Opinions on Ubuntu Revisited

OK, Ubuntu is still pretty cool, but man, sound driver support is sad. My son, who purchased a SoundBlaster card for his machine, got his sound to work but could not get the microphone to work. I ended up in the same situation, except that I have an on-board Intel HDA sound processor.

The good thing is that lots and lots of people have posted on this topic. That’s also the bad thing, because (a) lots and lots of people have similar problems and (b) the resolutions are all over the map. I tried everything recommended, including downloading the latest ALSA drivers, rebuilding, and reinstalling, at which point my sound refused to work at all. Several hours later, I got the sound to work (I found a better posting which properlycovered the arguments to pass to the configure script before making) again. I tried a few more things, but my microphone still does not work (it works fine under Vista).

OK, so I’ll have to boot into Windoze to use Skype. But otherwise, all else appears to be running well. Next up, I intend on exploring Wine to run a few of the rare Windows programs that are outstanding.

One of the nicer aspects was the ease of keeping Windows around, which I need for a few reasons. While the Vista partition manager sucked (it would not do what it claimed it could do with respect to shrinking my partition), the Ubuntu installation made that a breeze. An important note, though: The partition resizing operation showed no feedback for a couple hours, so I wasn’t sure whether or not it was doing anything. I waited patiently, and was probably going to reboot in a few more minutes, but the app must have suspected my anxiety and finished promptly.

I can get at files from either side of the fence, meaning that I don’t have to worry about redundancies between Vista and Ubuntu. From Ubuntu, you can see NTFS drives by default, although you have to activate the ability to change them to be writeable. Under Windows, a quick search revealed the existence of Explore2fs, a nice little utility that can read ext2 and ext3 file systems. Unfortunately, it looks to involve copying to local temp files, but it’s better than nothing, and should cut down the number of reboots, particularly until I get everything settled in.

So Ubuntu is not going anywhere. Mentally, it’s now my primary OS, and Windows is just here as a necessary evil. I’m satisfied.


I finally got up the energy to spend several hours cleaning and doing a reasonably full backup of my (inexpensive) laptop, which had shipped with Windows Vista. Glutton for punishment that I am, I figured it would be a good idea to learn enough about Vista to survive when working in a place where they happened to use it.

Well, it turns out that no one is using it, or at least no one really wants to use it, as far as I can see. And enough is enough–I learned what I need to know, which is that Vista adds almost nothing to the advancement of operating systems or the user experience, as far as I’m concerned.

So after backing up, I decided to load Ubuntu, which I’d previously installed the prior weekend on my son’s machine. Tim’s machine had been running Windows XP, but somehow got screwed up, at which point he realized he did not have a Windows install disk (and images were nowhere to be found on the machine). The experience was surprisingly better than my last attempts to install Red Hat or Debian–up and (mostly) running in less than an hour.

Still, it reminded me why Ubuntu is far from being something that I can recommend to anyone other than a computer geek. I thought Vista was annoying with its continual interruptions; at least it didn’t require me to enter a password everytime I su’did something (maybe there’s a way around it, and it had better not involve removing the password).

The bigger problem is that no one, except us of course, wants to muck with the command line. Having to deal with my son (who’s not stupid and is on the computer all the time) who is frustrated over figuring out to configure his machine reminded me of that. Finding the right drivers, doing chmods as appropriate, sudoing things where necessary, and so on. God love it and ’em, Ubuntu is not for anyone but a geek. I’m glad I switched–Ubuntu is great, and I guess that makes me a true geek.