Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 5 - More Problems, Solutions with Compiz

After getting Compiz to finally work on this modest system, I started to use applications on Ubuntu. The first application I opened was NetBeans 6 Milestone 7. NetBeans presented the first post-success problem I ran into. There is a problem with Java rendering Swing under Xgl/Compiz (bug 6429775). I had already installed Java 6 build 105 via Add/Remove, and was happily using it. However, when Compiz is active, Swing-based Java applications have the same problem with rendering window contents as I noted in my earlier post about Compiz problems in general. The solution is to download and install Java 6 Update 1.

I downloaded the pre-release version of 6U1 from the Java 6 Developer site and installed it in a different location from the stock Java 6 RPM location. On my machine 6U1 is installed under /opt2/java. I then set up JAVA_HOME and modified PATH to point to 6U1 first instead of the stock Java installation. Finally, I modified etc/netbeans.conf (under the NetBeans installation root) and changed netbeans_jdkhome to point to /opt2/java, and restarted NetBeans. The results are as shown below.

And here's the biggest surprise (to me). It not only rendered, but this version of Java and Swing render Gnome theme controls by default. All I had to do was install this version of Java, and that capability was enabled automatically. Right now, Java and Java-based applications are behaving like first-class Gnome citizens. The only other OS where this works as well for me is Java 6 b105 and Windows XP.

Other Issues

I complained about the wobble, and wished I could turn it off. Well, if I'd just looked at the Desktop Effects applet for more than a second I'd have seen the "Windows Wobble when Moved" check box. I unchecked it, and the windows don't wobble. Doh!

Resizing windows is very bad. Grabbing any side or corner and dragging results in slow, choppy, window resizing.

Work spaces on a cube doesn't work. It works fine with Compiz on SLED 10 (and openSuse 10.1 and 10.2). Instead of flipping, the contents of one screen fade out, then the next screen selected fades in. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't so slow.

Good Things to Consider

This is, after all (repeat after me) an Alpha release. It works very well overall for an alpha release. What is more telling is that it's working on a system that Vista would only sneer at if it had lips to sneer with. Making user's existing systems instantly second class with an OS upgrade is Not Cool. Especially when small- and medium-sized fortunes were already spent on major processors and video cards.

This system was purchased five years ago, and upgraded two years ago with trailing edge motherboard, processor, and video card. Using this hardware I've been able to enjoy the benefits of video acceleration (such as it may be) with out-of-the-box video drivers and software provided by Ubuntu.
Based on my personal experiences both Ubuntu 7.04 and openSuse 10.X represent two excellent alternatives, especially for existing pre-Vista systems.

You should never say never, but I will not purchase Vista for my own use. I will use it only because it was pre-installed on a job-related system. For what I need for the foreseeable future, it will be Linux or Mac OS X.
I'm curious to see if many will react to Microsoft's deep reach into your wallet and freedoms the way I have by moving with all due haste to test alternatives such as Linux.

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