Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ubuntu Doesn't work for me ... yet !

To put things into perspective, I am a fairly advanced Linux user, having started using Linux around 10 years back. I started with RedHat, moved on to Slackware, Redhat again, Fedora, Debian (stabl and sid) and finally Ubuntu. Since I don't live on Mars, I still have had to use Windows occasionally. I started with Windows 3.0, moved to 3.1, NT, Windows 95, 98 (or whatever they called it), ME, 2000 and XP and probably used some other versions in between. I have also owned (used to ... until the motherboard failed on me after three years of hard usage) an Apple iBook running Mac OS X.3 and later on X.4. I use an iMac running X.5 at work and dabble a bit in freeBSD and Solaris from time to time. Phew !

With that introduction out of the way, I'll come to the real point of this post. Why doesn't Ubuntu work for me ... yet.

I've been using Ubuntu on a desktop connected to a wired network at work and it has been given me a good time. I've had times when Ubuntu failed on me after an upgrade but nothing too serious. Thanks to the wired network and links/lynx I've managed to come out triumphant each time Ubuntu decided to play tough. And since the desktop was pretty much switched on 24x7, I really haven't had any serious issues.

All this time, I've been running Mac OS X on my iBook and using that as my primary machine at home connected to my WPA2 WIFI network. One fine day the thought of ditching OS X came to my mind and I installed Ubuntu on this laptop. Dual boot, of course since I wasn't ready to give up on OS X just yet. I spent about 20 minutes installing Ubuntu, so far so good. And then I spent the next two days trying to make it work with my wifi network. I did get WPA2 working with it, but then an ubuntu update came through the wire and all hell broke lose ! I was without wifi access again. I would have again spent the next two days configuring wifi on my notebook if canonical hadn't decided to take away Ubuntu's support for powerpc machines and so I ditched ubuntu and installed Debian ... for a day. The very thought of spending another two days to get networking working again on this thing put me off it. As you might have noticed, I don't take notes ... never needed to and probably never will. I was back to OS X on my beautiful white notebook and life was good all again. Never had a problem with OS X on this machine.

All this time while I was fiddling around with Ubuntu on my notebook, I had another notebook, with Windows XP installed, behaving like a good citizen should with my network. I was lucky I atleast had another machine to troll the web for likely solutions to my problems.

I'm not so lucky this time around. I have a new job, this one gave me an iMac for the office, and a Dell machine with Windows XP for lugging around. Windows has been behaving quite well but I'm adventurous. I can't help it. I just cannot see computer running well. I have to fiddle with it. So off I went, got myself the latest shiny ISO and installed Ubuntu 8.04 on the dell. So far so good, the wifi of-course didn't work but I wasn't expecting it to anyway. I was willing to spend the next two days figuring it out ... but I didn't have to. A couple of packages came down the wire and I installed those and voila, I had a working wifi connection with wpa2 security out of the box ! This was a first for me. Life is pure bliss. Or so I thought.

Since, this is a beta version of Ubuntu, I was willing to take the risks and upgraded yet again to whatever packages Ubuntu sent for me. And that was when wifi stopped working for me. And hasn't been working ever since. The friendly wifi indicator on my notebook is also not glowing indicating that the wifi radio might have been switched off somehow and I just can't get it to work. I haven't had to use a real physical LAN cable at home since quite some time but I had one lying around so I took it out and plugged it in to the notebook and searched online for some solutions. Tried a few of them which didn't work.

And I'm back to Windows typing this post. What went wrong this time. Nothing ! I can't blame Ubuntu for my troubles since I was clearly using software not certified for production use. But, I've been using Debian Sid, aka unstable, on my machines for quite some time and never had a problem. Maybe its just me but I've been unlucky with Ubuntu. Since this is a Debian derivative we're talking about here, as a long time debian user, that is what I'm comparing Ubuntu with. And I don't like what I'm seeing. Ubuntu is slower to boot, load and use than Debian and sucks far more than Debian ever did. Debian, by the way, also sucks. It just sucks less and as a Debian unstable user, I'm willing to pay the price. Not so with Ubuntu. This was a distribution which was supposed to just work. This was supposed to be Linux for human beings or some such thing. Well, it isn't anymore. Unless human beings these days like to wait longer for their desktops to load and get some kind of kinky pleasure when they cannot get any work done just because an update broke their network.

I switched to Debian when Redhat forked into Fedora and ruined a perfectly working distribution. Debian was a pleasure to use after redhat and moved on to the unstable bits pretty soon. Contrary to what the name suggests, I never had a problem with Debian unstable. I moved to Ubuntu only to scratch an itch and the itch was to try out what everyone around me was claiming to be the solution to all of mankind's miseries. Well, I guess what works for the rest, just doesn't work for me.

I'll be installing Debian first thing in the morning and will stick with it this time. I know that means a fair bit of work trying to get everything working but I'm willing to spend that time because I know the next time I upgrade my distribution, everything will still work the way I left it. Debian will lead me to my desktop faster, will make better use of my machine's resources and will definitely suck lesser than the alternatives. Thank you Debian.

Moral of the story: Stick with OS X on notebooks, Ubuntu doesn't work for me, Windows sucks (I love it the way one can end all posts with Windows sucks as if thats the one universal truth ;) ).

Update: This post hasn't even begun to describe the problems I've had with screen resolution, suspend/resume, hibernate etc. Just to clarify, I still love Linux and will continue using it ... I'm just not coming back to Ubuntu for a while.

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kozmcrae said...

What great post. I'll give a few (from dozens) examples of similar titles I've seen in the past year:

Linux Sux
Linux Not Ready For Mainstream
Linux Just Doesn't Cut It
Linux Still For Geeks Only

In every post the author was talking about Ubuntu. But did they say Ubuntu in the title? No. The entire spectrum of Linux has been duly trashed because some Windows "expert" couldn't get it working with his computer which had an nVidia 8800 GTS video card.

So it was quite refreshing to see you name the culprit in your title. Thanks.

I don't hate Ubuntu. I hate the way people (mostly new to Linux) treat it as the ONLY Linux. I think it's because they come from a world where there can be only one operating system for the masses. From what I've heard its a good distro that mostly comes through on its claims.

I'm very sensitive to disruption. I need my computer to be consistent to the point of boredom (that's why I switched to Linux). And it mostly is. I've been using PCLinuxOS since 8/06. Before that it was FC3, FC4, FC5, and FC6 briefly. I'm very happy with PCLinuxOS. Anyone who would consider Ubuntu should try PCLinuxOS too. The philosophy is the same, everything should just work. For a while it was primarily a KDE distro but there is a dedicated Gnome version now. I don't understand why anybody would want to use Gnome, but that's another story.

coolcat said...

cool you maybe finding your cheap hardare not working inside ubuntu,but
you need to make you hardware work.
i have spent much more time messing with hardware than easily solving.bytheway ubuntu support is awesome.

dougfractal said...

Hardy is alpha
expect big problems as they are trying to make big changes.

Alpha 6 - Released March 6th, 2008

I find that that on some days you can have 300MB download updates, thats a hell of a lot of bug fixes. The snapshot releases are relatively stable but any update in between is grey. It's like a huge CVS on the whole system. Wait until end of April and judge then.


Sharninder said...

@Kozmcrae: Thanks. I'm glad you didn't take the post to be a "I hate Linux" rant. My idea was constructive criticism and I hope that Ubuntu succeeds. That said, I'd rather have a distro that gets out of the way once installed and lets me have my way screaming only when I ask it to.

@ coolcat: My hardware is far from cheap and is actually pretty expensive and quite current. And that is the reason why Ubuntu has been giving me problems. I've made Ubuntu work for me but frequent disruptions is not what I want for my primary work machine. Like I said, that doesn't mean Ubuntu is bad, it just means that it isn't meant for someone like me. All the fancy graphics, neat installer and the just works philosophy isn't for me. Give me a curses installer, plane xfce desktop and a distro that can be tweaked the way I want it, and I'm happy. But then I'm probably not the ideal use case for Ubuntu.

Sharninder said...


I know hardy is alpha right now, but so is Debian Sid. I can live with Alpha software, but Ubuntu's alphas just don't work. A distro that sends new kernels to install in an update is not something I fancy. I'll definitely give hardy final a shot once its released as thats a part of my job but I don't think I'm willing to put it back on my notebook. I'm still willing to take recommendations for another distro, though I can't promise I'll switch from Debian.

E said...

What a waste of time reading this post.

It's alpha code: how could it possibly not suck?

Let me help you a little: alpha refers to unstable experimental software with known show-stopper bugs, released only for testing purposes and in no way intended to be used on day to day working machines. Reread the previous sentence a few hundred times until you actually understand it.

Sharninder said...

@E: Dude, I have worked with more alphas than I care to remember. I understand what alpha software is. I've faced the problems that I've written about with released builds also. And you would know only if you care the read the post. Not just read the post, understand the reasoning behind it.

richbl said...

Hmmm... cleary you DON'T understand the meaning of alpha software. You seem to presume that you "understand what alpha software is" because "I have worked with more alphas than I care to remember." If you really understood the meaning of alpha software, you'd realize that trying to compare one piece of alpha software to another is unreasonable and completely illogical. Alpha means unstable. Just because Debian Sid is also alpha does NOT imply that any other alpha software should be just as un/stable.


Sharninder said...

@rich and others. I really do understand alpha software, and that is why I wrote "Ubuntu doesn't work for ME yet". Ok I agree the ubuntu sucks part was a bit excessive and I'll probably edit that out. This is my blog and I'm entitled to my opinion.

Btw, I did manage to get wifi working on my machine and to be safe filed a bug with network-manager and it is increasingly looking to be an issue with the ubuntu packaged kernel rather than network-manager, which ubuntu doesn't manage.

There is nothing wrong with using alpha software and open criticism is what makes open source, in general, work. I'll be the happiest if ubuntu improves in stability and speed for me to get back to it. But until then, I'll stay away from it.

Anonymous said...

Debian Sid >> Ubuntu Foo. I have used Ubuntu from Warty days, except some eye candy, I am disappointed. Running Sid on 2 machines. Fully satisfied :P

TheBeesAreDisappearing said...

am sorry, but you make no sense . I understand your frustration with something breaking on wireless earlier (assuming you were using a STABLE release... ) - bitching and moaning about Ubuntu while using an ALPHA ((you've said "beta" in your post - it is NOT - it is ALPHA.) is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard - if you're not into testing and helping dev., don't use the alpha - I have 7.10 installed and have faced none of the issues that you mentioned. If someone curses out my software based on bugs found in the alpha release, I'd want to masticate them - that is why we have - ALPHA, BETA, STABLE - if you can't understand this, please don't be in this field.
I have noticed a few problems pop up with Ubuntu and I totally understand if someone doesn't like it and prefers different distros - fair enough -- but to judge something based on testing an alpha is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard - in this case, NO, you are not entitled to your opinion, you should not even be allowed near a computer.

Abhilash Kumar said...

Lotsa stuff going on here isn't it?

Well... I am a linuz noob (sorta). But I have installed and used almost all distos of linux on my desktop machine. Ubuntu was the first that I installed on my laptop.

I tried 7.10 and the graphics, wifi and sound were difficult to set up. Then after a few days I upgraded to Hardy Beta. Sound and graphics were out of the box. Wifi needed some research, but it's up now.

But yes, each time the kernel updates I need to redo the wifi setup. Thats okay though... its just 4 lines of code.

Rohan Kapoor said...

Have you tried 8.10 yet, It runs fine on my Compaq V2000 Laptop and has given it more life than it ever had. (One more year)

Sharninder said...

@Rohan: yes, I've used 8.10 also and I really don't think it has anything new for me. It's still slow (for me) and doesn't work as advertised (again, YMMV). I'm sticking to debian sid, thank you :-)