Borys Bradel's Blog

My experience with Ubuntu Linux redux

Tags: linux October 8, 2008    

Well, my system died two years to the day from the last time that my system died. This time I bought a new computer and moved over all my files. My general observations are that my backup strategy is not good enough, that Linux really needs more than 512MB of RAM, and that there are hardware issues that crop up in Linux.

My backup strategy has two problems. First, it is too cumbersome because it boils down to to storing everything on 8 CDs, and burning stuff that changes once a month. Unfortunately, dealing with 8 CDs is too much. In the end, I copied everything to an external hard drive and then to the new computer. That is still the best way to go. The new computer has a DVD writer, and two DVDs should be manageable. The second problem is that my data is too scattered, encompassing multiple directories and containing both links and hidden files. I'll address these issues at some point, hopefully in the near future.

Although the various Linux desktops require about 128MB of RAM, Linux uses part of memory for a disk cache, and most applications take a large amount of RAM. With Firefox, Thunderbird, and a few xterms open, the swap file on a 512MB system tended to grow to a few hundred megabytes, slowing the system down. More RAM eliminates this problem.

Finally, there are quite a few bad interactions between Linux and the hardware. First, when I inserted the Linux distro CD (Ubuntu 8.04.1), weird I/O error messages appeared. I thought it was because of a bad CD, and therefore downloaded and burned an ISO on another computer. The same errors occurred again. However, I waited for a few minutes and Linux booted up. According to some websites, Linux has problems recognizing the DVD player. Also, the proprietary Nvidia drivers caused the screen to be messed up after resuming from hibernate. Using the regular non-proprietary drivers works fine though. Suspend (sleep) does not work at all. There is no way to resume from suspend, and when the computer starts up again, it goes to a fresh boot up. Finally, the USB keyboard does not work in the GRUB boot loader after resuming from hibernate. The issue is supposedly fixed in the next kernel, although that kernel is still in testing.

Incidentally, the ASRock motherboard in my new computer has legacy USB support turned off by default and therefore has issues with USB keyboards from the start. Enabling the support fixes the problems for a fresh boot. Also, the motherboard did not recognize the speed of the RAM, and I had to set the speed manually. Although the individual timing settings are rather underwhelming, I do not want to adjust these manually.

One aside, the command "sudo lshw > hw.txt" will list all the hardware on the system.

Caveat emptor. Regradless, I still like Linux over Windows and my system is nice. Hopefully it will last more than two years.

Now for the changes that I needed to make to the default installation.

First, I installed the following packages in their respective sections:

Editors: vim

Development: autoconf autogen automake bison flex g++ gcj

Development (Universe): sbcl jikes

Interpreted computer languages: gawk tcl8.4

Interpreted computer languages (Universe): clisp

KDE Desktop Environment: koffice

Gnome desktop environment (universe): gnucash

Mathematics (Universe): gnuplot

System Administration: sysstat

TeX Authoring: texlive texlive-pictures texlive-pstricks

World Wide Web: konqueror thunderbird

Graphics: graphviz

Utilities: lm-sensors

Second, I installed the Java 1.5 SDK from Sun's website.

Third, I installed Adobe flash player by going to Firefox and going through the steps of installing a new plug in when Firefox cannot play some content.

Fourth, I reorganized the panels in GNOME. I removed the bottom panel, moved the top panel to the bottom, then right clicked on the panel and selected Add to panel, where I added workspace switcher, window list, and system monitor. Then in the preferences for system monitor I added memory, and changed the colours for the memory to be more distinct.

Fifth, I made the colours better in terminal, the following steps need to be taken: terminal > current profile > colors > set to be black on white and xterm.

Sixth, I made the Caps Lock into a Ctrl key via System > Preferences > Keyboard > Layouts > Layout Options > Ctrl key position > Make CapsLock an additional Ctrl.

Finally, I changed the .bashrc file. Initially I did not copy the file (because it was hidden). Only after I realized my mistake, did I restart my old computer and transfered the file. Fortunately my old computer booted up, albeit after a large number of attempts. The three main commands that I added are stty erase ^H, export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/bin, and umask 077 to make the backspace key work like a backspace key as opposed to a delete key, to allow my local commands to be accessed without specifying my local directory, and to prevent other users from accessing my files, respectively.

The end result is a nice brand new Linux box.

Copyright © 2008 Borys Bradel. All rights reserved. This post is only my possibly incorrect opinion.

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