Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04 upgrades to Ubuntu 7.10

In between chores around the house (wash, mowing, cleaning, shopping, and walking Max) I upgraded rhea from Ubuntu 7.04 to 7.10. I used the method documented on the Gutsy Gibbon page. It was almost totally automatic. I had to come back to the computer between tasks to answer a few dialogs asking questions along the way. The questions themselves were simple and straightforward. When the upgrade was finished the system was running Ubuntu 7.10 Beta 1. First, the good news.
  • It was unbelievable that the system upgraded and ran at all, let alone exactly as I had configured it before the upgrade. After reading one horror story after another in various fora about how Ubuntu upgrades had failed, I wasn't sure how it would all finish. But finish it did.
  • Java is up to Java 6 Update 3. I had to check both synaptic as well as 'java -version' just to be sure. This is one upgrade higher than what is available from Sun's site itself. Furthermore, NetBeans 6 Beta 1 ran with the earlier Sun-supplied Java 6 Update 2 without crashing, unlike what I went through on openSUSE 10.3 RC1. I've since removed my older version of Java 6 and re-targeted NetBeans 6 to use the Java supplied in Ubuntu.
  • Considering all the crap I installed along the way (Compiz upgrades and Beryl extensions just to name two categories) the upgrade application simply swept those away, uninstalling Beryl during the process.
  • The desktop came back up and worked with the nVidia drivers. Apparently the installer figured this out and made sure that nVidia drivers were installed along with the new kernel (2.6.22-12). I've never had a problem in the past with minor kernel upgrades (unlike with openSUSE), but a more extensive upgrade? I wouldn't know until I tried, and it went without a hitch.
  • All my streaming media still plays. This includes DVDs, ripped DVDs (mpeg4), MP3s, and a lot of QuickTime trailers. I was even able to go to the Apple Trailers webpage and play a few from there. And of course it plays everything from CNN to YouTube and in between.
  • With Compiz/Visual Effects enabled, Google Earth works just fine, as do all my other OpenGL applications. It appears that Visual Effects has been tamed so that it plays well with others on Ubuntu.
  • It kept all my desktop settings. And I mean all of them.
  • Gnome 2.20 is very nice indeed, especially with the latest version of ClearLooks. Who knows, with the polishing and the Appearance Preferences applet perhaps Linus will again think kindly of Gnome.
And now for the not-quite-so-bad but definitely annoying.
  • Starting applications on this machine is a lot more sluggish than with Ubuntu 7.04. A lot more sluggish. I attribute part of this to the beta quality of the system. Two applications that take the award for slowest starup are Firefox with multiple tabs and NetBeans 6. Performance seems choppy at times such that even 'little' apps like Nautilus take a long time to start.
  • Compiz is still not quite ready. I enabled it and got it to work simply by selecting Normal on the Visual Effects tab of Appearance Preferences. And it came up and provided nice shadow effects and other basic compositing features. But after that the system got even more sluggish and the windows on the desktop started to behave squirrelly. For example, I would grab a window's upper border to move it and it would roll up (window blind effect). After a few moments of trying to figure out how to fix that issue (and others) I simply turned it off or moved Visual Effects up a notch to Extra. On Extra the compositing is much better behaved, but then I get the wobbly windows. I will say this for the wobbly windows, it's a lot more polished and professional than on other implementations and installations. I may just keep the visual effects here.
  • It took nearly four hours to upgrade. Part of this was downloading all the packages. Part of this was waiting for me to show back up and click a dialog. But you may be better off just downloading and installing from scratch if you're impatient.
Just as with openSUSE 10.3 on europa, I'm going to let Ubuntu 7.10 bake for a while on rhea until final release. Then I'll make up my mind which way to switch. I don't like the way Novell has been behaving lately, especially their (marketing) comments with regards to which Linux works with Windows and which does not. Their attitude towards the Linux market, coupled with my less-than-happy experiences with Java and OpenGL on openSUSE 10.3 RC1, are once again pushing me to make a strategic personal choice. This is more than just about eye candy preferences:
  1. Java 6 Update 3 is installed via synaptic on Ubuntu 7.10. openSUSE 10.3 RC1 installs Update 1. Further, Update 2 from Sun has issues running on openSUSE 10.3, while it does not on any Ubuntu 7 release.
  2. OpenGL applications (WorldWind, Google Earth) run just fine on Ubuntu 7.10. GoogleEarth hangs at the splash screen on openSUSE 10.3 RC1, and WorldWind has to work with openSUSE's version of Java 6 Update 1 installed from the openSUSE repositories.
  3. Gnome 2.20 is highly polished. Base on my personal experience with both openSUSE and Ubuntu, Gnome could replace KDE for me without any problems. The KDE applications I like and use are available from synaptic on Ubuntu.
October is going to be an interesting month for me.

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