Monday, August 31, 2009

Closing down my 64-bit Ubuntu Linux experiment

This article is part of my series on exploring Linux.

Late last year I began experimenting with 64-bit Ubuntu Linux. I decided to try to use it for everything I could think of. I wrote a fair number of articles in this series detailing my experiences, problems, solutions, etc.

I went on to do other things with this Linux distro that I never got around to documenting:

  • I connected an HP flatbed scanner. The built in scanning software recognized the device and instantly scanned a document for me - awesome!
  • I was able to download torrents and burn DVDs all with the built in software - no muss, no fuss.
  • I used it to connect to my work VPN through a Cisco/Citrix solution. I have to say the user experience far exceeded what I was used to in Windows. (Part of that was the open source client not respecting host requests to disconnect me from my network printer, etc. :-D
But there have been a number of small irritants that I haven't been able to resolve yet. I suspect there are solutions to most of them, but I lack either the time or know-how:
  • Although the webcam video worked like a charm, I never did get the audio recording to work. The wrong drivers or something kept causing pops and hisses over the audio track.
  • I was never able to do anything with the handy buttons around the screen or use the handy wireless media remote. I don't know if anyone came up with drivers for those, but they sure would have been handy.
  • I never did install the drivers for the touch screen or the on-screen Wacom pen. The drivers do appear to exist, but they look cludgy and the instructions confusing.
There are other things that used to work, but which eventually stopped working. I never did anything to specifically change the settings in question, but my tinkering and many automatic system updates have exacted their toll:
  • The thing that upset me most was my video drivers. I spent a lot of time getting them just right. At some point a system update changed the video options and also the behaviour. I could no longer just dsconnect the second monitor and have the system continue working. Instead, the system would only boot to a black screen until I returned the second monitor so that I could disable it in the software. -- Problematic when you take off with the laptop for a trip :-(
  • At some point my DNS name resolution started giving me grief. It seems to look to the wrong place for resolution. I have to wait until it times out in 10 seconds before finding a better place to resolve a name. I don't know if this is a result of my VPN tinkering or some system update. Quite irritating though.
  • I also seem to have lost connectivity to my SMB shares on my Windows network. It sees the workgroup but will go no further. This is the final nail in the coffin.
I have learned a lot through my Ubuntu experiment. I have been quite impressed at how advanced this operating system is. I can respect the solid foundation the system is built on. But I am being irritated by too many little annoyances. I suspect some of these may be cause by my choice of going 64-bit. I have since learned that 64-bit is a bit early for general consumption. It would be best to wait for applications and drivers to catch up. There was really no need for me to move with my hardware of only 4GB.

It's time to wipe this system and start fresh. I'm thinking 32-bit Suse Linux....