Monday, May 5, 2008

SSC #64 Linux Lament

    There's nothing really huge to talk about this week that I'm aware of...  I know that's not really the best way to start out a newspaper column, but I'm not one for sensationalism for the sake of sensationalism.

    I know I have spent a lot of time hyping Ubuntu up and making it sound really good, but I want you to know that you always get the straight story from me even when it is news I would rather not have to be reporting.  

    Case in point, I've been installing Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron around town amongst friends and customers for the last little while, and I'm beginning to see through some of the shine and polish.  I'm finding that it is better installed freshly as opposed to an upgrade from Gutsy Gibbon.  One friend of mine who was using Gutsy has said that his machine has started acting very sluggish and that things that formerly worked very snappy and crisp are now delayed for unknown reasons.  I am thinking some of this is a result of the Beta status of Firefox 3.  They did some heavy tweaking in it to make it lighter on your RAM and as a result it is almost as though it runs with lower system priority and hence runs sluggishly and even freezes at times.  He was also a big fan of XMMS, like myself, and is having trouble making the transition to a replacement music player.  I plan to go over and help him to either work out the bugs or perhaps even switch him back to Gutsy, with which he was very happy.

    Another friend of mine has a fairly new machine from Dell, and I spent 12 hours yesterday trying to get Hardy Heron correctly configured on it.  It installed fine via the Wubi installer, and everything worked great except I couldn't get the wireless network card to work.  Also it seemed that every time I installed the nVidia 3D-acceleration drivers then the monitor would be limited to a low resolution of 640x480.  Oh, the 3D would work, and the windows would wobble and I could do all the cool special effects, but in 640x480 that just isn't enough to satisfy.  In the end I realized that the 3D drivers were working fine, they just didn't properly recognize her flatscreen monitor, and as a result of this failure, they refused to display in resolutions that it could not detect.

    After spending all of this time on it and failing to get these basic hardware components to work, I gave up.  And a little piece of me died inside.  I booted back over to Windows Vista and I removed Ubuntu.  

    After a brief moment of silence, I went and passed out in exhaustion.

    I spend a lot of time in this column touting the benefits of Linux and other Open-Source software.  Its something that is important to me.  And if you're a computer owner, I feel it should be important to you also.  But even I must admit that Linux isn't for everyone.  While Linux works on more hardware than any other operating system (this is verifiably true) it doesn't work on ALL hardware.  My friend could have spent some money and replaced her graphics card and her wireless card with components that are definitely supported.  And if you're really determined to get Linux to work, sometimes parts replacement is the only option.  

    In a perfect world, all of the hardware manufacturers would release their driver specs openly and Linux would work perfectly with every piece of hardware ever made.  But this isn't a perfect world.  Companies go out of business and their specs are lost.  Some companies refuse to release theirs for fear of losing a market edge.  And some companies don't have the choice to open their drivers because contracts signed with other companies for various reasons.  

    If you have recently tried Ubuntu on my advice and you couldn't get it to work.  I apologize and sympathize with the frustrations you felt.  Its a great operating system and I love it dearly, but I admit that it isn't perfect and it doesn't work for every machine.  If you had some frustrating encounters with Linux, I'd love to hear about them.  In some cases I may be able to help.
    On the other hand, if you tried Ubuntu and everything worked out and you decided to stick with it, I'd like to hear from you as well.  After the discouraging times I've had lately with it, it would be nice to hear some success stories.

    I've been thinking a lot lately about starting a LUG.    A LUG or Linux User Group is a local club for Linux users to get together and swap stories, tips, and help eachother.  The Ubuntu Loco group (basically a Loco group is just like a LUG but its just for Ubuntu users) for Kentucky is located in Lexington, and I'm a member, but I'd kinda like to get something started here in Russell County.

    If you'd would be interested in gathering together with other local Linux users, please contact me by the one of the methods outlined below.  If there is enough interest, I believe it would be great to have a local community LUG.  

    Next week we'll be looking at and how it has been revolutionizing internet radio, be sure to check it out!

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

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