Posted by Brian @ 11:56 pm on March 26th 2006

Kubuntu Dapper flight 5

I took the plunge this weekend and moved from Kubuntu 5.10 to Kubuntu Dapper Flight 5. My initial impressions are quite positive. Clearly a lot of work has gone into this new release.

The good:

As usual, it was a totally smooth installation — I think I only had to answer four questions.

I have a 17″ monitor on my notebook/desktop replacement with an unusal native resolution (1440×900) which was automatically set up.

OpenOffice 2.02 is installed by default. I hope this latest version will address the flakiness of Base.

Kubuntu Adept looks great as a Gnome-synaptic’esqe taskbar applet that notifies you of pending updates as well as doing a great job of installing them easily. Brilliant.

Bootup seems a bit faster and a bit prettier. Most people won’t have to reboot, but I do frequently – my primary machine is a laptop that I use in many locations.

Superkaramba is greatly improved and better integrated into KDE. The programs installed on K menu are greatly simplified. Notably, I’ve installed about five apps and every one has shown up on the K menu, even those I installed with dpkg from the command line. This is huge. KDE now has what I consider a consistent, professional look to it.

The bad (but improved):

Installing the proprietary Nvidia drivers was easier this time around, but still a pain. A GUI script (using Zenity?) should be provided that gives the user a choice between the open (slow) drivers and the proprietary ones — and automates the process.

Firefox wasn’t installed by default. That’s a giant mistake. The Konqueror browser is nice, but it’s no Firefox.

Evolution wasn’t installed by default. Kmail is a nice app, but I don’t use it. My home directory had Evolution data. The installer should have seen that and installed Evo instead.

Using KDE I was able to set up my network printer in about three minutes, but it was far from automatic. I selected a network printer but I had to input my LAN IP range manually – It should be trivial to grab the current IP block of my network, or at least make a darn good guess. I seriously doubt newbies have their LAN IP range memorized. The app incorrectly complained that I wasn’t scanning IP addresses at 127.0.0.x even though I had selected a network printer. Furthermore, once the printer is found, the software still isn’t able to determine what kind of printer it is automatically. That said, once I chose the right model it worked great. I also had to manually configure the scanner functions from the command line, something that took me hours to figure out when I installed 5.10. I chose a multifunction printer in the configuration app and it should automatically go into setting up my scanner after the printer works.

Since 5.10, Ubuntu has been able to correctly set up a few of my special laptop keys – mainly volume up/down and mute. I had hoped that Kubuntu would have gotten this right this time around but alas, not yet.A small nitpick – a utility called Skim was installed on my systray. Skim apparently makes it easier to input non-English langauges. Neat, except I don’t need it, and it’s sucking up resources. One of the four install questions is country. I chose American English – that should be a clear broadcast to the installer *not* to install Skim. I said “apparently” because the homepage for Skim doesn’t explain clearly what the application does. That “First rule of Fight Club” type assumption is typical for open source unfortunately. If you don’t already know what Skim is, you can’t figure out what it is. But that’s grist for a future post.

The ugly:

So far I’ve only got one serious gripe with Kubuntu Dapper. It’s still a major pain to get multimedia codecs working. Someone wonderful has worked up a script called bumps that pulls codecs from the PLF repositories which helps, but doesn’t solve the problem, because it requires more skills than most desktop users have.

Every new Ubuntu release has a new set of hoops you have to jump through to play video, and I’m sick of it. I wasted an hour combing ubuntuforums and Google looking for the new magic spell I needed.

I realize the issues, but until something newbie-friendly is packaged into the installer, this is a showstopper for widespread adoption.

Posted by Brian @ 11:23 pm on March 12th 2006

Thank you script kiddies

The weak, broken little laptop I’ve been using for years to power this site was haxxored recently.
I want to give thanks to the script kiddie responsible for giving me the impetus to make a fresh start and load up the latest versions of goodness. In your honor I even spent a little extra time hardening the machine in anticipation of future visits from you our your ilk.

I’m rarely amazed at what a bored 14 year old can do with a little spare time, but I’m constantly amazed at the neverending improvements in open source software.