No more Ubuntu desktop headaches

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After an ambitious nearly two-year project to work daily on an open-source desktop platform of Ubuntu with the standard assortment of apps such as OpenOffice, Evolution, GIMP, Virtualbox, and Brasero, am throwing in the towel after a botched upgrade of 8.04 Hardy LTS to Intrepid 8.10.

This was possibly the WORST upgrade experience imaginable, reminding me of XP -> Vista horror stories, and back to Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4. There is absolutely nothing that has improved following the upgrade, with the exception of slightly improved system responsiveness at the expense of strange delays such as attaching files in Firefox, in addition to the substantial time investment in researching new problems.

Following the standard recommended Ubuntu upgrade procedure, upon first reboot I got dreaded “read-only file system” messages that were only resolved by yet another strange Linux hack that modified the boot list.

Here are my Ubuntu desktop-related headaches which I about to leave for good:

  • A nagging Virtualbox error every time I launched my Windows XP VM. Many attempts to resolve the error were fruitless, meaning I have to enter a command manually after each reboot.
  • Non-functioning synchronization between Evolution and my BlackBerry. There’s too much hack-ery involved to get this to work. Plus, Evolution is plain Ugly, sorry kids-
  • Shaky dual-monitor support, mainly hesitance to mess up the dreaded “xorg.conf” file
  • Inconsistent support for Korean Hangul characters. Have to admit I underestimated the relative ease of East Asian language setup in Windows, which I’ve done for many family members. How is it that a document in OpenOffice displays Hangul, but the printer spits out nonsense??

But finally, I had managed to live with these drawbacks content in the labor of love participating in the open-source desktop world, but for these additional issues after the recent upgrade-

  • Brasero DVD/CD burner stops working
  • USB drives and SD cards no longer mount automatically
  • Ridiculous 1-2 minute delay in attaching files in Firefox
  • Multimedia file support broken (again!)

After gawking recently when my client bragged about his OSX Snow Leopard desktop (with a gazillion windows open), and realizing the majority of my projects have required Windows-only client software such as VMware VI Client or Internet Explorer…I’ve realized it’s time for this experiment to come to a close. In the short term, I’m humbly returning to the default install of Windows Vista on my Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop, to be followed by testing of Windows 7 and then, who knows? Maybe it’s time for another look at the Mac…

I certainly have developed a more nuanced appreciation for the pros and cons of open-source software, and admit that the outlook for Linux desktop continues to look bleak. On the other hand, the gravity of the computing world continues to shift away from a desktop-centric environment, and I’ve certainly benefited from deeper experience with Linux that has only helped my overall IT skill-set. Just a few years I certainly would not have been able to deploy a raw install of Ubuntu Linux to support a full-blown Nagios/Cacti deployment for a major corporate client, so it’s onward and forward!

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2 thoughts on “No more Ubuntu desktop headaches

    Anu Kirk said:
    January 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I like the *idea* of an open-source OS. I cannot stand the reality, however.

    In my experience, only certain high-profile open-source software is worthwhile. Even then, it seems to me the software is frequently “run” by a small group of very dedicated folks until they tire of it, and it is taken over by another group.

    There’s a reason people get paid to make software – doing it properly is hard work!

      darowh said:
      January 28, 2010 at 9:42 pm

      Very accurate observations Anu. It often seems like horse-trading between FOSS (free open-source software), Microsoft, Apple, Google, and other proprietary vendors. Still it’s been a lively source of competition to commercial software which is certainly welcome.

      At the end of the day it’s all bits and bytes anyway. Knowing the right tool for the job takes real-world experience not a religious attachment to a platform or vendor.

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