Sunday, May 2, 2010

(X)ubuntu 10.04

Before I go any further, I'd like to thank Ford for the honor of being allowed to post here at Eleven is Louder. This is my first post, so please try to refrain from throwing any large, heavy, or otherwise dangerous objects at me.

Ubuntu 10.04 [Lucid Lynx] was released a few days ago, and after seeing how well it was working on Ford's netbook, I decided I should try it out as well. My first impression of the system was a very promising one, as I saw how well polished and integrated Lucid's modified version of the GNOME 2 desktop and its default applications were.

In the past, I often found myself unimpressed with Ubuntu's default GUI configuration. I felt that, when compared against the KDE and XFCE desktops, GNOME seemed to be devoid of features, polish, and integration between applications. Until the release of KDE 4.x, I often turned to Kubuntu as my *buntu of choice. However, like many other people who enjoyed KDE 3.5.x, I found myself so disappointed with KDE 4.x that I decided to try something new. As I had already determined that GNOME was not exactly my cup of tea either, Xubuntu quickly became a new favorite for me.

It was for this reason that I decided to install Ubuntu's XFCE 4 variant, as opposed to the vanilla distribution. I have to say, the newest version of the Ubuntu installer is quicker, simpler, and more inviting than past versions. There is less time spent on configuration, though the more advanced settings that were offered in older installers are still accessible. I noticed that the installer also detected my existing Windows XP installation on a separate SATA HDD, and had already configured itself to install grub to that drive. As the files were copied to my HDD, the messages in the installer's main window invited me to explore the operating system further or play a game while I waited for the installation and configuration to complete. All in all, on some strange level, the installation process itself was so pleasant that I somehow found myself feeling better about life in general.

Unfortunately, I overlooked a crucial detail during this whole process. At no point in time did I hear any sound while the live installer was running. After removing my USB flash drive and rebooting, I did what I always do when I first start up my machine, and began rummaging through my music collection for something to enjoy while downloading all of the packages I would need for a project that's currently underway. I was sorely disappointed when I couldn't get anything to play in Exaile, even after installing codecs, checking my settings in alsamixer, and confirming that the correct device was selected for playback. I searched through several forums, and found no posts that were relevant to my situation.

The motherboard in my current machine has some type of Nvidia chipset for the on-board audio device, which doesn't put out enough of a signal to hear even on a high-end set of speakers. Recently, I installed a Sound Blaster card (shown in the lspci output as "Creative Labs SB Live! EMU10k1") in order to remedy this issue.

My next response was to install the vanilla Ubuntu 10.04 distribution, in order to see whether or not the same issue would exist. After being let down by the promising installation process I experienced during the Xubuntu 10.04 setup, I was once again pacified by the Ubuntu 10.04 installer. Once that installation was complete, I decided to explore the customized version of GNOME 2 packaged by default with Ubuntu.

At first, I was rather intrigued by the selection of applications, unfamiliar to me, which were present. I definitely enjoyed being able to access and control all of my communications and social networking tools from a single menu on my panel. The default applications meant for these purposes were quite nice, for the most part.

Gwibber is definitely a neat concept, allowing the user to manage multiple social networking sites from a single application. The interface is simple, but attractive at the same time. Unfortunately, I have to admit, I was not enthused upon finding that it didn't exactly keep me as up to date on Facebook events as advertised.

Empathy is also both simple and attractive, with the ability to connect to a staggering number of instant messaging and chat services. Its few extra features are very nicely integrated into its interface, and it doesn't seem quite as buggy as Pidgin or Kopete. Sadly, it isn't quite as customizable as I would like, and it lacks support for plugins, based on what I saw. I imagine the stability stems from the simplicity, however. I didn't have the opportunity to test my camera or microphone with the client, so I can't provide any information on that subject. Overall, I will say that Empathy is an excellent client for anyone who doesn't need all of the bells and whistles offered by other clients, or for anyone who has grown frustrated with the lack of stability and/or security encountered with other clients.

While I did not delve too deeply into the Evolution mail client and calendar application, I found that it was very effective for basic usage. It was readily functional, without much configuration, and it took no time at all for me to begin comfortably downloading and writing messages. Like just about every application I used for the short time that I had the vanilla Ubuntu distribution installed, the interface was in no way cluttered, and was definitely visually appealing.

Unfortunately, while I will say that this particular version of GNOME that is included is far more to my liking than past versions I've used, I still missed features available in XFCE and its default application set.

After briefly chatting with some people in the #ubuntu IRC channel on Freenode, I decided to install the xubuntu-desktop package. Immediately upon performing said installation, I noticed that my music ceased to play once more, and I had lost my system sounds again. During the installation, I noticed that the package libsdl1.2debian-pulseaudio was removed, and replaced with libsdl1.2debian-alsa. I decided to remove the alsa package, and reinstall the pulseaudio package. I observed no change, and decided to reboot. As the machine was rebooting, I decided to go into the BIOS settings, and disable the on-board audio device, as well.

As I am writing this, I am currently enjoying my favorite Green Room Rockers album, playing in Exaile, with my GUI laid out exactly as I enjoy it, in XFCE 4. Until more time has been allowed for further development on Xubuntu 10.04, I would honestly suggest to those interested in using Xubuntu that they install from a vanilla Ubuntu disk and install the xubuntu-desktop package afterward. I believe that there may be a couple bugs that still need to be resolved with Xubuntu Lucid before it will be completely ready for use, although I may have just needed to disable my on-board audio chipset, as well.

On a final note, I will say that performance has improved drastically with the 10.04 release. Some of the issues I encountered in the previous kernel version have also been resolved. The boot time is only a fraction of what it was in 9.10, and with 10.04 being a LTS release, I am very confident that I will be more than satisfied with the *buntu family of operating systems for quite some time. The speed, security, simplicity, and stability are definitely unmatched by previous releases, and compete well with many of the other systems currently available.


There's one more thing to add. It automatically detected my bluetooth dongle! I've never actually had that happen before. I'm probably more excited about that than I should be. Ok, I'm done now. Really.


Xyzzy said...

Hi Shillelagh -- nice review, if I hadn't left the *buntus recently I'd be considering Xubuntu again based on that.

If you strongly prefer XFCE, you might want to see whether the problem shows up in other distros... I've read repeatedly that some major hardware issues in the *buntu family don't appear in many other distros. (I don't know enough about the distros to have a clue which ones that would be.)

I was new to Linux with Kubuntu Hardy, and went to GNOME when we were pushed into KDE4 months later... Just switched for the 1st time to another distro (SimplyMEPIS) Friday, and was shocked to read that they didn't make KDE4 default until the Spring 2010 release, when they could make it look/act startlingly like 3.5 did for users' comfort. Kubuntu wouldn't have lost anywhere near as many users if they'd waited even half as long to let them design a transition-easing environment, I think.

(After only 1 full day, I can't say a ton since KDE is hard to compare to GNOME... But it's not choking as much or remotely as slow as clean installs of Jaunty & Karmic, let alone the past few weeks where my 4-month-old Karmic install froze 3+ times per day.)

peterbe said...

It's madness how it should even matter! Sound drivers should have nothing to do with the desktop client. I'm disappointed to hear about your problems. I've been a relatively happy XFCE user for years now and have had my fair share of sound problems too but I thought that had to do with Linux, not XFCE.

Thanks for blogging!

Harold said...

I just tried listening to a .mp3 on my IBM R52 which has a plain vanilla xubuntu 10.04 installation. Sound was OK immediately. I would suspect that in your case, your hardware wasn't addressed properly by your installation.

Shillelagh said...

Xyzzy: Thank you! I have also tried XFCE with Slackware 13.0 recently, and found no issues there. Unfortunately, LILO was giving me a headache, and I couldn't seem to change boot loaders without changing distributions. I know it can be done, as I've seen it in the past, but LILO tends to be rather stubborn when it finds out you want to replace it. =P

peterbe: That's part of what I was explaining here. A package that has nothing to do with the actual DE was being switched out, for some unknown reason. It should simply be noted that the alsa-related package I described (whatever it is, obviously some kind of library) doesn't work with the hardware in my machine. That information was intended to help anyone searching for a solution to a similar issue. I guess it has something to do with the way *buntu packages are tied together, with all of their... unique... modifications.

Harold: I don't necessarily disagree with you- I'm thinking something more along the lines of alsa not working with my hardware, though.

Harold said...


This particular release of Xubuntu seems more free of that kind of bothersome anomaly than previous ones - for me, 9.10 just wouldn't find the USB ports on my Acer 5515, (although it did pre-installation!). Later I installed Ultimate Ubuntu on that machine and all was well. It makes me wonder whether there are pieces of software that get included with big installations that end up addressing the particular hardware requirements.

Obviously it is hard for any distro producer (like Canonical) to test all the combinations. But the glory of Linux is that there are so many distros that a little experimentation will let one find the perfect combination for a given machine.

Actually I've had the best luck with Fedora and Gentoo with the hardware matching issue, but I love the big repository of Ubuntu.

One things I noticed with all three flavors (Kubuntu, Ubuntu and Xubuntu) is that on the second day of use, there was a lot more free memory than right after install, even though I didn't reboot any of the machines they were installed on. So I think 10.04 is a bit less demanding in actual use than 9.10 was.


saurabh113 said...

The new version is really looking great. I have listed some of the great features of the new version on my blog -

Check it out.

Shillelagh said...


I agree, definitely. This version does seem to have a lot more support for different types of hardware, and is much lighter and faster than its predecessors.

Also, the fact that 10.04 is packaged with a newer kernel release may help with that. As it's been explained to me, a lot of the hardware issues that existed in previous kernel versions have been resolved.

I imagine, it wouldn't be a Linux system without the necessity for minor tweaks. That's what's always made it fun for me, anyway.


Most certainly. I enjoyed reading your blog post, as well- you did a great job of expanding on some details regarding the features that I missed. I'll be sure to check for future posts.

Guy McLaren said...

Buggy is not the word, I now have a non working server. 10.04 is not an upgrade, it sucks

Jason said...

I Disagree! 10.04 so far is the nicest Ubuntu Ive used so far. (used xubuntu, kubuntu etc all the way back to 6.06 dapper drake). aside from a minor issue with the sound which seems normal lol, Lucid Lynx boots incredible fast and runs nice and stable. Ive got it running on my main box (dual core) and little gui 'multiserver' with 512 megs of ram and it still comes up and performs better than any previous Ubuntu distro I've used, nevermind micro$oft. thanks for the review, might check out xfce again. Ive always prefered gnome over kde and xfce, but it sounds like i should look again.

Post a Comment