Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04 - Steady updates, fixes, work-around for Compiz

The updates keep coming in at a steady rate every day. They range anywhere from 20 to 40 packages/update on a given day. It will be interesting to see what is finally touched up and cleaned up for the April 19th official release of 7.04.

Some good news: The display problem with the NetworkManager was fixed with today's updates. It now displays the state of the underlying networking system.

Some peculiar news: I ran into an interesting problem during yesterday's batch of updates that included an attempted update to the kernel.

Two items to point out in the screen capture above. First, the update manager has failed to download kernel 2.6.20-14-generic with a 403 HTTP error. Second, kernel 2.6.20-14-generic was already installed and running on rhea. The 403 error is usually the 'forbidden' error. If somebody realized that it was a mistake to leave this package on the update server, why not remove it? They I'd have seen the ubiquitous 404 (not found) error. My greater worry again concerns process. Not what I saw via update, but how a duplicate package could have been created and dropped on the update server in the first place. It looks like someone had the presence of mind to notice the problem and block access, but it should have never gotten that far in the first place. If Canonical wants to grow beyond being just a repackager of Debian they're going to have to make their update process air tight. That means more attention to detail and better internal testing. This isn't the first time I've seen update glitches, and I'm afraid it won't be the last. Companies can mitigate the risk of upgrade glitches by first installing them on test machines and checking for regressions or problems. Individuals don't have the luxury.

This problem was fixed with today's update. Kernel 2.6.20-15-general was delivered and installed and everything is running absolutely fine and stable.


It should be noted up front before I get started that Compiz stability issues are known to be a problem even by Mark Shuttleworth. But I still like to tinker with it anyway, if for no other reason that it works well under Suse. In any event I found a work-around for getting the cube effect to work again, and it involves these steps:
  1. Bring up Desktop Effects and enable it if it isn't enabled already.
  2. Disable the 'Workspaces on a Cube' check box.
  3. The workspace switcher has shrunken down to one desktop. Right-click on it and configure it to have four workspaces again.
  4. Re-enable the 'Workspaces on a Cube' check box.
  5. Enjoy the cube effect.
I tried this on both my regular login and with a test login that I created fresh for just this purpose.

Compiz still has problems, the worst (for me) being the maximize window bug. Maximize any window under Compiz and it won't restore back to it's regular size. You can't kill it either with the close window button. You have to right-click on it's button in the panel and select close from there to remove it. Sometimes, when you re-open it, it will open normally. I just simply leave Compiz disabled. The Gnome desktop looks good without it.


Ubuntu 7.04 shows good progress towards a final release. It feels like system performance has picked up for day-to-day work, which for me includes the following:
  • Web work (browsing, blogging, AJAX-supported e-commerce such as banking)
  • Documentation and general engineering supported by OpenOffice 2.2
  • Software development using Java 6/NetBeans 6, C++ w/emacs, Ruby, and Python
  • General relaxation such as playing back DVDs and other streaming content.
Compiz notwithstanding this is the best Gnome desktop I've ever used. It even manages to edge out Open Suse's Gnome desktop in a number of areas.

Note that there's no gaming support on here. I've pretty much given up on games in general due to their content, lack of originality, high expense, and generally closed nature. Games have become the ultimate resource black hole, sucking time, money, and creativity out of nearly everyone who calls themselves a hard-core gamer. With these negative qualities it's no wonder a company like Microsoft wants a major piece of that action.


  1. It's a beta, as a user you're suggested not to use it because of the lack of stability; don't complain about the update glitch given this knowledge.

  2. If it's a lack of stability in the distribution then you're right, and I've repeatedly written that caveat in all my posts about this version, first as an alpha user and then a beta user. But if it's the update system, then I do have a higher concern. If the issues with the update system is indeed just another side of beta testing that doesn't show up after release then I have nothing to worry about, do I? I've enjoyed working with this version so far and will stick with it, touchy supporters notwithstanding.

  3. just installed 7.04 on ff-day, and the cube bug seems to still be there, but your handy "disable/4 workspaces/enable" trick works a treat.


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