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So, I got a new computer (second hand, actually, due to the “glossy and shallow with megabezels” craze widespead in the laptop industry) and, as threatened, first installed Windows XP on it. I, however, decided to give Linux the one last chance.
1. First, I tried the brand new and shining Lenny. Wait… new? Nope. Linux distros are obsolete even before release. Shining…? Nope. Still no hibernate out of the box. Total dung heap, without even chrome plating.
Next up: Xubuntu 8.04, or Hardy Heron. The chrome-plated Debian, and the supposed long-term support (LTS) release.
Well, it installed quite smoothly, but I wouldn't call it “stable” or LTS. Ubuntu must be one of the most broken operating systems on planet earth, and within the few nearest galaxies as well. It sort of works, but then again, it doesn't.
You know, I like swap files; they're much more
flexible than partitions unless you go for complicated
LVM setups that other operating systems can not access.
So I created a swap file. Mistake. No hibernate, not
supported on a swap file. What a crock of shit.
ext3resize it was then and creating an inflexible swap partition.
Now it hibernates. Sort of. When ten thousand sun spots
are correctly aligned and you sacrifice a goat before
the act. Same with standby. It's very unreliable.
Sometimes the fans don't even stop, sleep LED keeps
blinking, you can bring it back, it hasn't shut down,
but the LED keeps blinking, and
Also, when suspend/hibernate actually works, the desktop pops visible before the screen lock dialog kicks in. Seems like it's executing it after returning from suspension without any synchronisation, creating a security black hole. I wouldn't want to store sensitive data on such a system. Anyone with half a wit would synchronise the screen to be locked when the kernel returns from suspension.
I didn't even bother trying hard drive encryption and hibernate; that's certainly too much asked from Linux without some serious custom scripting and initrd efforts. I actually also installed XUbuntu as the dummy OS on my old computer, which I sold, with a more typical setup, allowing it to create disk swaps in the install. Still no luck: hibernate does not work out of the box.
Fonts… well, at least it seems to have the bytecode
interpreter, and the Xfce4 control center created the basic
two dozen lines XML vomit in
.fonts.conf. (Actually, it seems
to have some Xresources type settings as well in the Xfce
config directories, but i don't know what actually uses them.)
The fonts still sucked, however. Bitmaps blocked. Helvetica blocked.
(Some people seem to have an unfathomable hatred towards Helvetica
and her beauty.)
Had to sudo into
/etc/fonts/conf.d to beat it with a hammer
to get my beautiful Helvetica. Your granny with poor eyesight
is supposed to go do that to be able to read something?
All radios blasting at full power, Fn-F5 toggles only the first one of them, whatever it may be, not offering a way to toggle both of wifi and bluetooth. This operating system was written by skript kiddies.
Imagine a pile of feces. Put the flag gnome-power-manager on it. Put the computer on AC and this program decides to decrease backlight level; increase backlight level with Fn-Home, and its level display shows decrease! It also has no absolute light levels for battery vs. AC, but rather decreases or increases the backlight level by a percentage – rounding it. Mistake, drift.
Actually, this is quite scary reading that I found
The standard GNOME screen-brightness application (gnome-power-manager) does not actually change the brightness of the backlight on the T61, but changes only the color of the pixels on the screen. (lesswats.org)
2. Well, 8.04 was just unusable, so I upgraded to Xubuntu 8.10, or Intrepid Ibex. At least there were some fixes: gnome-power-damager tracks backlight level slightly better and Fn-F5 cycles between all possible combinations of wifi/bluetooth on/off – but without any indication of the exact combination, since Linux seems unaware of the existence of a wifi LED. (On Windows you get a nice dialog, which is much better.)
But there's a big regression: HAL/evdev crud.
Keymaps broken, and the system closing more
and more into an indecipherable black box.
Someone got the bright idea of adding yet more layers of indirection and
standardising keycodes on the kernel level, so now you've got to rewrite
.Xmodmap and suffers from a more complicated system.
They've also decided that X shouldn't see the Fn-combos; although the
ACPI support scripts seem to send them on to the kernel as real keys,
they get intercepted by some HAL or other crap – I have no idea
which part actually, since I'm no longer at all in control of
this complex corporate beast known as Modern Linux.
It's an idiot box.
“Works out of the box”. Yeah, riiight! You have to edit HAL XML vomit to disable the touch-or-even-approach-to-me-and-unleash-hell-pad. And to enable scroll wheel emulation on the magnificent Trackpoint: not even WIMPshit for that, let alone decent configuration files or command line tools that would store the configuration. Again HALcrap. And it forgets the configuration over suspend, had to compile a patched version of the evdev crud. sigh. Works out of the box, laughing out loud.
They've even broken
pmount. Apparently the symlinking
/sys have changed, and they've failed to
pmount to reflect this, so it can no longer recognise
removable devices. (In fact, my earlier words about
pmount were a bit too hopeful: it provides no way to specify
sane mount options for NTFS and FAT, which most removable
devices carry.) So, now the only way I know to mount a
removable device without sudoing, is running Thunar and
clicking on the device – mind you, there is actually no
automounter. Well, at least it (or HAL) chooses saner
FS label-based mount points than
pmount, which chose
random device node based mount points. But
sucks donkey balls. Windows/DOS drive letters are much
more comfortable to use from the command line than
these long mount point names.
Since I found it in the menu, I tried burning a DVD using Brasero instead of growisofs or cdrecord. (Debian lamers: stick Wodim where the sun doesn't shine.) Well… it segfaults mid-burn. Niiiice! Luckily it was a rewritable disk. Turning a write-once disk bought from within Finland into a coaster would've sucked: 78¢ protection money to the mafia, 22¢ to the manufacturer and logistics chain, and nothing for you. Even with postage, it's more affordable to order even small amounts of media from Estonia or elsewhere.
Playing with the powertop, I noted that it (and lesswatts.org) suggested disabling HAL from frequently polling the DVD drive for a disk to save power. Polling?!?? What kind of morons write this software?!? I'm pretty sure the device signals the closing of the door and insertion of disk. Well, I disable the polling. After this, HAL-dependent crap, like the aforementioned Thunar and Brasero (of the few things that I'd encountered) no longer could recognise the insertion of a disk in the drive; I could not even find a manual poll option. What a load of shit.
Regarding power saving, it would be nice to be able to
undervolt the Pentium M processor. On Linux, even such
a primitive task demands a massive kernel recompilation
task. It's not fun, but I tried. And failed. Following – or
rather, applying the outdated – Ubuntu undervolting HOWTO.
No control files appeared in
/sys. So much for powersaving
3. The version of ATI Catalyst Control Center provided on Intrepid Ibex was totally broken. The fonts are all boxes. Only gamma, no contrast control, no brightness control, which has to be done through software on this laptop. Thus it is not possible to calibrate the display to gamma 2.2.
So, I tried to get a newer version of the fglrx drivers from ATI. Mistake. Now suspend/hibernate stopped working altogether. Apparently you need a huge pile of duct tape and cable tie from the distribution to make it work at least some of the time. V-e-r-y reliable this Linux, held together by dirty hacks.
So back to the ancient version in the distribution.
Another problem: XVideo is not enabled by default, mplayer won't scale videos, or will use power-consuming software scaling. Had to edit Xorg.conf – hey, wasn't this supposed to be obsoleted in favour of HAL XML vomit? – to enable it. Works out of the box?!?!?
Regarding media players, I still haven't found one that would work embedded in Opera – in Linux, that is. (No, I won't touch Gnomefox with a long stick.) mplayer-plugin loads, but it is a joke, it can't follow all the gazillion wmv redirects on some sites. vlc-plugin fails to load, because it has its mime types poorly described. gstreamer and all that dung – no clue. Some launcher plugins work, but I'd rather have an embedding plugin.
4. At one point, I tried to switch to Kubuntu, to get rid of some of the acidhead gnome crap that even Xfce depends on.
Mistake. Back to Xubuntu.
I used to think that KDE sucks less than Gnome, but KDE4 may have surpassed Gnome in suckiness. Disclaimer: I have no idea how much a recent full Gnome system sucks. And I don't want to know; the ubiquitous parts, such as the File Rejector and gnome-power-manager, are bad enough.
Actually, about the File Rejector that to my unfathomable
shock popped an in Opera of all things. [It seems to use
that crap when it detects some gnome components.
Quickly disabled from
I noticed that the File Rejector finally has a button to
toggle on a text input box. Too bad it's pretty much useless:
it doesn't understand '
..' in any special way, just like the
File Rejector never did understand or even show such a directory
in its listings. Entering '
foo/bar goes to
instead of beautifying to
foo, and eventually the File Rejector
gets totally confused.
One thing that really pisses me off about Modern Linux is the unusable dual-clipboard insanity that these desktop projects have created. The mouse selection and middle-click paste clipboard has been made completely distinct from keyboard-based clipboard. There's no other way to copy that URL from an xterm than mouse plain selection, and it's more convenient than having to hit an additional key anyway. But when you don't have a middle button – and I don't, as it's scroll toggle on the Trackpoint – it's more convenient to paste with the keyboard than flimsy middle click emulation. But you can no longer do that with gtk/Qt crap – at least not without spending an awful lot of time going through developer documentation to reconfigure.
(And, yet, there's a very simple solution: the paste key should paste the “selection” whenever it exists, and this should only be the case when it is actually painted on the screen, whether by keyboard or by pointer. Otherwise the explicitly copied “clipboard” is pasted.)
5. Summary: Ubuntu is a joke. The most deeply rusted chrome-plated OS I have ever installed.
I could maybe live with providers of proprietary drivers giving a shit about their Linux drivers' quality, if the FOSS base didn't suck. But it is totally rotten.
Linux is largely developed by money from companies who live on providing support for it; not on providing the software itself. It is doubtful that such an arrangement can produce good software.
Coming up in some months: Defection? Part 3. Windows.