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At Work With Linux - Ubuntu 11.10, Day 2

As I first mentioned last Friday I've installed Ubuntu 11.10 in a VMware virtual machine. Today I spent a few more minutes checking out how it worked. One of the first things the installation did after I started it back up was to download about 60 updates. Considering it was just released, I find that a bit peculiar. But then I always find it peculiar when a newly released distribution version such as Ubuntu downloads a slew of patches right after it's release. Not to worry, though; Fedora does the same thing, as does OpenSUSE.

What I wanted to note was the use of Unity 2D on the desktop. Even thought it's not using hardware acceleration, it can still support credible transparency as shown by the terminals.

One aspect of the launcher I find somewhat annoying is the inability to launch more than one instance. I can understand this on an Android tablet. But this is a genuine Linux desktop. You should be able to launch additional copies just by clicking on the icon. I discovered rather quickly that you can right click on an icon and get a simplified menu that allows for the launch of additional instances, such as multiple terminals.

Finally, Dash is shown in all its transparent glory on top of several desktop applications, such as Ars Technica's review of Ubuntu 11.10 in Firefox. And therein lies an interesting conundrum. The version of Firefox in this version of Ubuntu is 7.0.1. Will Ubuntu keep up with Firefox, such that when Firefox releases version 8? Will Ubuntu pass version 8 of Firefox on as an update? Every other Linux distribution I know of doesn't. It will be interesting to see what happens.

And based on that interest I tried to look for and install Chrome for Linux via Software Center. Unfortunately that didn't happen because I've done something to break Software Center, which I was only able to determine by starting software-center in a shell. Consider the following output:

jisuser@orlalabvm136:~$ software-center
2011-10-24 14:58:45,624 - softwarecenter.fixme - WARNING - logs to the root logger: '('/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/', 108, '__init_network_state')'
2011-10-24 14:58:45,623 - root - WARNING - failed to init network state watcher 'org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.NoServer: Failed to connect to socket /var/run/dbus/system_bus_socket: Connection refused'
2011-10-24 14:58:45,750 - softwarecenter.ui.gtk3.em - INFO - EM's: 17 15 21
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "/usr/bin/software-center", line 151, in
app = SoftwareCenterAppGtk3(datadir, xapian_base_path, options, args)
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/ui/gtk3/", line 243, in __init__
self.backend = get_install_backend()
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/backend/", line 70, in get_install_backend
install_backend = AptdaemonBackend()
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/backend/installbackend_impl/", line 195, in __init__
bus = get_dbus_bus()
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/backend/installbackend_impl/", line 62, in get_dbus_bus
bus = dbus.SystemBus()
File "/usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/dbus/", line 202, in __new__
File "/usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/dbus/", line 108, in __new__
bus = BusConnection.__new__(subclass, bus_type, mainloop=mainloop)
File "/usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/dbus/", line 125, in __new__
bus = cls._new_for_bus(address_or_type, mainloop=mainloop)
dbus.exceptions.DBusException: org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.NoServer: Failed to connect to socket /var/run/dbus/system_bus_socket: Connection refused

I'll probably either repair or re-install Software Center via apt-get (thank goodness for apt-get). As I said I have no idea what broke or why. It may have been me, or it may have been the update that came rattling down the series of tubes. I've seen worse happen to Ubuntu after an update. This is what makes Ubuntu users, new and grizzled, really annoyed. I have yet to cast this version aside, but the internal instabilities are taking the shine off the good feelings I developed with regards to the Unity shell.

Update 6 December

A post based on questions from Rick Reumann's comment below:


  1. I also updated Ubuntu on my dual boot Debian / Ubuntu box lately, because almost all the rest of my family is using it, while I prefer Debian stable.

    The updates, yeah, my brother told me about them yesterday, and I also got them. Some Gnome / GTK stuff mostly, which was updated in upstream from 3.2.0 to 3.2.1 or so. Happens all the time in Ubuntu, because it's based on Debian unstable.

    Unity 2D looks nice; haven't tried it yet, because I wanted to see the "real thing" (as the Gnome3 developers would put it).

    You also get a 2nd terminal window from the "File" menu, this is how I did it.

    About the Mozilla updates: yes, they (Ubuntu) announced that they'll keep up with the Mozilla upstream, so this is where Ubuntu differs from pure Debian Sid I guess. We'll have to wait and see.

    And the stability issues: these were also reported by the German c't magazine, and they seem to occur with the Ubuntu specialities like Unity and such. The author assumes that the Ubuntu developer crew is so small that's it's hard to keep up with development (compared to the 1000+ Debian developers, this is really a small distribution, even if many more people use Ubuntu than Debian).

    Oh, and if you dual-boot different versions of Firefox (Iceweasel) and Thunderbird (Icedove) with Ubuntu and Debian stable, using the same /home and everything, then things get interesting. When coming back to the older applications, all your plugins, saved passwords etc. are "forgotten". This means that I'll only take an occasional look whenever something is reported by my user base (family).

  2. Software center seems to break because Ubuntu cannot update its catalog after the updates.... Irritating, but you can still get Synaptic via apt-get. Unfortunately uninstalling and reinstalling Update Center does not seem to help...

  3. I'm getting that same error not being able to start software-center

    dbus.exceptions.DBusException: org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.NoServer: Failed to connect to socket /var/run/dbus/system_bus_socket: Connection refused

    I'm confused what you're saying I need to do to be able to get it back working without restarting?

    (I'm attempting to use Ubuntu 11.10 in VMWareFusion on my Mac - apparently this is a waste of time since it's already buggy on day 1 of me attempting to use Ubuntu on here. )

  4. You can't get it back without restarting. I documented that here:

    As an alternative you can use the CLI and apt-get. If you don't want to run apt-get "in the raw", you can install synaptic, the graphical front end for apt-get, using apt-get: sudo apt-get install synaptic

    More on synaptic here:

  5. @Bill

    Thanks for the synaptic recommendation. Couple things though...

    1) How do I have it as an option so I can just double click on a .deb installation that I download? I don't want to have to run 'sudo dpkg -i package' from the command line. Even if I right click and select "open with other application" and look for other applications to choose from I don't even see a way to choose synaptic since you can't even really browse for files (that's assuming I even knew where it installed to.)

    2) I can only seem to fire up synaptic from terminal with 'sudo synaptic.' If I try to launch from unity - selecting dash home then typing in "synaptic" - it never loads, even though I see it listed to click on.

    (Totally unrelated side note, I also created a.desktop file for my IDE (Intellij IDEA) and I can't even drag it from nautilus to the launcher... when dragged over to the left it won't pop up for my to drop it onto the launcher. I can't even figure out a way to pin it open so that maybe I could drag it on to a pinned launcher???? I can't believe what a pain this has become to do things that are so simple in other OS's ... sorry not meaning to rant to you.. but I'd like to see the Linux desktop really take hold but it's going to be impossible for it to when in 2011 there are still issues.)


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