Saturday, July 26, 2008

OpenSource Train Wrecks, No. 1

Here's a two-fer. The first one I found in a Maemo entry of all things, which linked to a video showing just how bad the OpenMoko UI is on basic usability tasks. You have to see this video to believe it. The video was posted in response to the Free Software Foundation's bullshit posting "5 reasons to avoid iPhone 3G". I won't even comment on how the FSF's title is a wonderfully entertaining grammatical train wreck in its own right, and only helps to contribute to the uniquely lame posture of the FSF. And, of course, the FSF screed linked to the FreeRunner. You know, if you're going to call out somebody like Apple and then have the stones to offer an alternative, you better make damn sure it's at least the equal to the iPhone, or else the world is going to point and laugh at your painfully lame alternative.

The second example of an OpenSource train wreck comes courtesy of the fine folks at Linux Hater's. In this example Epileptic Gaming installed Yellow Dog onto a Playstation 3 to answer the question of "whether or not it makes sense to install Linux on your Playstation 3." Short answer: hell no. But I'll let you play the video and enjoy the fun.

This isn't FUD, folks, This is plain old fashion ugly truth. Whether it's on the desktop or on some device, Linux has serious shortcomings that other operating systems have already solved and solved well. As long as more time and effort are put into the ideology of open source, especially the GNU side of it than the technology, then the technology will suffer and fall further and further behind.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Notes from the Field: openSUSE 11.1 Alpha 1

openSUSE officially announced the start of 11.1's development cycle with a drop of alpha 1. What follows are some quick notes taken after booting into the KDE Live CD version. Note that this is indeed an alpha 1.


Miracle of miracles, openSUSE booted from my NEC DVD R/W ND-2510A drive. Versions from 10.3 and 11.0 have refused to boot from the NEC, forcing me to remember to use the older Lite-On LTC-48161H as the boot device. But this time it booted up to the desktop without a hitch.


Networking was inoperative. I have two interfaces, an nVidia nForce2 Ethernet controller on the motherboard and an Intel 82541 Gigabit Ethernet controller plugged into a PCI slot. Normally I have my network connected to the Intel card because it's the most widely recognized network interface by every OS I've ever booted on europa, and because it seems the fastest and most rock solid interface on every OS I've ever booted on europa. But this time I struck out with alpha 1. Although both interfaces were recognized, neither would work under alpha 1. Perhaps in the next spin.


I booted the KDE version, which means I booted KDE 4.1 RC1 (see My Computer at the bottom).

The latest versions of KDE 4.1 are not quite the horror of KDE 4.0. There's a lot more polish evident in the operation of the applications, and little quality touches are beginning to show. For example, when I went to add the clock widget to the desktop, I noticed that the world view widget is no longer available. It never worked for me, and I'm assuming it probably didn't work for a lot of people. I'm all for removing problematic widgets, especially when they're the first one in the list.

I resized the desktop folder widget on the left to run down the left edge of the desktop, and I ran into a counter-intuitive behavior of the that particular widget. Normally when I resize a file viewer like Dolphin or Nautilus the panel holding file folders and other file objects automatically reflows the contents. The desktop folder widget did not. It resized its contents as if it were a fixed image, distorting the image while the widget was resizing until the mouse button was released, at which time it then reflowed and properly displayed the contents. This is, at best, a poor way to handle resizing (see comments about Dolphin and Nautilus above). What's worse, the widget resizes relative to the center, not the corner it was grabbed from. This behavior might be fine for the clock, but it's very poor for the folder widget.

Dolphin seems to have benefited from further polish. Brief as my inspection was I felt it was a much better file navigator/explorer than Nautilus. Whether it's better than KDE 3's Konqueror I've yet to determine.

An interesting and useful feature (see above) is thumbnail views on the right side when the mouse hovers over an image. I actually liked it, and it was quite quick to render when the mouse hovered over the image. I can see it's utility in a directory full of digital pictures. The thumbnails help you zero into a group while the hover view can give you more detail without having to click or launch a viewer application.

Konqueror's view of my computer (and its resources) is quite interesting. The network is dead (as noted). It sees all my disk devices, but won't allow me to view them or launch something like Dolphin to explore their contents. It also shows that it recognized my ATI X1950, but it's using the radeonhd driver.

Just for grins and giggles I attempted to turn on advanced desktop effects (shadows, translucence, etc). Big mistake. As soon as I enabled those features the desktop went completely white, then completely black. And once set the desktop was completely useless: resetting the desktop and logging back in didn't help. I'd like to make a suggestion to the openSUSE devs: provide a foolproof way to recover from 'advanced' effects from the login screen when we screw up like this. The login screen did come back and that's great. It would be ideal to recover a workable desktop from the login before logging back in again.


Even though it's an alpha 1 it booted and ran surprisingly well. And KDE 4.1 has shown marked improvement over KDE 4.0. I don't care what anyone says, KDE 4.0 was a disaster that should have never been released for general consumption, let alone incorporated into a regular distribution (*cough* Fedora 9 *cough*). But it is an alpha 1 and should be approached accordingly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Future Ubuntu names

Inspired after reading the latest post on Linux Hater's (in the comments).
  • Jerking Jackass (9.04)
  • Kevlar Kiwi (9.10)
  • Lumbering Lama (10.04)
  • Masturbating Monkey (thanks Linus) (10.10)
  • Noxious Nematode (11.04)
  • Obese Ocelot (11.10)
  • Psychotic Panda or Paranoid Penguin or Pornographic Pony or Possessed Python or Perverted Porpoise or Plastic Pigeon or Polyester Platypus or Prickly Parakeet (12.04)
  • Quaking Quadruped (12.10)
  • Revolting Raven (13.04)
  • Spanking Squirrel (13.10)
  • Tyrannical Tapeworm (14.04)
  • Ululating Ungulate (14.10)
  • Vexatious Vervet (15.04)
  • Wanking Walrus (thanks again Linus) (15.10)
  • Xenophobic Xerus (16.04)
  • Yelling Yeti or Yodeling Yak (16.10)
  • Zealous Zebra (17.04)
So there you have it. Suitable suggestions for the rest of the series out to the beginning of 2017. At which point they'll have to start over again with the A's. Perhaps Antagonistic Aardvark...

Edit: Silly me, forgot the X's.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Notes from the Field: Mandriva 2009 KDE Alpha 2

Mandriva 2009 Alpha 2 hit the wires yesterday for both the KDE and Gnome desktops. As usual I did the download/ISO burn/boot three-step to check out the KDE version. And as usual, in spite of glowing reviews ("Mandriva 2009 Alpha 2 Brings You a Beautiful KDE 4 Desktop") it had enough rough edges to constantly remind me this is an alpha release. It took hardly any time at all to find the problems I'm about to write about below.

This is not to slam Mandriva (I'm now a satisfied paying customer), but the web sites that put up the multitudinous screen shots and then gush effusively about how pretty it all looks. Nobody seems to really dig in and use the distribution. If they did, they might discover that many of the latest distributions aren't just pretty, but pretty useless. If you want a good distribution that looks good and works as well as it looks then Mandriva 2008.1 is one of the best, if not the best, of the current crop of distributions, certainly rating far better than Ubuntu 8.04.

I choose to test the alpha 2 release with the KDE desktop because Mandriva 2009 will eventually ship using KDE 4.1, everone's favorite desktop. Alpha 2 is also supposed to ship with the latest video drivers for both ATI and nVidia, which means that it should also support Compiz. Unfortunately alpha 2 did not, even though the current version of Mandriva does, and quite well.

In this first screen shot I've got Dolphin looking at all the storage devices available on europa, including the Windows XP (NTFS) drives.

The first problem with this release is that I can't see /home directories, specifically my home directory when running under Mandriva 2008. Other live CDs can see this area. I hope this is fixed in later releases as one of the key uses for a live CD is as a rescue disk (at least for me). You'll also note that fgl_glxgears is running which indicates that hardware 3D is supported. Unfortunately when I went to install 3D Earth Model widget on the desktop it failed bacause "this system does not support OpenGL applets."

I then brought up Firefox and discovered that at least for KDE alpha 2 it's still at version, which I personally have no problem with. It's just that one of the advertised features is the (eventual?) inclusion of Firefox 3. I went over to CNN and attempted to play back some streaming video via Flash.

Both audio and video played back fine, but Firefox kept having some sort of problem/error and popping up blank dialogs. In this example I've got five. Closing any of them causes Firefox to crash. I call it a crash because every time I restart Firefox it tells me it exited abnormally and do I want to restart with the same pages it crashed with.

And finally there's System Settings which I offer as but one example of the lack of polish in the KDE 4/4.1 desktop.

In this example, the center panel can't be resized because there's no splitter to grab and resize it. What's worse is a problem that's been plaguing every distribution I've testing for the past year; the inability to determine the maximum screen size, let alone the optimum one. Screen size and maximum screen size both stop at 1280 by 1024. The only way to select a higher resolution to use with this card and monitor (a ViewSonic P90f) is to use Mandriva's Linux Control Center, and under Hardware select "Set up the graphical server" to select 1600 by 1200. At least Mandriva supplies a decent tool. For Ubuntu I had to install native ATI and nVidia tools to accomplish the same task. I don't fault the distributions or the desktops for this issue as much as I do Xorg. Since the drive to Xorg 7.3/7.4, nearly every distribution has had problems with detecting stock ATI and nVidia chipsets on both my home systems as well as notebooks (both Gateway and Dell). Who knows when the situation will improve. But for me the solution is clea enough; stay with Mandriva and its configuration tools.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Notes From The Field: Firefox, Mandriva

Firefox 3 "Black" Images

Planete Beranger is reporting that Firefox 3 renders images as black on certain sites. I've run into the same problem on my system, and I can reliably repeat the problem. The conditions are:
  1. Mandriva 2008.1 Powerpack
  2. Firefox 3 downloaded from the Mozilla site and running locally out of my home directory
  3. Running a load-intensive task while web surfing with Firefox 3.
The load-intensive task in this instance was pulling down the entire KDE 3 source tree using subversion in one shell window while performing a build in another shell. My system has broadband (cable) connectivity. It was at this point that I was looking at Wired, Accuweather, and Flickr. On all sites, moving from page to page resulted in images either showing up entirely blank (black) or only partially rendered with a tall black bar across the lower portion of the image. These image defects disappear when the system is lightly loaded (i.e. only the browser is running).

I'm also seeing definite performance issues on certain sites that are heavily Javascript dependent regardless of system loading. Such sites use overlays and/or floating sidebar menus. The effect on these sites is very slow scrolling, rollovers that take several seconds to appear and then disappear, and drop-down menus that again take several seconds to appear. In other words the vaunted Javascript engine performance speedup doesn't seem to work for these sites. I didn't keep a list (it was very, very late). I'll go back over my browser history and see if I can find them again and then repeat the experiment.


Two updates came down the wires for Mandriva last night and this morning. The first is for Firefox Planete Beranger reported that Mandriva 2008.1 did not have the security updates one week after the initial updates had been released. They have now been pushed out and they are in the repository.

The second update is for OpenOffice 2.4.1. For those reviewers who felt that the earlier 2.4.0 point release was a mark against Mandriva, they can now rest easy knowing that OpenOffice 2.4.1 is finally a solid part of Mandriva 2008.1. And my thanks to the Mandriva developers and managers who took a measured and responsible approach to pushing out a quality update.

Monday, July 07, 2008

FORK PROPOSAL: Rebuild KDE 3 with QT4

Here's a proposal I throw out to the world: Who would work with me to 'fork' KDE 3 and rebuild it with QT 4.x (4.4 at this point)? This would be the entire KDE 3 environment. No, I have absolutely no idea how much work would be involved. But in looking at where the current KDE 4 desktop is headed. and considering comments from many quarters about the preferred capability of KDE 3, I'm curious to see if anyone would step up and work with me to establish a new branch, porting KDE 3 to QT 4.4 (and later).

Perhaps in the process we can clean up many of KDE 3's lingering annoyances and bugs.

Working project title: KDE5.
Goals: Higher quality, a better user experience, a better KDE4 than KDE4.

Please leave your comments at the end of the post.


Other project titles:

IceDE - Named after a 'now it's really free' web browser.
QDE - Qt Desktop Environment or Quality Desktop Environment
NiNK - No it's Not KDE (I personally like that one)

The Most Puerile of the FOSS Aficionados

The website Planete Beranger recently published an interesting post "Wrong ways to promote the FOSS", from which the title of this post was taken. The core observation of the Beranger argument is:
I'll only say that there is no such thing as a "troll". This is a word invented by the most puerile of the FOSS aficionados, unable to cope with the existence of:
  • legitimate critiques from users of FOSS;
  • illegitimate critiques from users of FOSS;
  • legitimate critiques from non-users of FOSS, deterred by real problems;
  • illegitimate critiques from users of FOSS, hasty and judgmental people;
  • curses, vandalisms and the like.

I got to see the Most Puerile in action over the weekend on OSnews in the comment section of the article "Top 5 New Features of Ubuntu 8.10 Interpid Ibex" (and yes, Intrepid is spelled wrong) posted by Eugenia Loli-Queru on OSNews. Eugenia was rightfully complaining that instead of adding new features of questionable value that perhaps the developers should clean up some of the long existing messes, such as the interface faux-paus in Gnome Control Center. Sure enough 'freetard' ralph lept into the discussion with his own brand of trollish behavior, accusing her of 'abusing' a news submission to complain about said interface problem. Then, when she attempted to defend herself, the lively group modded her down to the lowest level, -5. Which is interesting considering she (was) a long-time editor on OSnews.

That didn't last long. Apparently when she posted another article that included a link to my now-favorite site Linux Haters Blog, she got flamed again to the point where she resigned.

Which leads me back to Beranger's latest, where he rants about problems with Frugalware, Sabayon Linux, Debian (Because it's the best? No. Because it sucks less), openSUSE 11, KDE 4 (And no, I don't need a "Folder View", I need the classical way the icons show up on a KDE3 and on a GNOME desktop! Period. You motherfuckers.), Firefox 3 on Fedora 9 (and RHEL 5.2), KOffice 2.0 alpha on Windows (and the way it won't install)... In short, he's reached the end of his rope. And it's sad to say that he's going to stop reviewing Linux and other tools because he's had a belly full with the poor quality and the even poorer attitude of many of the vocal supporters and developers.

I'm on the hairy edge of just pulling the trigger and blowing Linux away myself, in spite of spending $120 on Mandriva late last week. I don't want to be treated like a rock star, I want consistent quality from release to release. Everybody wants all new features from release to release, many of them poorly implemented versions of features found in Windows and Mac OS X. The primary reason I find Mandriva useful and stable is that it actually seems to be more conservative in its inclusion of software, and it seems devoted to producing a quality product. You damn sure won't find that in Fedora, openSUSE, or Ubuntu any more.

I leave you with this small snippet from the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly:
Once again, Mandriva seems to be a winner here, earning high marks from both the reviewers and the users on various forums for its 2008.1 release. Fedora, on the other hand, was the exact opposite - the distribution's first release under a new project management has been rated rather poorly by most reviewers, while it also received a major thumbs down from their KDE users.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

HowTo: Install Nodoka Theme on Mandriva 2008.1

What is Nodoka?

Nodoka is the default Gnome desktop theme originally delivered on Fedora 8. I've grown to like it so much that I installed it on other Linux distributions starting with Ubuntu 7.10 through 8.04. I've now installed it on Mandriva 2008 Spring PowerPack. Here's what I did.

Install the Nodoka Engine

Installation of the Nodoka engine requires building it from sources. To support the build of the Nodoka engine you'll need to install libgtk+2.0_0-devel. One way to install it is via Applications | Install & Remove Software | Software Management. You can find it by typing 'libgtk+' in Software Management's search bar, then select libgtk_2.0_0-devel from the top of the list (on my machine it was the fifth entry from the top). When you select it for installation you'll also automatically install additional packages to satisfy dependencies:

- glib-gettextize-2.16.2-1mdv2008.1.i586
- libatk1.0-devel-1.22.0-1mdv2008.1.i586
- libcairo-devel-1.6.4-1.1mdv2008.1.i586
- libfontconfig-devel-2.5.0-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libfreetype6-devel-2.3.5-2.1plf2008.1.i586
- libgdk_pixbuf2.0_0-devel-2.12.9-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libglib2.0-devel-2.16.2-1mdv2008.1.i586
- libice6-devel-1.0.4-3mdv2008.1.i586
- libpango1.0-devel-1.20.0-1mdv2008.1.i586
- libpcre-devel-7.6-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libpixman-1-devel-0.10.0-1mdv2008.1.i586
- libpng-devel-1.2.25-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libpthread-stubs-0.1-3mdv2008.1.i586
- libsm6-devel-1.0.3-3mdv2008.1.i586
- libx11_6-devel-1.1.3-6mdv2008.1.i586
- libxau6-devel-1.0.3-4mdv2008.1.i586
- libxcb1-devel-1.1-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libxcomposite1-devel-0.4.0-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libxcursor-devel-1.1.9-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libxdamage-devel-1.1.1-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libxdmcp6-devel-1.0.2-4mdv2008.1.i586
- libxext6-devel-1.0.4-1mdv2008.1.i586
- libxfixes3-devel-4.0.3-3mdv2008.1.i586
- libxft-devel-2.1.12-4mdv2008.1.i586
- libxi-devel-1.1.3-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libxinerama1-devel-1.0.2-3mdv2008.1.i586
- libxml2-devel-2.6.31-1mdv2008.1.i586
- libxrandr2-devel-1.2.2-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libxrender1-devel-0.9.4-2mdv2008.1.i586
- libxt6-devel-1.0.5-2mdv2008.1.i586
- multiarch-utils-1.0.9-5mdv2008.1.noarch
- pango-doc-1.20.0-1mdv2008.1.i586
- x11-proto-devel-7.3-2mdv2008.1.i586
- zlib1-devel-1.2.3-9mdv2008.1.i586

Note that everything except libfreetype6-devel comes from Mandriva. It alone comes from the PLF repositories.

If you've successfully installed everything for development, then download two source tarballs from the Nodoka Theme Wiki. For this HowTo I downloaded gtk-nodoka-engine-0.7.0 and nodoka-theme-gnome-0.3.90. Place them in a working folder off you home directory.

Extract the engine tarball first with the command 'tar xvf gtk-nodoka-engine-0.7.0.tar.gz'. Then cd into gtk-nodoka-engine-0.7.0.

Configure the extracted sources with './configure --prefix=/usr --enable-animation'. When the configuration process has successfully concluded run make.

When make has succesfully finished install it. Set to superuser (su) and run 'make install'. When finished exit superuser (^D).

Install the Nodoka Theme

in the same root directory where you saved the original theme tarball, extract it with 'tar xvf nodoka-theme-gnome-0.3.90.tar.gz'. Cd to nodoka-theme-gnome-0.3.90.

Set to superuser (su). Copy the them to the shared theme folder using 'cp -R Nodoka /usr/share/themes'. Exit superuser mode.

Use The Theme

There are a number of ways to use the theme at this point. The easiest is to left-click on the desktop and select 'Change Desktop Background' at the bottom of the menu. This brings up Appearance Preferences. Click on the Theme tab. You can select Nodoka at the very bottom, or you can take your existing theme and, via Customize, select from one of a number of Nodoka controls and use the Nodoka Window Border.

It may look complicated but it's not. I did this to get the Nodoka theme up on Mandriva and to test Mandriva's development support. This isn't the first package I've built, and it won't be the last. So far Mandriva is doing just fine.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tis done

Between cooking the family's Independence Day meal (barbecued chicken and ribs on the grill, Texas toast, fries baked in the oven, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon) and doing various jobs around the house I managed to fully install Mandriva Powerpack on europa. Installation was reasonably simple and straightforward. So far it's lived up to its promise and I couldn't be happier. Biggest surprise are the recent ATI drivers installed during the overall install. Another big surprise was when I went and grabbed Firefox 3 from and just installed it side-by-side with Firefox 2. Firefox 3 from Mozilla performs better than the final version delivered with Ubuntu 8.04.

I'll finish up some time tomorrow. My weekends are just as busy as my workweeks, leaving little time to 'play'.

I'm beginning to notice nice little touches in the Mandriva Gnome DE. Notice in the screenshot above that Nautilus' icon view shows a thumbnail of each movie. This feature has never worked on Ubuntu since 7.10. The Ubuntu version of Nautilus would show a thumbnail for the first row, then show a reel icon for all the other movie files in my Movie directory. Oh. And I can play back streaming video from various sources again. Thanks Mandriva.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Where will I go after the Wii?

I'm a proud user of Wii, and have been since January 2007. I own a mere six Wii games, each costing $50 each; The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, Super Paper Mario, Super Mario Galaxy, Elebits, Mariokart Wii, and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. This is a far cry from my PC games, which include all four Quake releases, Doom 3, Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2, and numerous releases of Command and Conquer. So you get some idea of my eclectic tastes. But my gaming is equally split between dedicated consoles and the PC.

My use of consoles stretches back to my single years in the late 1970s with the Atari 2600 and the TI 99/4A. My use of modern consoles begain with the original Nintendo Entertainment System I purchased from Fryes while visiting Intel in California on a business trip in 1988. I was married at that point and both girls were still little babies. I kept that going for many years, primarily for the girls, picking up a Sega Genesis system (to play Sonic and Dot) before purchasing the Nintendo 64 in Christmas 1996. My girls were getting older and they wanted games that would play on the PlayStation 1, and then the PlayStation 2 (my favorite games on the PlayStation 2 will always be Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari, and Evil Dead Regeneration (and the whole family are big fans of Bruce Campbell)). And that's where I was at until I was given a 'gift' certificate to go and get a Wii in December 2006.

How I finally got my hands on my Wii would fill another post, but suffice to say that getting my Christmas present in mid-January gave new meaning to the 12 days of Christmas. Once I had it along with Zelda and the bundled sports games, I sat down and started to just play with it. I immediately found it quite enjoyable, and the kind of system you could pick up and put down at any time. The Wii makes time for you, not the other way around.

I also found out that because of its standardized memory card slot and USB connectors, I was able to add storage to my Wii and got it wirelessly on the network using an old Linksys wireless USB adapter (802.11b). No muss, no fuss. As lots of folks like to claim about their favorite environments, It Just Worked. And when the girls come home to visit from college we all sit around and really enjoy playing games on the Wii, especially Mario Cart.

But what comes after the Wii? If you believe Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg then it's going to be an Xbox 360:
I think that there's a difference in the type of customer that is buying the Wii. When you think about it, there's a difference between trying to be the number one console with nine year old gamers, and being the console that offers the most experiences from 13 to 33.

I think for us, we don't really see the Wii as a direct competitor, we actually very much complement the Wii experience. It's obviously clear that we're going head-to-head with the PS3 in this generation. I think what Xbox will be able to do as well as the Wii is grow the market.

In this generation we're seeing record revenues for the U.S. and globally for the business, and we're seeing more people buying and playing games than ever before, and the Wii is definitely part of that. And as they grow that pie, that benefits us too, because those customers are eventually going to want to graduate to an Xbox 360 experience."
I beg to differ. I've played games on both the Xbox 360 as well as the PlayStation 3, and if I were to 'graduate' from the Wii it would be to the PS3, not Xbox. Ignoring my obvious bias against anything Microsoft and judging purely on technical merit as well as general game play, I find the PS3 to be superior to the XBox 360 on both counts, especially technical chops. In my not-so-humble opinion, in the price position that XBox 360 and PS3 are competing in, I find Sony's console far more compelling than Microsoft's. And in the (limited) game play and visual experience with both, I find that Sony, especially with some of the latest titles, to again be superior to Xbox 360. And finally, there's the general arrogant attitude from Mr. Greenberg. One of the games I purchased and play on the Wii, Elebits, came as a recommendation from my youngest, who turns 20 in July. Where did she pick it up from? From all her friends at FSU. Seems that it's got quite a little following up in Tallahassee. It's fun, and the Wii is a lot more affordable than the Xbox for the college set.

I've had my eye on the 80GB PS3 bundle with Metal Gear Solid 4, and I'll probably get it before the end of the summer. I'm looking towards the future of gaming. The PS3 is maturing into the console of choice for advanced gaming and thus satisfies my concerns about the future.

Eating Crow

Over a year ago adamw and I got into a circular pissing contest, when adamw wanted to know why it was that I spoke so glowingly of Ubuntu (version 7.04) after having barely installed it and just getting to know the distribution. I shot back with a tripe-laden response which brings nothing but embarrassment for me these days, especially in light of what I am about to do.

But first, I'd like to publicly apologise to Adam. It's been over a year in coming, but Adam, if you're reading this, know that you were right and I was wrong.

I've taken actions to back up those words. I've purchased a Mandriva Power Pack subscription and I've got the DVD burned and ready to install Mandriva 2008 Spring over Ubuntu 8.04.1. In addition to purchasing a Power Pack subscription I also purchased the USB key version. I'm waiting for it to arrive, hopefully sometime next week.

I could spend the next hour of my personal time (and a lot of digital ink) listing in detail what has gone wrong over the last year, as I've migrated from Ubuntu 7.04 to Ubuntu 8.04.1. In fact, the Linux Haters Blog is surprisingly close to documenting most, if not all, of my gripes, although it misses a few. The irony in this is how I found it: it was linked via a story on Boycott Novell. Thanks, guys, I really needed that. I laughed so hard I cried. But here's a very short list of what led me to this action:
  • I have an ATI/AMD X1950 Pro video card. I use the ATI/AMD drivers because the free drivers are pure unadulterated crap. Most of the time this works, enabling 3D hardware acceleration and as a consequence the Compiz desktop. But somewhere during the last three updates on the path from 8.04 to 8.04.1, Compiz support broke yet again. I use the current 8-6 drivers, and they did work two updates back, but now I've got a desktop in which Compiz refuses to work again. fglrxinfo returns the proper ATI driver version, and glxinfo says 'yes' for direct rendering, but Compiz stubbornly refuses to work. This isn't the first time this has happened to me between Ubuntu and ATI drivers. But it's going to be the last because I won't be running Ubuntu any more.
  • Again, during that transition between 8.04 and 8.04.1 I lost the ability to play videos, both DVD and transcoded from DVD. I've had the ability to play movies on europa since before I was running openSUSE 10.2. And now, for reasons which I don't fully understand, neither VLC nor Kaffeine will play back any video. Meanwhile, back on my other system (rhea), which has the free version of Mandriva 2008.1 installed, I can play videos and DVDs all day long, even after the numerous updates that have been pushed onto rhea. Talk about things that make you go 'hmmmm'.
  • And finally, I purchased two Apple iPod Nano's, one for my wife and one for my daughter. I decided to transcode my ripped movie collection into movies that my wife could play back while she was recuperating in the hospital in May. So I went out to google how I might do that under Ubuntu and found out about mp4ize. The problem with mp4ize is its use of ffmpeg with all the extensions built in. Works great on Mandriva, but for versions of current Ubuntu (i.e 8.04 or later) you have to rebuild ffmpeg for this to work. I can feel the Wow!
  • Which leads me back, yet again, to having to rebuild K3b, just like I did for Ubuntu 7.10, so that I can rip my DVDs.
Ubuntu has got a serious quality problem. Applications that should work and did work in prior releases stop working for no good reason. Applications that should work but don't can be found working on other distributions. And the attitude of many of Ubuntu's supporters and a few of its developers is one of grand indifference, if not outright hostility towards critics. And once again you can get a pretty good idea from the comments left on Linux Haters Blog.

This will be the last time I personally buy Linux for home use. If this doesn't work out then my next stop will be an Apple Mac. And yes, I've worked enough with current Macs and OS X to easily make the transition. I am way past the politics of Linux. I want decent quality that works well consistently from release to release.