic textbooks, and that is something I know something about (see my sig); basically the free electronic textbooks that exist today are disproportionately slanted toward esoteric graduate-level books on things like quantum field theory, with less for college freshmen, and essentially nothing for K-12.

And then there's #1, price. So far they've only got the xo's price down to $200, and $200 is not all that competitive against commodity hardware at this point. I'm going to have to compare with retail options here in the developed world (US), since that's what I have experience with. You can get a gPC from walmart for $200. I recently walked in to a Salvation Army thrift shop and bought a perfectly fine used desktop system for $89 -- and that wasn't a fluke, because there were two other machines on the shelf at the same price point that looked just fine. Memory upgrades for used machines are ridiculously cheap these days, ~$13 (including shipping) on ebay for 512 MB. So for the same price as the xo, I could spend $89 for a used desktop, $13 for a memory upgrade, $8 for a mouse and keyboard (typical sale price at Fry's), and maybe $70 for a cheap LCD (again, not an unusual sale price at Fry's). Now I'm not saying that this particular method of assembling a cheap, used desktop system is appropriate for getting a machine into the hands of a kid in Cambodia, but I think it does show that commodity hardware is getting so insanely cheap so fast that there's a real possibility that olpc will simply become irrelevant because it's overtaken by events.

You're missing the point. (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 6 years ago | (#24073379)

XOs are built differently from the eeepc. If I had a choice, I would get the OLPC over any of the "netbooks" or other cheap ultralightweights, even at the same price point.

  USD 200 to USD 300 is not a small increase, either. But the price of OLPC will come down as the volume ramps up.

The price of eeepc and similar is at the bottom of the commercially viable pricing point for this kind of hardware. There's a reason that you don't see anything dropping under that price point, or anything really beating it at that price point. Market pressure for this class of machine is still to drive the price of the hardware up. (Look at the recent eeepc models.)

I wish the OLPC people could find a way to like the hardware into the regular market at the USD 300 price point. Or even reinstitute the G1G1 program at USD 500 so they can build the commercial delivery and support infrastructure.

At this point, all I can get in Japan is the MSWxp model at JPY 50,000 (roughly USD 500 at current exchange). I'm saving up to get one so I can type on the train. I'd far prefer the OLPC.

Re:You're missing the point. (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#24075863)

[...]the price of OLPC will come down as the volume ramps up [...] The price of eeepc and similar is at the bottom of the commercially viable pricing point for this kind of hardware. There's a reason that you don't see anything dropping under that price point, or anything really beating it at that price point. Market pressure for this class of machine is still to drive the price of the hardware up. (Look at the recent eeepc models.)

I think what you're saying is partly right and partly wrong.

One reason you don't see retail systems priced very low is that so many people want Windows. I used to buy the Great Quality machines at Fry's for $200. They came with Linux on them. After carrying them for several years, Fry's stopped selling them, and now the cheapest desktop machines they sell are about $400-500, with Vista on them. From talking to a couple of people who worked at Fry's, it sounds like the problem was they were having way too many returns on the machines. Apparently most people were buying them to run Windows. Some didn't understand that they weren't getting a machine with Windows. Others bought them intending to install a pirated copy of Windows, but had problems with the install, so they returned it. None of this is relevant to something like OLPC, which doesn't need to run Windows.

Another thing is that it's true the price of the OLPC will come down as the volume ramps up, but the price of commodity hardware is also dropping like crazy. The price of all the components (hard drive, ram, cpu) are all extremely low now, and the computing power you need for something like an XO is ten years behind the cutting edge. I think people are not noticing how ridiculously cheap hardware is getting. For instance, let's say that last year a low-end machine with Windows XP and Office was $450, consisting of manufacturing ($150), MS tax ($200), and retail profit ($100). This year, manufacturing the same hardware might cost $80. But oops, now XP is no longer available on new machines, and to run Vista you need higher specs. So even though the manufacturing cost should be half what it was 12 months ago, the price you see on a retail shelf is the same. Note that none of this logic applies to OLPC. The specs that were good enough to run sugar last year are still good enough to run sugar this year. There's no MS tax, and no retail profit margin.

And finally, it's not obvious to me that it makes sense for a program like OLPC to be shipping a bespoke, newly manufactured machine. In the grandparent post, I listed how I can assemble a used desktop system, paying retail here in the US, for $180, including an LCD monitor. This is a system with twice the memory of the xo, and a bigger screen. Sure, it doesn't have some of the same features as the xo (portability, wireless, ability to run from a human-powered generator), but I'm not convinced that those features are really vital. I think the focus on getting brand-new hardware rather than used hardware is another product of the way Windows has taught people to think. Buying a cheap used machine to run Windows is a losing proposition, because you're probably getting a system that's full of malware and doesn't have a Windows install CD; but that logic doesn't apply if you're not running Windows.

good thoughts, however (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 6 years ago | (#24081995)

One of the things that keeps consumer prices high is that consumer oriented companies think that pushing the price below a certain point will ruin their profitability. (Sales channels, mostly, I think, but packaging and advertising, as well.) So they push the functionality up to keep the price up.

But, as far as used computers for the underprivileged, in yesterday's USofA, it worked because power is cheap and generally available. Also, the environment in the USofA tends not to be as punishing. (Although, in houses on the bad side of a West Texas town, you have cockroaches and sand and that mold in the dust from the refinery smoke, so it is not all roses.)

OLPCs are targeted at dirt floors and houses with essentially no power, or unreliable power at best.

I'm not sure why you figure the specs that were good enough for sugar last year are not good enough this year, but I've been ignoring the sugar lists for a while, so you might be right. The original intent was otherwise, however.

Ubuntu mobile? (1)

slack_prad (942084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24066801)

How is this different from installing [] ubuntu mobile on OLPC?

Re:Ubuntu mobile? (1)

NegativeOffset (1205548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24070491)

Different distro that adds GNOME. Did you read it?

my desktop Ubuntu install (1)

epine (68316) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068561)

I've been running the Fedora tree for a couple of years because at the time of my last installation, I wished to play around with the IBM Cell development tools, and Fedora was best supported. Since then I moved a server to Ubuntu and was anticipating moving my desktop as well, which I attempted last weekend.

I was expecting the Ubuntu migration to be relatively pain free, but that was far from reality.

The first disappointment was that dual head did not activate itself automatically. I haven't tried to import my old Xinerama config yet. Pages I've found on the internet talk about xrandr instead, with this annoying 2048x2048 limitation. My screens are one LCD 1680x1050 and 1280x1024. I can't put them side by side without exceeding the 2048 horizontal limit, which will disable compiz effects (should I even care?) One post suggested stacking them vertically, 1050+1024 just barely makes it under the 2048 fence. The post doesn't explain the consequences of arranging my screens this way. Will it affect how my task bar functions? I'm left completely in the dark.

I did this install as a network install. I have a bootp server and prefer to install everything by this mechanism. Many of my machines don't even have CD/DVD players. I built my current desktop when SATA was catching on, but SATA DVD drives were hard to find, and I just flatly refused to pay the "floppy tax" by buying yet another useless PATA device. Instead, I spent the money on rock solid Intel network cards with PXE support.

I added Ubuntu to my netboot server in five minutes, and it fired up the first time, only to fail halfway through. After half an hour of tedious slogging through support forums, I found a link to an updated netboot which doesn't fail. Surprised that this problem could persist in HH for so long. It wasn't released last week.

Since installation, in less than eight hours of use, I've already had three desktop crashes requiring a reboot to cure. The keyboard become unresponsive (not even caps lock) and there are strange effects on screen. Sometimes the mouse continues to move, but does nothing else. I figure it's a rendering glitch. The machine still responds to SSH, so I'm able to SSH in and do an orderly reboot. I tried killing a dozen processes, but gave up without managing to crash the desktop back to the console: every process that looked vaguely gnomish or X-ish.

A surprise about the installer was that it allowed me to proceed with the install with *no* desktop selected. There was no text explaining "if you proceed, all you will have is a command line". There was no text helping me choose *which* desktop to install.

It wasn't hard to install the desktop from the command line in a second pass (I almost prefer it) but I was definitely unimpressed by the amount of guidance offered by the installer.

One feature I love about Ubuntu is that when I type a command command for a package not yet installed, it tells me "you need to install X, Y, or Z". Guidance. What an amazing concept.

My immediate reason for making the jump to Ubuntu last weekend was the desire to set up Eclipse to duplicate my development environment at work. My old Fedora was way behind the curve, so I had 3.4 at work and 3.2 at home.

I managed to install Eclipse on Ubuntu and ended up with ... 3.2 again. True to its Debian roots, Ubuntu is a full year behind the times with this important package. There is a bit of frenzy on the forums to get 3.4 packaged since the 3.4 release. Appears they've given up on 3.3 completely. Word is that the Ubuntu team lacks enterprise Java expertise and that if a cutting-edge Eclipse matters to you, you should install ... Fedora. Fortunately, my aging Fedora was still kicking around as I tend to do my OS upgrades onto fresh hard drives. I'm back on Fedora today, having not yet bothered to solve my Ubuntu problem with dual head.

During the Eclipse install, I experimented with installing most of the recommended packages and a fair number of the suggested packages. To my amazement, many of the recommended/suggested packages fail completely because the dep can't be satisfied. From the macro perspective, this is moronic. Consult your own database you execrable POS *before* making impossible suggestions. Actually, I like and respect apt, so we kissed and made up again the next morning.

One benefit I was screaming for was a better mouse acceleration profile. I'm using a very old Logitech MouseMan Wheel. This is physically the biggest mouse I've ever owned, the only mouse I've ever owned that perfectly fits my largish hands. I can touch the corner of both control keys on a standard keyboard with thumb and pinky at the same time.

Maybe this old mouse has crappy DPI or something, but for the last couple of years the GUI mouse configurations have sucked. I have the acceleration fairly high to sweep across the 1680+1280 pixel desktop. (My key repeat is set at 45/s, so I'm not lacking in reflex.) But even with sensitivity set to absolute lowest GUI setting available, my pixel level control is at the edge of of physical perception. It takes me about half a second of intense concentration to move the mouse exactly one pixel. Like operating a sticky gas pedal which is always trying to jump out of the stiction point. Fedora Core 6 is terrible at the lowest sensitivity. Ubuntu about half as bad. Under FC4, I recall I was able to set up my mouse with excellent sensitivity and tracking.

My situation with Ubuntu is that my server install was 100% painless (minus the loss of the LaserWriter NTR print driver), whereas my desktop experience has consisted entirely of unexpected bumps in the road.

I will say that Firefox 3 under Ubuntu shows a lot of polish, but I've been running FF3 under Fedora since the first public beta, so this doesn't overwhelm me.

My number one disappointment with Ubuntu was offering a blind choice of desktop install, with no text explaining the consequences of one choice or another. I suppose this is a contentious area, and that the project is already suffering from localization fatigue, but still, it flies in the face of value system I believed I was buying into: concern for user experience.

Ubuntu is good, and still likely my desktop preference. However, my buy-in to the Ubuntu mystique is presently at a low ebb. I could potentially make the jump back to Debian if someone would assure me I'd never hear the word "backport" ever again mentioned in polite company. About once a month I wish to view some media that Debian can't play with a default install. Even for just ten clips a year, I'm not willing to invest life affirming energy in my choice to install or not install one proprietary codec or another. I have large reservoirs of life-affirming energy available to squander on the superiority of Postgres over MySQL, and big fish like that. Codecs? You've got to be kidding. There is a large list of Hollywood blockbusters I make it my life mission never to watch, movies such as Gladiator, which by all critical accounts has one of the worst secondary plot lines of all time. For the average quality of media out there, caring about a codec is like caring about the design of a tertiary holding tank at a sewage treatment plant. Come to think of it, the tertiary holding tank is probably more important to the future of life on this planet.

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