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7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon)

The author and administrator of Powhertz that I am has always been an enthousiast of new distributions of Linux. A pile of more than 25 Linux CD-ROMs at home (plus all those at work of course), ranging from Red Hat Linux 5.2 (1998) to Kaella 3.1 (2007), witnesses this long-standing enthousiasm. There is one thing that had never changed through all that evolution though: my main Linux partition at home has always been a distribution of Linux based on Red Hat and its RPM packaging system. Turned into a fanatic of APT (Advanced Packaging Tool) and the "DEB" packages through my few years of experience with Debian GNU/Linux as a server, it was more than time for me to migrate my personal computer to distribution based on APT (APT can theorically be used on any distribution of Linux, but where it really becomes particularly interesting is when the distribution is based on APT). Debian? No! Absolutely awesome in the entreprise thanks to a legendary stability, but at home, nobody wants to wait 2 years to get the new little candy that just came out. The logical path for  me was to follow the general trend and go with the distribution of Linux that has now become (by far) the most popular on the "desktop": Ubuntu. And what better timing than waiting for the brand new version to do that: 7.10, Gutsy Gibbon!

In my case, the migration was from EduLinux 2004, a derivative of Mandrake Linux 10.0 . In fact, it was Mandrake 10 with just a few differences, re-distributed by the university of Sherbrooke, located in the south of the province of Québec. Although this distribution has greatly satisfied me for nearly 2 years, its replacement had become absolutely inevitable. Not only it was getting old, it was no longer supported for a long time, which means that some unpatched security flaws could exist. The people from EduLinux first promised an EduLinux 2005, which release date has then been pushed back, and then cancelled by lack of this of its creators, without a promise for an EduLinux 2006. But the last nail in the coffin of this Quebecker project was when their Internet domain edulinux.org has passed to Americans hands: at this point, it had become really obvious that the EduLinux distribution was over forever and that we must turn to something else.

Note: however, the mirrors of the university of Sherbrooke continue to offer EduLinux 2004 for download! See: http://gulus.usherbrooke.ca/pub/distro/edulinux/iso/2004/

The following installation and usage notes will therefore, up to a certain extent, be based on a migration from EduLinux 2004 to Ubuntu 7.10 . If most of these notes are general, others will compare this new Ubuntu to EduLinux 2004 / Mandrake 10.0 .

Installation process

Thumbs up!
memtest86 available from the CD-ROM's main menu. It is therefore possible to make a RAM test without having to burn a separate memtest CD-ROM.
Thumbs up!
The CD-ROM that serves as a bootable installation CD is also a "live CD". Much more handy than having an installation CD that is very rarely used after the initial installation, and a second CD-ROM (Knoppix, for instance) to use Linux on a CD-ROM without necessarly a partition on a hard drive (technique mostly used for troubleshooting).
Thumbs down!
Extremely long delay before being able to really launch the installation, without any notice on the main screen (but fortunately, we can get more infos from using keys F5 to F8).
Thumbs up! Live keyboard map tester, allowing to test the keys without even having to make your final choice of layout. Very practical when you're not sure between confusing choices such as "Canada multilingual", "Canada multilingual legacy" or "Canada English legacy"!
Thumbs down! By default, the partitioner proposes me to install Ubuntu on my largest FAT partition instead of my existing EXT3 partitions.
Thumbs down! Still in the partitioner, I am in the French version of the installation and I see buttons labelled "New partition table", "Edit partition" and "Delete partition".
Thumbs up! Once the partitionning completed, the installation program proposes me to import my user account (regular of course, and not the "root") from my EduLinux/Mandrake located on another partition, and not the partition on which I am in the process of installing Ubuntu! That means that it has automatically mounted all of my Linux partitions Linux to detect user accounts and propose me to migrate them automatically! That is great!
Thumbs up! The creation of a user account is done in only one step, with the full name, the username and the password all on the same screen rather than separated on multiple screens one after the other, like in traditional distributions of Linux.
Thumbs down! The boot manager installed by default is 100% in text mode, all in black and white. It makes several years that Linux' boot managers are offering the ability to generate very nice graphical menus, so why not use it?
Thumbs up! The boot manager installed by Ubuntu has automatically preserved all of the boot options from my previous boot manager that had been generated by EduLinux/Mandrake (but has renamed those entries, I don't understand why!).
Thumbs down! The installation program has never asked me for my desired "root" (administrator) password. It did configure a password, but never divulged it anywhere... my own administrator password is UNKNOWN to me!! Fortunately I have sysadmin tips: "sudo passwd root"!
Thumbs down! The installation program has installed for 2.2 GB of software without asking a single question! Some of them will have to be uninstalled later... It's a chance that I had a partition of nearly 6 GB!
Thumbs up! It has automatically detected ALL of my hardware without having to ask me any question! That includes less popular devices such as a UPS and a TV tuner.
Thumbs up! Automatically detected and configured the native resolution of my monitor, that is not a very standard resolution (1400x1050). And that is even if the exact model of my monitor was not listed into its driver list (it finds my monitor has being a "plug and play monitor").
Thumbs down! The installed version of GIMP is a "Release Candidate", and no update to the final version is available via Ubuntu's tools, even though the final version of GIMP 2.4 was released before the final version of Ubuntu 7.10 .
Thumbs down! Although it automatically detected my TV tuner, Ubuntu did not install anything to use it, and I did not find a proper procedure in the help menus. Fortunately, I already knew a program does does it (XawTV) and that was available through APT, but even after installing XawTV myself through APT, it was not working and I had to search for help on Google in order to make it work! It seems that we must, in my case, launch it that way: "xawtv -nodga -device /dev/video0", because the simple execution of "xawtv" without any particular argument was completely refusing to start. EduLinux 2004, which we expect to be 3 years behind technologically, had automatically configured my TV card and placed an icon on my desktop to use  it via XawTV... I had only had to select the broadcast norm that prevails here and that I configure my channels/frequencies...
Thumbs up! Automatically installs a Java runtime environment by default, which many other distributions fear to do because Java is not available under a GPL license.
Thumbs up! The configuration of a printer managed by a Windows station has been extremely easy and functional by simply using the little graphical utilities available in the installed Ubuntu system (which was not possible via the installation program though, but that is not really important).
Thumbs down! Does not install and does not even offer a firewall by default. At least, the Ubuntu documentation is clear on how to install a firewall, unlike the TV tuner.

First days of use

Thumbs down! In the beginning of the boot process, no way to get detailed boot information unless pressing F8 (and then it becomes impossible to get back to the initial graphical boot).
Thumbs down! The system startup is very long because it automatically does an fsck (a quick filesystem check) on all partitions, even those of FAT formats.
Thumbs down! I create a new user on the system, I am logging in under that user, I disconnect (the "exit" command), then I want to delete this user and I get the following error: "the user is logged in". And I don't see anything related to that user in the process list ("ps")...
Thumbs down! Despite being installed in French, I get a "Synchronize now" button when I want to adjust time via GNOME.
Thumbs down! No true ability to uninstall the Firefox Web browser, because too many packets (including the help) are depending on it. SeaMonkey, the one I use and that is as open-source as Firefox is, is totally absent from the Ubuntu repository (it really doesn't cost much to include it!...).
Thumbs down! Only 9 choices of themes and 3 choices of wallpapers are available following the installation, which is really a very small choice compared to most other distributions of Linux.
Thumbs down! I uninstall Evolution through the Synaptic utility, but it nonetheless remains my default mail software and remains in the GNOME menus. Bad integration!
Thumbs up! Comes with Terminal Server Client, a unified interface for remote access, might the protocol to use be RDP, VNC or XDMCP.
Thumbs up! Multimedia: tons of proprietary codecs (including the latest Windows Media) that can be installed in just a few clicks, automatically detected when we double-click on a file of this type.
Thumbs down! We notice there is no Internet-connection sharing utility by default, which EduLinux/Mandrake was offering and actually making very easy. Of course it is still possible to do it with iptables command(s) without any extra software to install, but just try to explain that to a novice who would simply want to share his Internet connection between his computer and his kids' computer, which is so easy under Windows 2000/XP/Vista! However, note that there is an alternative in graphical mode, although not well documented: install the Firestarter firewall via APT/Synaptic, and Firestarter will allow to configure a share of the Internet connection.
Thumbs down! I managed to make the whole Linux crash by simply plugging in my USB key! However, I must say that I was not able to reproduce the problem afterwards.
Thumbs up! Automatically detected my exact digital camera model right the first time that I wired it in USB, an a software that automatically popped up has allowed me to use it immediately without any configuration necessary.
Thumbs down! Uses a lot of RAM. After a simple boot the free command displays nearly 295 MB of RAM in use, plus nearly 35 MB of "swap". After simply launching one instance pf SeaMonkey 1.1.5, Opera 9.24, XMMS and GNOME Terminal, it was already showing 415.59 MB and 37.45 MB of "swap", while exactly the same thing under my previous EduLinux 2004 was taking 306.7 MB and no "swap" at all. Total, that means 47.7% more RAM required to perform essentially the same functionalities...
Thumbs up! Superb transparency effects on the cursors.
Thumbs down! It did not automatically adjust the system time when came the time to get back from advanced time to standard time on November 4th.
Thumbs down! Not only it did not automatically adjust the time, the whole Linux has crashed the first time that I tried to adjust it from GNOME! I rebooted the system and this time I was able to adjust the time without any problem...
Thumbs up! Installation of WINE very easy via APT and/or Synaptic, with an automatic integration to the GNOME menus and a configuration that was functional right from the start (although a subsequent fine-tuning is recommended!). Under my EduLinux 2004, I was no longer able to use WINE at all, neither from the sources, neither from the RPM packages that I was able to find. It was crashing every time, and the WINE team has never managed to identify my problem.

Migration of GNOME Games scores

An actually easy step of my migration from EduLinux 2004 to Ubuntu 7.10 that made me waste considerable time so much the procedure is poorly documented (not only in official documentation, but even in simple searches on Google), was the migration of my high scores from GNOME games! I am a big player of GNOME's minesweeper called Mines, also known as gnomine, so I really didn't want to lose all of my high scores and start over everything from scratch! Obviously, since those scores are system-wide and are not specific to a user, they could not be saved in a home directory of any user. But where to find them, then? In /tmp ? No! Somewhere under /usr/share ? No! I lost some time on this, so I thought it would be nice to mention my findings here, in case the current page would be well-indexed in Google and allow somebody somewhere in the world to save this time that I lost! It will be my contribution to the open source community!!  ;)

So here it is, to import "high scores" from Mines, we must manually copy the scores files, that can be in either of two locations: under /var/lib/games or under /var/games . In my case, it was all about copying the following files from my previous Linux partition:
to this new location on my new Ubuntu Linux partition:
...and that is it! The next time we start Mines, all the scores are there!


At the end, we note that more negative points than positive points have been brought during this installation and the first days of use. That doesn't mean that the overall note of Ubuntu 7.10 is bad, au contraire! It certainly wasn't a flawless migration and we must admit that there is still room for a lot of improvement at Ubuntu, but overall it's still very positive. At the end, I find myself with an installation where everything is working and that will be much easier to manage in the future, thanks to its approach oriented on APT. And if I find it too slow, I will buy another 256/512 MB of RAM! It is still hugely less expensive than a Windows Vista or Mac OS X Leopard solution, where I would have to change my whole machine and also have to pay an onerous license (more than $250 in Vista's case, $149.99 with Leopard)... Because, let's remind it, Ubuntu is not only free, it has made the official promise to always remain free, including the security updates. The risk to get screwed as it occured a few years ago with Red Hat is hence very low...


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