Tuesday, April 29, 2008

europa gets an upgrade

I let the dust settle a bit after Ubuntu 8.04's initial release last week before making any decision about upgrading europa. Europa was running Ubuntu 7.10, but Sunday I went on ahead and upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04. I did this not because I've changed my mind about Ubuntu, so much as I had a morbid curiosity about how it would work after an upgrade.

And it was an upgrade, not a clean install. I surrendered to laziness and clicked on the upgrade manager's upgrade button. It took about two hours total to download over a gig of upgrades and to perform the installation of the new content. When it was finished and rebooted europa under 8.04 was almost indistinguishable from europa under 7.10.

During the installation I kept my ATI drivers, and even installed the current latest, 8-4. I also discovered, after the installation, that 3D desktop effects were still borked, so I went looking yet again for the cause. I may have found the reason for failure not only for Ubuntu 8.04 but also for 7.10 as well, but I'm not sure.

The solution to making 3D work was to clean up the Compiz manager wrapper script (/usr/bin/compiz). Starting at line 30, I had to modify COMPIZ_BIN_PATH, PLUGIN_PATH, and COMPIZ_NAME per the instructions for 7.10 (!) at the unofficial wiki location. I'm now wondering if my problems with the latest ATI drivers under 7.10 were due to the bugs in the wrapper script rather than a mis-match between the ATI driver and the version of Xorg used with Ubuntu 7.10. Because when I corrected the script 3D desktop worked when enabled.

3D Desktop Still Not Good Enough

Unfortunately, I had to eventually disable the 3D desktop on this machine just like I had to under Mandriva 2008.1 Gnome on rhea. The effects worked in and of themselves but there were bad interactions with other OpenGL applications, such as Google Earth, Nasa's Java WorldWind libraries, and video playback. I eventually turned 3D desktop effects off to use those applications. This strongly hints (to me) that there are still some serious bugs in the upstream Compiz manager and tools, because I see the same problem on two separate machine, one with nVidia (7600GS) and one with ATI (Radeon X1950). At this point I don't have enough cycles to go looking for answers.

First Impressions
  • Firefox 3 Beta 5 works much better than Firefox 2. There is a noticable and much welcomed difference in performance between the two. In addition, all my plugins, including CookieSwap and Greasemonkey now work. Unfortunately I had to install oldbar to get rid of the ugly double-line URL bar that's been forced upon us. Another annoyance is the download window. It doesn't have a clear button on it; I have to right-click the properties on the pane and select clear from there. What a pain.
  • I downloaded and installed Netbeans 6.1. The new release hasn't been pushed out to the repositories; they still have 6.0.1. It, too, is faster, especially on startup. It runs with Java 6 Update 10 beta, which is also not in the repositories but installed by hand. But everything seems to be running well.
  • As I mentioned above I'm using the current latest ATI video drivers, 8-4. During the upgrade and while trying to make 3D effects live with my OpenGL apps, I put a plain xorg.conf in place and re-ran 'aticonfig --initial' against it to get rid of all the cruft it had accumulated under 7.10. Didn't make a bit of difference.
  • All multimedia continues to work. Not one thing broke.
  • Gcc is at release 4.2.3, which is a Good Thing.
  • I attempted to build and install the latest kernel (2.6.25). I built it using the config found under /boot, and even went so far as to install the modules. But when I compared the directory structure of /lib/modules/2.6.24-16-generic with /lib/modules/2.6.25, I noticed a lot of differences between the two, especially the directory structure. For example 2.6.24 has an ubuntu folder. It's no problem installing 2.6.15 side-by-side with 2.6.24 and just adding another entry to grub, but I think I'll research a little more before I try to boot europa with 2.6.25. I at least need to install the fglrx driver in 2.6.25 to take advantage of my ATI card. I found it under 2.6.24-16-generic, but it's not where I would have expected to find it. Oh well. Another weekend/very-late-night project.
  • Qt4 libraries in the repostories are up to 4.3.4, which is another Good Thing.
I'm keeping europa running Ubuntu and rhea running Mandriva. Each acts as a guard against the other, especially when I have strange and peculiar things happen.

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