Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hello Dapper (and goodbye Windows)

All in all it wasn't such a turbulent affair. Just a long winded one.

I've started the process at Friday noon. First I had to work on a promised backup to my mum, which took sometime, with zipping a couple of gigabytes worth of files into 7z files, then burning them on 2 CDs. Once I got that out of my way, I sudo update-manager -h and hit the upgrade button. When the smoke cleared, I was informed that the upgrade will demand a hefty 1 GB download, which will take anything between 2 and 7 hours, depending on the download rate. Ecstatic as I was, this was a real downer, but nothing comes easy. At exactly 9 pm, all the files have been downloaded and the installation process began. This was also the moment when I was supposed to go to my night shift.

I left everything running and went to work. I (correctly) assumed that things will stop somewhere along the way for some input, which will have to wait until my return. They were, I was prompted to replace both the GDM and the Vim configuration files. I approved both, which may, or may not, have been the best decision, as I was soon to learn. The installation and cleaning process went without a hitch, and the system rebooted.

Into a GDM error message. I don't know if anyone had the pleasure of experiencing this error message, which, from what I've yet seen (and I've managed to get several of the more interesting error messages), is probably ranked quite high. The problem with it isn't that it's incomprehensible (which it is), or upsetting (which it is), it's the, how shall I put it, look of the message. It's quite apparent that someone wanted to make this as pleasant as possible. And failed.

"let's make it nice and friendly," said our programmer. "After all, we just told our user that his X server is probably riding in the fields of eternal hunting, for all that he cares. We don't want those unfriendly, laconic messages, no Blue-Screen-of-Death-style stuff either. Let's give it a light-gray background, and a sky-blue frame, with some nice ASCII motifs in it, and give him a yes/no "buttons" for the error logs, all rendered in what is the last word in ncurses design." And then our programmer went and painstakingly designed this error message window, and then someone took this code and re-wrote everything in ADA, then used babelfish to translate it to Spanish and back and made sure that whatever error message it displays will be as garbled and misrepresented as possible.

It is quite a mess, really. Fortunately, I've already met with this monument to the futility of man, otherwise, it would've been a very unfortunate encounter, considering it was close to 8 am, and me coming from an all-nighter at work. A quick sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg later and... Nothing. Apart from the same Vogon-quality error message. Two more tries, didn't improve things any better. I eventually decided to sudo apt-get install nvidia-glx driver and reconfigure X with the nvidia driver, which, lo and behold, worked. I had to sudo killall gdm and restart it, but it worked.

I tried playing around with the settings, and so far I like what I see. But I've yet to dig deep enough into all the tweaks. In fact, it preserved most of my gnome configurations, which meant that all the GUI bells and whistles were still turned off. I'm quite comfortable with it as it is, so I doubt I'll change it just for the sake of it. I can't seem to get the screensaver to not work, as the new setting dialog doesn't include that option, but I'll find where they hid it.

Which brings me to what seems to be the biggest problem I have with Ubuntu's new version. A lot of things are hidden. The gconf menu, for once. It's not buried or anything, and can be enabled with a simple click, but the decision to remove it is bothering. Same with the Palm Pilot setting menu item. I'm sure that hard-core GNU/Linux users probably don't need those fancy-schmancy menu items, and new users are probably better off without another way to shoot themselves in the foot, but I'm neither, and I don't really like to dig for what I consider to be basic features. (In fairness, to enable all the menu option, one only need to access the "Alcarta" application which lies on the top of the Application> Accessories menu (not that they WANTED it to be located that high (It just was fortunate to be the A on the A on the A...))).

Another item high on the not-working list is actually gvim. I works fine, but can't seem to find the designated color scheme. Probably need a quite gvimrc shake.

So I'm still testing the ropes, as mentioned I made no sudden moves, no major configuration changes. I'll try XGL this coming weekend, but until then, I'm still swimming in the kiddie pool as far as the new version is considered. One major decision was to move everything from the two Windows partitions into one, and format the other to Linux as well. You can count the times I've rebooted to Windows in the past couple of months on one hand. All of those were as result of IE only sites, such as my bank's and my girlfriend's school's. And for that I definitely don't need 30 GB of space.


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