Given Three Choices...

august 5, 2006

...I'd try them all 1,000 times... ...then I'd try them a few more after that... I'm the same with mobile phones, watches, and now I've discovered with Linux distros. Remember how -- just a few days ago -- I had "settled" for CentOS 4.3? Scratch all of that. Giving Ubuntu Another Shot I was talking with Gaurav at work the day and he mentioned that he installed Ubuntu 6.06 LTS and how he really liked it. That wasn't enough for me to go try the brown Ubuntu again. But... Unbranding But, this tutorial on how to change everything in Ubuntu was enough to get me to give it one more shot. On top of what I learned there, I also found this thread that helped me almost totally unbrand my Ubuntu installation. It is not that I don't like the Ubuntu brand, it is just that I want a clean look. And those two tutorials helped me clean up. So, yes, I am running Ubuntu on my notebook now, and have been for the last three days. Beefing Up My other complaint about Ubuntu was that the installation was a bit slim. Ubuntu installs as a pure desktop environment. The LiveCD contains everything that a normal person would need on the desktop (OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim, Gimp, etc). But, I'm not a normal person. I'm a geek and I need more. With the LiveCD, if I only installed Ubuntu once, it would be OK. I could download all the other software I wanted from a repository somewhere. But, I have a tendency (sigh) to install things over and over again. And having to download software over and over again just did not sound nice. That was my complaint about the LiveCD. I discovered and downloaded the DVD version for installation because it contains the whole repository of software for Ubuntu. Since installation does not let me pick which packages I want to install, it is nice to have the DVD around so that I can locally install instead of having to download from a remote repository. If your computer has a DVD drive, I'd highly recommend spending the time to download the DVD version. The DVD version also has a lite installer that runs in text mode -- which I really like better than the LiveCD (though, the LiveCD option is still on the DVD). And that took care of my two complaints about Ubuntu. Stable and Cool? Other than being jealous that Gaurav was loving his Ubuntu installation, there was still that nagging thought in my head: CentOS is stable and all, but it had all sorts of old stuff that I wanted to replace. The Gnome was so old that it was difficult to customize. And other things like that. I want stable, but apparently I want cool also. So, with my fingers crossed, I installed Ubuntu and hoped for some stability -- I had not tested in previous installations long enough to see if Ubuntu was stable or not. Wifi Immediately during installation I found something to love about Ubuntu: It detected and had drivers for my D-Link DWL-G630 wireless card! No other distribution did that -- not even the cutting edge Fedora Core 5. It looks like Ubuntu developers had incorporated the madwifi drivers into the distribution for out-of-the-box wifi. That was very impressive. Suspend After installation was complete, I was playing around and accidentally hit the power button on my notebook and I found the second thing that I was really impressed with: Suspend to RAM works without tweaking or setting up. I can hit the power button and the notebook goes to "sleep". I can close the lid and it stays that way. Pop the lid open and the notebook wakes up and is ready to go. With one change in the Power settings, I had my Compaq notebook acting like my Powerbook when it comes to lid closing: Close lid = sleep, Open lid = wake up. Again, very impressive. Stability This release of Ubuntu has the marking "LTS" on it, which means stands for "Long Term Support", meaning that this release will have a three year desktop support cycle (and five year server support cycle). That puts this release of Ubuntu on par with what CentOS (and Red Hat) are putting out. Reading between the lines, what LTS also means is that the developers also got the distro as close to bleeding edge as possible but held back a little -- a little conservatism will help with stability. I like that. It has new enough stuff that I can still have "cool", but it should have enough stable that I can use the system on a day-to-day basis without it crashing -- and I have been using the system heavily for the last three days, it has yet to crash. One thing that shows me that Ubuntu 6.06 LTS is not a verison that is a test bed for radically new technology (like how FC5 is), is that after installation and adding the software I needed, I only had to update some 150 some packages (coming out to around 200MB). After I installed FC5 with around the same packages, I ended up with a 660MB update. I had complained earlier about how FC5 crashed when VMware changed video modes. I found that it was not a problem of FC5, rather it is a problem with VMware. Hopefully, VMware will correct this. In CentOS, the video mode thing was not a problem. But, I have found that like FC5, it is a problem in Ubuntu. Yum Not So Yummy I have been a Red Hat, rpm/yum guy for the longest time. When I first tried out this version of Ubuntu a week ago, I could not get comfortable with apt/apt-get. But, this time around, I gave apt a good long try. I am still not comfy with it, but I have learned a lot and am coming to respect it a lot more than the rpm/yum combination. I am find myself in agreement with Jeremy: apt is pretty damn powerful. Here's the thing, CentOS5 (aka RHEL5) is going to be based around the FC5 base. When I did an update of FC5, I found that yum is now taking a very long time to resolve dependencies. I don't know what changed, but yum is now really slow. I experienced this on my notebook and when I tried to upgrade my server from FC4 to FC5. My FC4 to FC5 upgrade on the server showed just how bad yum has gotten. After the server upgrade (which took 45 minutes), I did a yum update and it needed to update 129 packages. From my original posting: "The crazy update took almost three hours to do 129 packages! Yikes! It did some sort of transaction test that ate up all of the CPU cycles and all of the available RAM (I shutdown services and gave it about 500MB of RAM!)" When I updated my Ubuntu installation with an apt-get upgrade, it did all updates within 40 minutes -- all 150 something updates. That is a good example of the difference between apt and yum. Installation of new software wasn't bad either -- honestly though, the difference when it comes to installing software with yum or apt-get is not that much. But, I really love the GUI tool for apt, Synaptics. That is a very cool tool. Will Ubuntu Last? I don't know if Ubuntu will last on the notebook. I certainly hope so. It is fast and responsive. So far, it has been rock solid. The hardware support is fantastic and "just works". After I took out all the brown theming and Ubuntu logos, I really like the GUI and looks of the system. Lets see how long Ubuntu 6.06 LTS will last on my notebook, I have a feeling it will be "the one" for my notebook. VMware is installed and running, so I can now go and try to install Gentoo inside of VMware and leave my Ubuntu installation alone. A few words about CentOS: If I need to setup a server, I would not hesitate to use CentOS for the server setup. Though, Ubuntu has a server version out now and it is also LTS. I may give Ubuntu server a try, see how it is.