A Week of Ubuntu Linux

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For about a week, I've been running Ubuntu Linux on both my workstation and my laptop. The good news is the systems have been totally stable. The bad news is I've found some warts. The happy news I've been able to remedy most of them.

On chinacat, my main workstation, the primary problem has been a lack of applications. I kept trying to load tools that were available in Fedora Core or Debian and found they were missing. Instances that come to mind include the apg password generator and the very popular ncftp FTP client. I was getting frustrated. I thought I was going to be stuck with a pretty desktop but an incomplete toolset.

I thought maybe I could add some download repositories to provide the missing tools. When I looked at the /etc/apt/sources.list file to see if that was possible, I saw some commented out lines for a "Universe" repository. I enabled those lines, and suddenly everything I needed was there. That problem solved.

The next issue was a small but annoying problem on hepcat, my Dell Inspiron 600m laptop. I could not reconfigure the touchpad for left-handed use. The standard xmodmap utility can be used to remap the buttons, but that messes up the touchpad taps. The synclient utility is supposed to fix that, but when I ran it it would complain, "No touchpad found."

It turns out Ubuntu 5.04 won't support the Alps Glidematic touchpad in my laptop. I updated the Linux kernel from 2.6.10 to 2.6.12 and the touchpad driver module, and it started working. It's messy, but it works. I'll post the details in a followup message.

The final problem is that network re-configuration is not being handled gracefully when I come out of suspend. I often need to reset the interfaces manually (ifdown followed by ifup) when resuming from suspend. I hope that with a little research, I can resolve this as I did my other problems.

Although Ubuntu is not giving me perfect out-of-the-box support, it is working way better than Fedora Core. With Fedora, I didn't have to worry about reconfiguring the touchpad because taps weren't working at all. It's annoying that I need to download a non-standard kernel for Ubuntu, but at least I don't have to build a custom kernel and drivers like I did with Fedora. The network reconfiguration on resume issue was moot with Fedora: the b44 Ethernet driver would crash on suspend.

Ubuntu seems to be a good choice for desktop Linux.