Last minute preparations

The old adage "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" applies, but nonetheless I felt the need to fix my laptop. It was cluttered with FSFE materials that I shouldn’t be carrying around, for one thing, and the Kubuntu 9.04 on it was decidedly long in the tooth. As prepwork for Akademy (o harbinger of doom!) I decided to clean it up: one Linux install, one OpenSolaris. This is an MSI 620GX laptop, which is a Centrino 2 based machine. Hardly exotic stuff.

For social reasons — as in, Sebas had recently written glowingly about it — I started off with OpenSUSE 11.2. Installs nicely (but with GPT by default, it seems?) and delivers a good-looking KDE4 desktop, plenty of apps. Compositing was enabled (GeForce9600M GT). Setting up a devel environment was a mild challenge. For various projects I use svn, git, mercurial and darcs, so getting those is a first priority. Darcs was a little harder to get, but there is a package available, which I downloaded and installed manually. It was in one of the repositories, but I didn’t feel like setting that up for one package.

It’s when I tried to suspend to RAM or to disk that issues started showing up. Suspend to RAM fails, saying that the machine is unknown and not whitelisted. s2ram -f puts the machine to sleep, but it doesn’t resume. Similarly, hibernate (suspend to disk) works but doesn’t resume. I still need to send in the info for that, but after a half hour of fiddling with it — and knowing that Kubuntu 9.04 could suspend and resume on the same laptop, I gave up. Since I’m not particularly attached to whatever Linux I’m using, time to try something else.

Kubuntu 10.04 is what I’m running on my desktop — which has ATI graphics — and I appreciate that it starts up really quickly, etc. Vaguely annoyed at the microblogging thing it puts on the desktop by default, but that’s terribly minor. Installing all the dev tools was easy on the desktop. On the laptop, though, I didn’t even get that far. The nouveau driver included on the install CD doesn’t like the video card — and so the installation process bails out to a text screen. Folks in #kubuntu were helpful and ready with some suggestions, like nomodeset and using the vesa driver (hung the machine on boot). Running X -configure from the text login hung the machine too.

Fedora 13 up next. No compositing with the nouveau that is included — that’s in the mesa-experimental package, it turns out. Devel environment is easy to get, with all the version control systems one install command away. Of course, the first thing I tried this time was suspend and hibernate: both flawless. External monitor — important for presentations at Akademy — pops up a dialog with simple configuration. There’s one third-party application that I use that requires 32-bit libraries. Getting those was straightforward after finding out the package names with "yum provides ‘*/libraryname’". I see that they’ve also customized Konversation to go to multiple useful channels, rather that just the distro-channel.

So, it seems I’ll be presenting at Akademy from a Fedora-based laptop (Rex, Kevin, a beer is on me). All I need now is the latest Air-themed LaTeX templates and I’m good to go.

One thing I’m left with is why three different Linux distro’s, all relatively recent, behave so differently on a fairly conventional platform like this one. The technology is there; it was even there last year. Where do these regressions come from?

6 thoughts on “Last minute preparations

  1. Those regressions probably come from lack of testing. There is no formal testing program of the Linux kernel, and distributions don’t have big test machine zoos either as far as I know.

  2. Maybe a lack of testing? And combined with a lack of stability for various drivers. My most disheartening linux experiences have involved “upgrades” that decrease functionality. Some of it is bug-related (ie, not enough testing to identify regressions), but at least some of it seems to be poor decision-making.

    • @ryan: well, then you and Jaroslav get the beer intended for them.

  3. Hey Adrian,

    First and Foremost, I would like to thank you for being one of those people to be open-minded enough to try out “other” linux distro’s and not feel obligated to trapped to go for the myopic fan-boy approach. I believe that all distro’s within our ecosystem have their strengths and weaknesses.

    I believe that these regressions come from different focuses on development that are executed through intra-community development and what the “community” believes should be the focus. In Fedora, opposed to OpenSUSE and Ubuntu, the focus is not on the desktop, but the technology whereas Ubuntu and OpenSUSE do a much better job at the Desktop and polish. Moreover, these things have to do with how good a community handles bugs that are related to these things, which are sometimes embarrassing since bugs are sometimes left unchanged or unpatched for years.

    I believe if we focused more on usability for the end-users with focused development and the introduction to some sort of a Quality Assurance scheme within these communities then would could produce a better “product” and gain more traction from those outside the open-source ecosystem as well as those interested/or thinking about switching. After all, together we stand, divided we fall within the F/OSS ecosystem.

    My 2c

    • @zysk: hi Greg. We met in Amsterdam, in April. Since I don’t particularly care about which Linux distro I run, it’s a matter of trying them one by one until one works. What surprised me was that apparently the shared underlying technology *isn’t* shared nearly as much as I thought. Instead of “it just works” we end up with “shop around until it works” which I don’t think is a good slogan, myself. That said, I’m happy to have found one that *does* work, which looks nice and which so far has been free of horrifying surprises. Disabling Intel HDA sound has also made my life much easier 🙂