Mark Shuttleworth, may I ask what happened?

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I was quite excited to download and install the latest and greatest that Canonical had to offer – Ubuntu 7.10. The reviews have been rave, and the viral hype worthy of Apple. After finally getting a chance tonight to give the system a run, I was heartbroken.

Before I delve into the details of what all is broken, let me suggest that those looking for a quick fix should look into OpenSuSE 10.3. The have made great strides since the problematic 10.1 release.

Lets start from the top:

  1. No sound card was detected. In my adventures with the Gutsy betas, this support was present going quite a while back. A look at lspci shows the device as recognized, and a look at lsmod shows the snd_hda_intel driver as being loaded into the kernel. Bottom line is I have no sound – not good.
  2. After that unpleasantness, the installation went smoothly, and on the restart, I confirmed that the intel driver was being used for my graphics card (an integrated X3100 “Media Accelerator”). It was, but it read “experimental” next to it (more later) Thinking the light was green for Compiz*, I wanted to fire up the desktop effects settings and enable them. This is where the first wince came in – they were removed from the preferences menu, and hidden under the “Change Desktop Background” screen. Still better than the infamous “Properties” tab in Windows I suppose. I click on “Normal” effects, expecting scripts to jump through the hoops of checking for AIGLX support, and enabling the replacement window manager. Instead, after a moment of thinking, I receive the error “Desktop effects could not be enabled”. There are no logs or diagnostics, and troubleshooting’s next step leads us to running “compiz.real –replace” from a terminal and reading the output – quite ugly.
  3. Desktop effects are just icing on the cake, so only deterred slightly, I continued with my new shiny OS. Thinking that the “experimental” label next to my driver indicated some custom version of the intel driver, I had enough reason to check out the new graphics management utility. This is a much hyped new feature that allows manipulation of the well-known “xorg.conf” file with point-and-click ease. I changed my driver from intel (experimental…) to selecting manually by model. I browsed to “Intel”, then selected the “965” chipset. I was politely informed that I would need to logout (thus giving Xorg a chance to restart) for the changes to take effect. I did this, and quickly discovered the next hyped feature – “bullet-proof-x“.
  4. This new feature from issue #2 is supposed to allow graceful degradation of the X server without throwing up cryptic text to the user. To its credit, it did, and I was shown a (somewhat ugly) screen informing me that X couldn’t start, and asked if I could like to reconfigure its settings. I obliged, and reselected my intel (experimental…) driver since that was where I started. After chugging and churning for a minute, the X server got stuck in an infinite loop of starting, crashing, then restarting. I ended the cycle of madness by holding down the power button for four seconds. Ouch! It seems that I killed something that was legendary for being bullet proof. And in just a few clicks (with no real trickery).
  5. After the hard restart, the X server launched with the old intel driver, but at a resolution of 640×480. I then visited the screen resolution to change back to my native resolution to discover that I was running the only option available to me. In other words, when the driver was changed, it wiped out my resolution options as well. I decided a revisit to my old friend the graphics management utility in step #2. I looked for a reset button, and a load a previous configuration option, but finding none, decided to manually reselect my LCD monitor type. Oddly choosing PnP would not let me save the configuration. I selected my 1920×1200 resolution, and was again informed that I would have to logout for the changes to take effect. I did so, and was presented with a login screen this time, but at a resolution of 1280×800, instead of 1920×1200. A small discrepancy, but irritating since I just told it whats up. If it were a child, it would have merited a slap in the back of the head.
  6. With my hopes falling, I investigated the power management functionality Ubuntu provides for my machine. To its credit suspend to RAM was successful out of the box! Woo hoo team – a long time in the making. Excited, I quickly tried the suspend to disk, waiting for an easy “A”. This however failed, and its error message stating that “hibernate failed”, and to read the canned help for advice. On subsequent attempts to hibernate to disk, I was met with success (odd).
  7. After a resume, I found that the wireless network wanted to reconnect, and needed me to enter my keyring password to access the WEP key I entered earlier. The only problem was I was never asked to create this password, so it remains unknown to me. Sloppy integration…
  8. Next was the printer test. Every release, I hope and pray like a child at Christmas that the Gnome team has gotten the “printers are not files” stick out of their ass and displayed shared printers in Nautilus. I was met with disappointment. The printing interface has been beefed up, however not in the areas it needed. I wanted to automatically detect and install the drivers for a network printer hosted from a Windows machine. Instead of double-clicking an icon (thanks Gnome maintainers), I now have to click “New Printer”, then specify where the printer share is located. Then you have to tell it what the printer share is named. Then you have to select its make and model from a list of printer drivers available. Pain in the ass. What is worse, is this is ten steps back from a few years ago.

I could go on about other issues that I immediately encountered, but I think that you as a reader are getting bored. In fact, if you are reading this, I congratulate you – I would have quit some time back, and just clicked the OpenSuSE link.

What makes me more upset than anything else is that I am running a Dell Latitude D830. Not only is this a pretty standard machine, but the two companies are in a contract with each other to install Ubuntu on select Dell notebooks! Granted that The D830 isn’t on the approved for Ubuntu list, but from what I can deduce little to no hardware testing for this model was attempted before release.

So, Mr. Shuttleworth – what happened? Deadlines, financial constraints, lack of technical staff? You are short of achieving your dream of closing bug #1, and you are already slipping backwards.

It is my greatest hope that the OpenSuSE and Ubuntu distributions can take notes on each other about what each got right, and what each got wrong. I really do believe that much of the decisions in direction for 10.3 came from taking notes on Ubuntu. Now if only Ubuntu 7.10 could have executed a release as flawless as OpenSuSE 10.3.

I can still dream…


1 Comment

  1. Brian says:

    I just upgraded did not do a fresh install. I have not noticed any issues yet although now that I think of it I had no sound. But in the past the sound would occasionally go out. So I just rebooted and that fixed it. We will see.Im going to check about the sound when I get home.


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