First a big thank you to the Ubuntu community for providing their time to put together such a fine Operating System. If you want to learn more about Ubuntu you can go to the following web site..
Finally after six months of waiting I get a chance to check out the latest Ubuntu offering. The question now is, was it a wait that was worth waiting for or does this new version of Ubuntu disappoint? Lets open up the hood and have a look in side and see what this newest version of Ubuntu has to offer..
Below is a screen shot of Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon. Note the system stats you see on the right hand side of the screen are from the gdesklets program.
Unlike the last time I decided to upgrade Ubuntu, this time I figured I would do a fresh install and wipe out the old installation of Ubuntu I had on the hard drive. So I managed to get the ISO image of Ubuntu 7.10 just as it was sent to one of the mirrors and that download was quite fast. The next day I decided I would do the install off the Live CD and for the most part that was quick as well up until the point where the system after the install had to do it’s updates and then the delays started to show up.
This was the first time I had installed Ubuntu on the same day of it’s release and that will prove to be a mistake. Program updates that should have only taken a few minutes at most were taking hours to do and in turn this also held up the completion of the install of Ubuntu 7.10 to the hard drive.
A day after Ubuntu 7.10 was released the updates were still really slow and the same was true for installing new packages from the package manager. Finally I got tired of this very slow speed and started to look into the Software Sources program and in there you can select where to do the downloads from. Since I’m from Canada it had the download from set to Canada as soon as I switched this to Main server my speed problem vanished and all the updates and packages were then installing at a much faster rate.
Finally after the install was done I got to look at whats new and the first thing I noticed was 3D desktop and for the most part how smoothly it was working without installing the proprietary ATI driver. While messing around with the 3D desktop I decided I should install the proprietary ATI driver and see how that goes and for the most part that was easily done do to the restricted driver manager. After I installed the proprietary ATI driver I was shocked to see that I couldn’t enable the 3D desktop aka Compiz Fusion. Every time I would try to activate the 3D desktop I would get this error and after trying everything I could I decided it was time to goto google.
So after looking at google for a bit I found the problem, as it turns out in order to get the 3D desktop running with the proprietary ATI driver you have to also install xserver-xgl from the synaptic package manager. Once I had installed xserver-xgl then the 3D was running fine under the proprietary ATI driver.
When I was having the issues with the 3D desktop I noticed that while in the Appearance settings and under the visual effects tab if I selected to turn the effects on and there was an error, the error message would end up behind the Appearance form so that I couldn’t see the error message. This error message also wants you to hit OK on it to get rid of it and if you can’t see it because its behind the appearance form and not in front of the form you think the computer is locked up since nothing is happening when you click on stuff. It wasn’t until I moved the Appearance form on the screen that I seen the error message behind the form and then it dawned on me what was going on.
While doing the review of Ubuntu 7.10 the new ATI 8.42.3 driver was released from AMD and I was hearing that this driver had a lot of improvements over the current driver I had been using which I think was 8.37. I wanted to see how this new video driver would perform and so I decided to install the ATI 8.42.3 driver and what a pain that was.
I tried to install this new ATI 8.42.3 driver and for whatever reason I wasn’t having any luck at all getting the driver to show up under fglrxinfo. So I figured I would do a fresh install of Ubuntu 7.10 and then see about getting this new ATI driver installed. This time I figured I would go onto the Ubuntu forums and see how people were getting the ATI 8.42.3 driver to work and thats where the confusion really started to set in. It seems like on the Ubuntu forums at least tons of people were having issues getting the new ATI driver to work. Some people were getting it only partly installed where you could see the ATI info show up under fglrxinfo but the direct rendering wasn’t working.
While surfing the Ubuntu forum I noticed some people were using a program called Envy to install the new ATI video driver and I figured for the hell of it I would give that a shot. After downloading Envy and installing it I was soon on my way to finally getting the new ATI driver to work. So after countless hours of being on the Ubuntu forum and tons of re installs of Ubuntu I finally had the latest ATI 8.42.3 driver up and running complete with the 3d rendering on as well. Finally I figured now I would be able to go into the Appearance program and enable the 3D desktop effects. When I tried to enable the 3D desktop effects I ended up getting some error telling me the effects wont work and so now I’m back at square one again.
So after some more searching on the forums I find out that I still have to manually edit my xorg.conf file and in there change the composite option to a 1 instead of disabled. I also had to white list the fglrx driver as well and you do that by loading up yet another text file and adding a line of info to it.
FINALLY!!! I could turn the 3D desktop effects on but when I did turn them on several of the effects seemed slower to me then what I was seeing using the open source ATI driver. Despite this slowness I decided to install VLC the video player and try a video file out. Surprise surprise another problem showed up where the video player wasn’t even showing the video. So back to the forums yet AGAIN and in there I find out you have to change the output for VLC to use opengl instead of what it uses for its default output settings. After doing this I was finally able to get video playing. There was one problem though and that is while the video was playing in both minimized mode and full screen mode the video was constantly flickering. Again I go back to the forums and see there are loads of people who are seeing the same flickering that I am.
After going through all this stuff to get the new ATI video driver to actually work I realize I just wasted hours of time because this flickering of the video playback for me at least renders the new ATI driver useless. Shortly after seeing this flickering with the video files I did yet another re install of Ubuntu 7.10 and have now just decided to stick with the default open source ATI video Driver that for me seems to work better then the new ATI 8.42.3 video driver. At least with the open source ATI driver my video files don’t flicker while watching them.
Next up I wanted to see if I could read and write to my NTFS windows drive. Sure enough on my desktop was the NTFS drive that must have been detected during the OS install to the hard drive. So I clicked on the NTFS volume and sure enough I can read and write to the drives with no trouble at all. For me the NTFS read write is a big deal since I move files around a lot between Ubuntu and XP. Now you could have had the same read write function in Ubuntu 7.04 but it required you to install a NTFS 3G driver in order to be able to write to a NTFS drive. It’s great that the latest version of Ubuntu supports reading and writing to NTFS drives I just wish they had put this in years ago…
While I’m thinking about Ubuntu 7.04 it should be noted that some problems that were in Ubuntu 7.04 have been carried over to Ubuntu 7.10. One problem I have seen in both versions is the switch user function causes a system lockup on my desktop system. I did try Ubuntu 7.10 on a dell insperon 6000 laptop and in that case the switch user worked as its supposed to. Hopefully this bug can be fixed because its annoying to have to reboot do to using the switch user function.
Another issue that I have noticed now on several versions of Ubuntu is the default CD Burn image program doesn’t work it tells me to insert a CD and when I do that it keeps telling me over and over to insert a CD before it can do the burn. My CD burner is a Sony CD-RW CRX1611 and works with no troubles at all under K3B so I’m not sure what the problem is with the default burn program.
One big issue I was hoping to be solved and wasn’t is there are no GUI based programs to configure the extra keys on a keyboard or even the extra buttons on a mouse. This to me is something that needs to be addressed, you can’t have windows users coming over from Windows to Ubuntu and the tell them users you need to hack some text file somewhere in order to use your mouse and keyboard fully.
While on the topic of problems there is another one and this one is quite odd and only seems to happen under Ubuntu 7.10 and that is my monitor goes into sleep mode despite the fact I have that option set to never.
I saved the best problem I had for last and you will be able to see a screen shot of it below.
What your seeing above is a screen shot of the www.gamespot.com web site in Firefox and if you look at the yellow arrows in the screen shot you will see they are pointing to some problem areas on this web site. The first half of the screen shot is the way the web page should look and the second half of the screen shot is how Firefox/Ubuntu 7.10 is displaying the web site. I noticed this problem with Ubuntu 7.04 as well and had hoped it would be fixed in Ubuntu 7.10.
As you can see in the second half of the image the menubar at the top of the screen is not being displayed properly at all and the same problem is also effecting the tabbed section of the web page lower down in the screen shot. I have no idea what is causing these alignment issues but it sure would be nice to find out so I can get that web page back to how its supposed to look. I have spent loads of time on this single issue in the Ubuntu IRC chat room and also in the Ubuntu forums and no one knows whats going on or how to fix it. Several other people in the Ubuntu forums have also reported having the same problem with that web site.
I did a bit of testing where I downloaded the FireFox browser from Mozilla and did a manual install of it and with that the menu bar at the top was being displayed fine but the tabbed section lower down on the web page was still screwed up.
A couple of things I would like to see added to Ubuntu would be some sort of message of the day setup where it tells you what updates the Ubuntu team are working on and a rough time frame of when them updates will be available to the average user. One thing I noticed on the Ubuntu forum is when people hear that a new version of Firefox is out they want to get it right away. I think some users do the manual install of the software because they don’t know when or if that update will be available in the Ubuntu repositories. So if you had a message of the day for example telling you that the Ubuntu team are working on say the latest update for Firefox and you will have the update in 2 days then you would wait for the update and then install it when you have updates for Ubuntu show up on the update manager. It’s just a way to let the users know whats going on and whats coming down the line for Ubuntu.
I still think something needs to be done about the sound in Ubuntu as well. You still can’t get Teamspeak and any other audio application to play nice with each other and for me this is a huge problem. I notice on my web site I get tons of people every month coming in who are looking at my article on Teamspeak and Ubuntu because they are no doubt having the same issues I had.
I have heard Ubuntu will end up using PulseAudio and this may indeed solve my problem with Teamspeak I just hope when this does end up in Ubuntu that it has a very easy way to configure it with something like Teamspeak.
For those of you new to Ubuntu and need some help with the basics you may want to look at this web site screencasts.ubuntu.com there are tons of video tutorials that show you how to use various parts of Ubuntu.
If you have comments about this article please put the comments in the Forum under the Linux section and please do not send me e-mail.
Below are the specs that Ubuntu 7.10 was tested on.
AMD XP 2500
ATI 9800 PRO VIDEO CARD 128 MEG OF RAM
1 GIG OF PC3200 RAM
1 MAXTOR 120 GIG 7200 RPM 8 MEG CACHE EIDE ATA 133 DRIVE
NFORCE 2 ONBOARD AUDIO
In conclusion I can clearly see where some improvements have been made in Ubuntu 7.10 however for me any improvement that was made has largely been overshadowed by the flaws I have come across. Granted not all the things I have talked about in this article were huge problems but when you add them all up you don’t get a very good feeling about this version of Ubuntu. Hopefully the problems listed here will be taken care of with future upgrades to Ubuntu.