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Linux Daily

Daily usage of linux, raw style

If you were on the internet around august-september last year, you might have heard some of the buzz surrounding Ubuntu 9.10 “Karmic “Koala”. Since ubuntu and windows 7 came out on more or less the same time, comparing both operating systems was quite fashionable. And, wow, what do you know, ubuntu always won. If you ask me, linux fanboys have used linux for so long they must’ve forgot what a fully working operating system looks like.

Well, you know what they say, the higher you fly the bigger the fall, or something of the like, and the fall of Karmic Koala was quite severe. Here’s a couple of notes of some the worst of Ubuntu’s latest edition.

1- PulseAudio is still broken

The PulseAudio rush started in late 2007. If I remember correctly, it was Fedora that first shipped with it. Then all the major distros rushed in as well and Ubuntu 8.04 LTS was the first release to include it. And that was the end of linux audio being close to working.

Since then, every ubuntu version suffers from some audio problem or another. In 8.04, flash didn’t work. In 8.10, sound clipped. In 9.04, skype broke. In 9.10 it’s just a mess. Audio in all  the emulators don’t work properly: GensGS, PSCX-R, Mupen64, and even Dosbox . Audio in wine will desynchronize periodically, click, hiss etc. Sound clipping in banshee was solved by defaulting the volume to 80% instead of 100% like it should be.  etc etc ad absurdum.

2- The radeon driver is broken

I had posted before that ATI dropped support for RV300 chips. I was happy that linux enabled me to use the latest software with my aging hardware. But that’s not really the case. The radeon driver suffers from an infinite number of regressions, bugs, performance issues that make Ubuntu 9.10 unusable with these cards. I’m not even talking about compositing performance, or the 3D acceleration that can’t really be called acceleration, it’s with video, 2D desktop performance and, of course, flash and scrolling performance.

I remember a somewhat old interview of Mark Shuttleworth that finished with mark saying to the interviewer “If you have an old laptop around the house, try the ubuntu live cd”. If this was ever true, it definitely is not true anymore.

3- The update-apt-xapian-index bug

Synaptic Package Manager has a quick search function that works very nicely. It has an optimized database of some sort, and it is populated by this process called update-apt-xapian-index which is scheduled to run weekly. Now, everytime this process decides to run, which obeying the fundamentals of moore’s laws is always on the worst possible time, the OS just freezes. If you have a recent computer, this is barely noticeable. If you have an older computer or say a netbook, this is unbelievably annoying. Some people don’t think it’s a bug, these people are wrong. It is a bug.

4- The system log bug

I only noticed this with my netbook, but I’m willing to infer that it happens on all computers that use the Intel Atom processor or one a line of motherboards that support it. On a completely random basis, the system will start logging hundreds of time per second the reported temperature of operation of the processor. In a couple of minutes your log files can shoot up to the GB numbers, which depending on your machine can be either an enormous disaster, or a gigantic disaster. Take your pick.

5- Probably the most unreliable release ever

There are so many little bugs and issues that this release of Ubuntu is just unreliable. It’s the gnome-do package that provides a broken gnome-do. It’s the doubt that any packaged program that uses audio will work at all. It’s the gnome keyring that requires authentication on every operation if you choose to enable automatic login. It’s the new boot process that hides some messages, but doesn’t hide others. It’s the two finger scrolling emulation that the driver supports, but the ubuntu menu to activate it doesn’t work. It’s firefox 3.5 that doesn’t scroll properly in google reader, and still has that bug that if some element has absolute positioning scrolling is horribly slow.  I say no more.

In conclusion

More and more ubuntu has converged into this notion: everything kind of works, but at the same time, it doesn’t. A few years back, installing ubuntu was a pain in the ass but in the end you had a reliable system. Today, the installation procedure is easier, but the bar has been raised. Even if your hardware is 100% supported with the best drivers, the system will not be 100% reliable. Be it the bad packaging or the pulseaudio mess, ubuntu has reached a point where it can’t be trusted. So the obvious question is: why use it at all?

All eyes on lucid lynx.

P.S. I haven’t written anything on this blog for quite some time. I’ve just been busy, and honestly, my motto for creating this blog was “because it’s relevant”. With every ubuntu release, I feel like it’s becoming progressively less true. And I still use ubuntu on all my computers. Go figure.

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