Monday, January 26, 2009

Ubuntu 9.04 Alpha 3 First Impressions

With Linux making slow, tiny, incremental inroads all over the place: In Netbooks, phones, embedded appliances, in the BIOS, not to mention Splashtop, and being credited (over credited I think, but whatever) with the recent malaise at Microsoft (although I liked this interview with Jim Zemlin about the issue), it seemed time to have a look at see what Ubuntu was cooking up for its next major release.

I rarely start this early in a release, but there are a few things cooking at I am very curious about right now. Issues in the current Linux versions that I want to see fixed or software features I need added.


First up is DOSEMU. In Ubuntu 8.10 it is busted, and the problem is not actually DOSEMU but they way in the Ubuntu 8.10 sets up security (SELinux strikes) for the application. DOSEMU. See bug 216398 for details.

I wanted DOSEMU to work, because according to my benchmarking it is far far faster at running VBDOS programs than DOSBOX. One of my dad's programs (see previous posts) takes 20 seconds in DOSBOX takes 3 in DOSEMU.

As of Alpha 3, DOSEMU is fixed!

HP DV9000 Boot Hangs

Next, there is my dad's HP DV9000 itself. It does not boot well under Ubuntu 8.10. Poorly in fact. It appears that the AMD 64 bit Turion processors, a high precision timer, and the HP BIOS all get together for a timeout party that requires keyboard interrupts to get past. Like about 24 of them to finish a boot. Ick. Appears to be this AMD C1E issue, as documented over at Kernel Trap. The workaround is to add noipic noirqdebug, irqpoll, and perhaps some other stuff to the boot line in Grub. Nice guide on changing all that here. This nastiness appears to have entered around kernel 2.6.19, and is still there in 8.10's 2.6.27. Right now 9.04 has 2.6.28, and so I am hoping it will fix some of this without having to do workarounds on the boot options. I will, but that is not the same thing as it working the way it should.

Quick aside here: This DV9000 appears to have been a particularly problematic model of computer for Linux. In point of fact, it was recalled (at least some models) for BIOS issues, so it was no great shakes for anyone for a while. I don't know why Vista does not hang on boot like Linux does, but I assume without any facts to support this that it is because Linux is seeing hardware features (like the high precision timer) and trying to use them, where Vista does not.

I do not yet know what will happen on the DV9000. I installed it on a Dell D620, and there it boots in under 30 seconds.

Netbooks and MAPI

Those are all reasons I wanted to see where Ubuntu 9.04 was going for my Dad's sake. I have another couple. Netbooks. and MAPI.

As noted here, I have an Acer Aspire One, running Mint 6 right now. I like Mint and all, but there are now and again some issues with certain Gnome dialogs being larger then 600 pixels in length. The account set up for Evolution is one of them. Rumor has it that the new version of Gnome, 2.26, that will ship with 9.04 is more Netbook friendly.

The MAPI thing is for work, and revolves around the fact that we are moving to MS Exchange 2007. I will be losing WebDAV access to email, which means I'm back to using IMAP. That is fine as far as it goes, but my calendar will only be on the so-called Outlook Web Interface. So far, Microsoft has not looked at any lightweight web mail clients and ported them to MS Exchange, meaning I have to use the heavy client they supply for calendaring. Double Ick.

Fortunately the EU has forced MS to publish information about MAPI, and the Evolution folks are working hard on making its namesake work against MS Exchange using the same protocol as Outlook. All this is supposed to ship in Ubuntu 9.04, but as of Alpha 3 Evolution is still back level at 2.24.3. 2.26 (same as the Gnome release number these days) is where the MAPI functionality should ship. There will more about all this over at TalkBMCin the near future.

Other General Impressions

It would not be fair to deeply judge Ubuntu 9.04's current state at Alpha three as being totally indicative of what it will be in April when it releases. Everything that is in is working, and smoothly. The boots seem faster. I'll give it a whirl on the Acer Aspire soon, and see how it works there, but I expect that it will be faster than the current Ubuntu 8.10 based Mint 6 is.

I was slightly disappointed when Ubuntu 8.10 shipped without OpenOffice 3.0, and that has been fixed in 9.04. Firefox, at 3.05 is current, but since FF 3.1 is at Beta 2, hopefully it will be at 3.1 by Ubuntu release day. This is probably less critical on Linux than on OS.X. I have not had any real issues with FF on Linux. The Mac is a whole other story, and a whole other post...


Richard Meyer said...

Another Linux distro worth trying seems to be the new Fedora. First thing you'll like about it is, it's blue. ;-)

I'd sworn off Fedora for ever, finished, never to touch it again, but I decided never was a long time and tried Fedora 10 on my IBM T41p.

There are funnies with it, including the fearsome "can't see anything on the web" bug which requires you to change a setting in Firefox to do with IPV6 DNS.

And I can't seem to find any software repositories, but apart from that, its most endearing trait is, it's quite pretty. And did I mention blue ... ?

Steve Carl said...

I also gave up Fedora a while ago. My main problem is that I test almost everything on laptops and Fedora just is terrible there. You have to do all sort of things to get the wireless cards to work that I just don't have to do with Ubuntu or even OpenSUSE.

I have almost always liked the Fedora themes though, and as you say, being Blue would be a "Good Thing" (tm) for me.

My T41 is dead dead dead right now. Screen went bye bye.. I had a T40, swapped in that screen, but it is bad too. In both cases it is the Cold Cathode Tube on the backlight. I wish LED backlights had come out sooner.

Back to Fedora: I may try it again, based on your recommendation. Fedora was always good about being out on the edge in some ways, and a lot of what I want to see right now is stuff that is bleeding edge. Mostly Gnome 2.26/Evolution 2.26 and MAPI....

Anonymous said...

I have been in the Linux world way back when RedHat couldn't afford the hat and I can tell you Ubuntu is one of the best for desktop/workstation!!
Little to no effort to get even crappy hardware to work.

Steve Carl said...

I just loaded up Ubuntu's offspring, Mint 7, on my Dell D620, and while I would not call the D620 marginal hardware, Mint loaded up and was running in about 10 minutes, nad everything works. No muss. No Fuss. Of course, it was running Ubuntu before, same story, so no real surprise there.

Now I'll ahve to decide if I want to take the Netbook over to Mint.