Ok, I wasn’t going to blog until I’ve finished my thesis corrections, but I’ve spent the whole day formatting protein/gene names correctly, and I’m showing signs of brain calcification. So, I’m going to do one post that has nothing to do with science. I’m saving those for later.
Instead, I thought I’d give up a few thoughts on Ubuntu’s latest release: Oneiric Ocelot (11.10).
First, I have a few caveats. I’ve been using Onieric for several months. It’s something I like to do: load up alpha versions and watch them develop. It keeps you sharp: when you have to trouble shoot things, you learn lots about how the operating system works and you get the pleasure of finding new software improvements all the time. What’s not to like? At this point, I’ve been running alpha and beta versions on my laptops for about 4 years now, and it has been an enjoyable process – well, at least it was until Natty (11.04).
For the past year, I’ve been increasingly disappointed in Ubuntu because more things get broken than fixed as the development goes along. But, I should explain a few things: I don’t use the vanilla Ubuntu.
First, I use Kubuntu. I’ve flipped-flopped between KDE and GNOME a few times, but I always find myself gravitating back to KDE. The ability to customize things so deeply has always kept me coming back. (For instance, I remapped the Eject button on my macbook to the eject command last night in the KDE settings panel, and I think that’s the cat’s pajamas. I’ve done the similar things to enable my keyboard backlight as well. Stuff like that just makes me happy.)
Second, I love compiz. I find KDE’s effects kinda lackluster, whereas compiz has a few modules that make me more productive. I love scale and the desktop cube, because I think well in terms of a 3D desk, and it just makes it easy for me to remember where I left my windows.
So, with that in mind, My ideal desktop is Ubuntu + KDE + compiz. A combination that ran REALLY well in 10.10. Actually, that was the last time it did run well – which is a big part of my beef.
After several months of watching Oneiric evolve, I’m really disappointed. I was hoping for many more bug fixes before today’s release, but I just got more and more bugs. Here are some of the ones that annoy me on a frequent basis:
- Compiz no longer runs smoothly in KDE. Flickering and artifacts that were all cleaned up in Maverick are all back with a vengeance.
- Compiz has been broken so that it hangs repeatedly whenever KDE panels are used – particularly stuff like the new activity manager, or even just resizing a panel.
- Compiz itself now prevents panels from appearing when it’s set as the default window manager, so that you must kill compiz and start the KDE window manager on every boot just to see your panels.
- KDE itself has been broken so that the window manager crashes on EVERY single exit. You can’t shut down the computer without having to hit close on two separate “KDE window manager has crashed” windows
- There’s the dreaded “Kernel is taking too much power” bug that was only recently “fixed”. Actually, it wasn’t fixed, but with a few custom kernel parameters, becomes manageable.
- Oneiric decided to go with the brcmsmac driver for my wireless card. The driver works fine, but it’s in developmental stage, so there’s no power management for the driver, making it take up 3-5W of power. For a laptop, that’s just inexcusable – it’s about 30-50% of my total battery draw (usually 11-15W after a lot of manual tuning)!
- Something totally botched up the NVidia dual monitor support. Even a month ago I was able to drive a second monitor from my video card, but it now fails to do so reliably. I gave up the second monitor because turning the second monitor on and off 10-15 times in a row in the Nvidia settings panel just to get it to work is no longer a reasonable solution I’m willing to engage in.
- Then there is the move to “alternate architecture” – I’m still not sure how this is supposed to work, but try getting skype to work. It’s “fun”. (Fun being defined as a pain in the ass that involves manually installing i386 libraries that are automagically removed every time you upgrade a package, because the 64-bit version just plain fails to work at all.)
- Oh, and now Skype can’t see my microphone, but I’m not sure that’s an Ubuntu problem, although I doubt anything will be fixed now that Microsoft has bought Skype. (Again, not an Ubuntu problem…)
Anyhow, you get the idea.
It seems that KDE isn’t a priority for Ubuntu developers, and worse, I don’t think that Ubuntu devs are even aware of the breakage they’ve caused in compiz and KDE while re-purposing it for Unity. Lack of testing might be one problem, but I suspect that they’re not really even interested in keeping compatibility – which was always one of the core virtues of GNU/Linux for me: interchangable parts. I have no interest in switching to Unity, but I wish they wouldn’t break everything else for me in the rush to get Unity working for themselves.
Alas, while I’m going to keep using Kubuntu for a little while longer, my love for the Ubuntu distros is fading. I love bleeding edge, but I’m not a fan of this rampant (avoidable) breakage.
So, my advice – stay away from Kubuntu Oneiric Ocelot – it’s not worth the pain. With any luck, some of these bugs will be fixed for the LTS release
Pulverized Penguin Precise Pangolin. But I won’t be holding my breath.