June 9, 2007

Frustrated with Kubuntu

Posted in Life, Linux, Me at 4:23 pm by mj

This is just a rant, nothing more.

After my motherboard died, I decided it’s still OK to continue patronizing Dell, and bought their PowerEdge 840 with a “special offer.” And I decided to try out Kubuntu.

This is the first time I’ve run a Debian-based distribution since Debian 1.3.1 in 1997! That was my first Linux distribution, and, aside from the cool package management UI, I was not satisfied with some of its configuration choices. I know the version because I still have the 9 floppies I used at that time.

Debian is also where I learned to pronounce “Linux”–incorrectly! So, I happily went around for a year sounding like a total fool (some would say I’ve sounded like a total fool for the last 30 years, har har). Update: Actually, it was probably the Linux FAQ at li.org with the pronunciation guide for “Linux”.

So far, I am less impressed with Kubuntu than I expected. Sure, it boots fast. But several things that worked out of the box with Fedora, just don’t in Kubuntu.

For example, SCIM/SKIM. I’ve futzed with that for hours, and still no love. Comments on various forums and blogs lead me to believe this is a long-standing problem with Kubuntu/Ubuntu, since everybody’s concluded it just won’t work with KDE. But, that’s patently untrue. FC guides me through a wizard at install, and it works the first time I log in. I’ve spent more time on this than I should. Sure, it’s not a core tool I use–I use it for practicing Chinese and doing a quick sanity check of how well my applications support international input, both of which I could do in Windows–but it’s still irritating.

Also, for some reason, Kubuntu does not install all KDE components. I’m not talking about the games and edutainment, I’m talking about adjusting your monitor resolution. I had to manually install all the KDE components just to do simple configuration tasks. (I do give Kubuntu credit for correctly detecting my widescreen monitor, which I was afraid wouldn’t work given the specs for this on-board video card. Still, I prefer not to run at full resolution because it hurts my eyes.)

Speaking of manual package installation–the whole “desktop” versus “server” downloads for Ubuntu tripped me up. Kubuntu is only the “desktop” option, and there doesn’t appear to be any metapackage that allows me to install all the “server” packages. I’ve tracked down a number of packages–emacs, mysql client, etc., none of which I really consider “server” software–but still have more to install.

I do really love Adept and Synaptic, though. Really slick.

The disheartening thing is all this futzing is in addition to the normal upgrade woes. I’ve grown accustomed to removing the god-awful gcj and so on. That takes an hour or two anyway.

This is really why I try to avoid clean installs, and why I tend to stick with the same distro. Upgrades put you through enough pain, but complete reinstalls make it even worse.

I tried booting my old disk, but the new PowerEdge won’t boot IDE disks, grub won’t even see IDE disks for chain loading, and copying the disk image onto a SATA drive results in a phantom boot-time e2fsck failure (despite manual e2fsck runs working just fine). So much for trying to save time until I can truly spare a few days to configure a new system.

Now I’m starting to remember why I considered never buying from Dell again. That motherboard is the first time I’ve had any computer die on me in 20 years. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it caused a chain reaction, perhaps starting with this 9-year old Pentium II sitting around collecting dust, whose (sentimental) disk contents I still haven’t backed up…


Looks like I still have a weekend of configuration to do, then a week of quiet meditation, then maybe I can get some real work done.


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