Ubuntu on Workstation: What the Doctor Ordered


The plan was to run Ubuntu Linux on my laptop for a week or two, give it a good test drive, and verify its stability before converting chinacat, my main workstation. That's just common sense. Wish I had done that before converting all my machines to Fedora Core 4.

The problem with that plan was that chinacat was getting worse by the hour. It would crash or lock up several times a day. Even worse, my calendar was no longer syncing with my PDA phone, which meant I had no access to my appointment book when I left the house.

I noticed that Fedora released a kernel update, and I held out some hope that would fix my problems. Unfortunately, I could never test it out. The system wouldn't stay up long enough under heavy load for me to install the update.

My last ditch effort was to boot off the rescue CD, which appeared to be more stable than the installed kernel, and install the update. Good plan, but didn't work. The problem is the rpm program on the rescue CD would not run, complaining about db library incompatibilities.

Yes, you read that right: the rescue disk was unable to install system packages, which is what you would need to rescue a system. That was the last straw; Fedora had to go.

The Ubuntu install was not without incident. There is an often reported problem with the install freezing during the apt setup portion. Fortunately, I was able to switch to another screen, kill the hung process, and complete the installation.

The other problem I'm having is that an encrypted filesystem is not mounting correctly. (It was done with the crytpo loopback module and serpent encryption.) I may need to boot off a live CD to see if I can recover that information.

I was pleased to find that Ubuntu supports both root and swap on LVM logical volumes. That is a complexity some distributions don't handle well.

That was a lifesaver. Since I could keep my LVM setup, I preserved my /home and /usr/local filesystems across the install. That worked. There are a few small differences between the environment. For instance, Fedora starts an autorun process that Ubuntu does not provide. Otherwise, my KDE desktop configuration moved across remarkably well.

The most critical test was whether the sync on my PDA phone worked. I docked the phone, hit the sync button, and within seconds my appointment book was recovered. I literally shrieked with joy when that happened.

I did kind of a dumb thing, and I'm debating whether to go back and correct it. My workstation is an AMD Athalon-64, but I loaded an Intel 32-bit environment. It works just fine. I don't know how much of a boost the native 64-bit environment gives. Plus, when I was running Fedora, the bi-architecture environment seemed like a horrible kludge. Also, the availability of 64-bit applications wasn't as good. I'm considering sticking with the 32-bit environment, at least for now.


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re: Ubuntu on Workstation: What the Doctor Ordered

Did you ever figure out how to get encrypted filesystems working on Ubuntu? I'm running Kubuntu, formerly from SuSE (which did cryptofs quite well). I'd like to learn the conversion steps (if possible), and make use of the crypo once again.


re: Ubuntu on Workstation: What the Doctor Ordered

Nope. I ended up booting an old system off a Fedora recovery CD, copying over the filesystem image, mounting it locally, and extracting the content.