Monday, October 8, 2007

Gutsy Gibbon thoughts

Well I've now completed the switch from Feisty to Gutsy on my work laptop and I'm *very* impressed. I installed tribe 5 on an extra partition a few days before the beta came out and I was very pleased from the beginning. Happily, Gutsy picked up on my widescreen resolution and had compiz enabled right on the live cd, which made everying look great right away. I must say that the font rendering in Gutsy blew me away. I work on this thing all day long, and the fonts on Gutsy look so much better to me then they did on Feisty that I wanted to complete my switch full time right away, but there was one big thing holding me back: suspend.

As a laptop user, suspend is *essential* to me. I've had this laptop since Edgy, and had some strange experiences with suspend. In edgy it worked for a while and then the kernel updated and broke it so I was using a non-current kernel for most of Edgys tenure. When feisty came out, it still didnt work out of the box, but I was able to wrestle it in to place and it was pretty solid, save for occasionally waking up without the onboard keyboard/mouse, but worked around this by either using a usb keyboard/mouse (which is how I use it at the office anyways), or by closing the lid and letting it sleep and then when it woke up they would usually be back.

So when installed gutsy one of the first things I did was to test suspend and I was very disappointed to see it go to sleep ok, but fail to wake up properly. There were problems with networking and some other stuff was just strange so I had to restart it. A quick look at revealed a bug in a recent kernel update with suspend and dells, so I hoped that it would be quickly resolved.

The last kernel update (.13) fixed it for me! so I now have suspend working without any tweaking on my part! While this is wonderful, it still has one small problem for me. NetworkManager sometime fails to figure things out properly when it comes back. I am still able to connect using my trusty "iwconfig eth1..." scripts, so this is only a minor annoyance, but a disappointing one. It seems to me, using ubuntu full time on a work laptop since warty that nm is one of the flakier default applications. This is especially disappointing because its such an often used application for laptop users. While I love the idea behind it enough that I still *try* to use it as much as possible, it seems just ... buggy. There are times when it will not connect to an open access point to save its life, and I can use iwconfig to connect with no problems at all. Then there are times when it fails to update the access point list when I'm moving around at the office so again, I have to use cli to connect. While this doesn't happen often enough to make me switch, it is often enough to be *very* noticeable. So far, the only problem I've had with it in gutsy is this one, but suspend is so complicated that I can't really blame the problem on network manager without more investigation. Lets hope some more full time use doesn't reveal the same flakiness I've seen with this app for so long.

My only other network comment is that I was impressed by the restricted drivers manager installing the drivers for my wifi card ok, but once they installed, performance was poor. I could only connect to any networks at 24Mb/s and networking would occasional get knotted up hard enough that a networking restart wouldn't bring it back and I'd have to restart. So I went back to ndiswrapper which I've been using for a few releases now. I was pleased to see that its got a gui (which might have been in feisty, but I'm not sure) so it made installing a breeze since I still had the .inf file on my feisty partition.

A few other items:
-on feisty I was running a patched mplayer that let me use accelerated video beautifully with compiz. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a patched .deb for gutsy yet, and I'm far too lazy to build mplayer myself. It would be really nice if we could get that mplayer in there by default, because I think many people are going to be disappointed without wobbly video
-its too bad that even with compositing on, wobbly windows and the cube are not, because, love them or hate them, to new users they *are* compiz
-glad to see that rhythmbox is a solid as ever, though I have yet to test its supposed .is_audio_player support
-I tried to use the new X configuration stuff to plug in another monitor and expand my desktop to it, but it broke my x even beyond bulletproof x. Luckily it stores some backups of xorg.conf, so it was still bulletproof enough for someone who knows his way around a CLI. That was a few upgrades ago, but I'll wait for the official release before trying that again.
-I think the estimated power remaining is getting confused by suspend, or this $150 battery is already going bad. (stupid dell)

All that aside, gusty was by far the quickest upgrade for me. Once I had it installed and up to date it was a matter of minutes to move over some config stuff from my fiesty home to my gusty home and isntall a few packages for stuff I use and be on my way. Nice work Canonical! Once the final release is out, I'll try dist-upgrading on my mac mini and see how that goes...

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