My Linux Ubuntu Score Card

What worked great?

1. Printing. Ubuntu found my HP 920c and made it my default printer right out of the box. It was a mere checkbox to get it shared on the network. My Windows XP machine had no issues with it. “Holy Shit!” was all I said when it took 10 seconds to get printing set. The .pdf maker support that comes with Ubuntu was especially helpful when publishing documents for our rally.

2. Firefox.
Still loving that decision after 8 years.

3. VirtualBox.
I knew I would miss XP a little. *tear. It is a good stable OS that MS will force all of us to move away from because they need money for the next “new” thing. I setup VirtualBox and it works great. I am running XP SP2 (inside VBox) with only a handful of small issues. When I updated, I had to rebuild VBox following this fix. I take snapshots before installing any major software or changes and that has saved my ass twice. The apps I can’t live without right now are running great: Photoshop, Macromedia Flash. I also run MS Office. (Still trying to get used to OpenOffice.)

4. Wine + USB to Serial. This was the unbelievable success I spoke of, let me set the scene. I have a year old USB to Serial converter that I bought for $20. No manual, no drivers, it’s made in China and I have NO idea what the chipset is. Will it run in Linux? Doubt it. I didn’t want to bog down the Mini with VirtualBox, so I loaded Wine. Wine is a windows emulator for individual programs. The application I want to run is an APRS tracker programmer with no linux version. To recap: Emulated windows application running inside Ubuntu Linux with Wine – connected to a USB to serial converter made in China – hooked to a serial device powered by a robot battery. :eek: I created a sym link called COM1 that pointed to /dev/ttyUSB0 in the Wine directory. Started it up – reset the Tracker and “WoAH!” I actually jumped out of my chair because it just works.

What kinda worked?

1. MP3 players. Finally settled on XMMS. I tried ‘Listen’ (on my Xubuntu Desktop) and ‘Rhythmbox’ (on my Dell Mini 9). Listen is pretty good, the controls and layout are good, the internet radio station setup was a little too complex. Its biggest problem really is that it’s called ‘Listen’. It’s practically impossible to search for help on a music player using the search string ‘Listen’. Rhythmbox seems to do all right, it does seem to do a little too much disk IO and was a total CPU hog on the Mini. I tried Amarok, which I heard was good, but it had issues with my desktop sound card. I could do without all the fancy indexing and lyric and album cover features. I am NOT an iTunes person. I’m used to a plain-jane ‘winamp’. Installing XMMS was fairly easy for me. Editing your sources.list and updating apt-get seems to be standard Linux stuff to me now, so Your Mileage May Vary.

2. Bluetooth. I got the option with the Mini and ran out and picked up an expensive Bluetooth Mouse which worked great – until I restarted. The mouse seems to work about 70% of the time. The other % I spend 2 minutes muttering while I re-acquire the device by deleting it and re-adding it. The script to get it to auto connect is in progress at: Ubuntu Forum Bluetooth Mouse Thread

3. Dual monitor support. I originally chose Xubuntu (with Xfce) for the desktop, but got Ubuntu working with dual monitors. The Mini saw an external monitor only after a log-off log-on and the ‘monitor key’ on the Dell does zero. Well it does make the external display flicker like it totally was going to do something…

What was a pain?

1. Networking. First, the absolute bullshit update for the Mini: Ubuntu 8.10 Kernel Update Has Broken Wired Connection. Seriously? You just broke my ethernet connection with a kernel update? This is no good Ubuntu… This is not making open source OS’s shine. “Oops – at least you still have wireless.” On the desktop I had a little issue with a NAT connection on my VirtualBox. Make sure VBox gets its own IP from the router. You’ll avoid weird Windows Networking issues when both your Linux machine and the VBox machine are connected to the same share. Figuring that out was certainly a pain.

2. Updates. Did you see that coming? I did… One of the biggest pet peeves I have with MicroSquash is: “Important Security Update – This update fixes a problem where an attacker can take over your machine.” I’d certainly believe that if not every single update from MS said this. Seriously? Your OS is so vulnerable to attack you need 20+ security patches every month? Nope, I don’t believe it. So my standard practice now is to stop the Automatic Update and Security Center services after loading SP2. Go to services.msc and disable them – forever… XP is “end of life” anyway. Plus they like to slip in “Genuine Software Checks” in those automatic updates. I have seen 2 of my customers PC’s rendered useless, even though they were running an valid XP key.

Ubuntu UpdateSorry about the MS rant, let’s get back to Ubuntu. The update manager is also pretty pervasive in Ubuntu. I found the following settings to be a good safe bet. There is more information on updates and kernel updates, but you still need to watch this like a hawk and presume that after an update your machine may have issues. I also discovered that a full shutdown and restart solved problems on my Dell Mini after an update.

What is still brox0red? What have I yet to try?

1. CD / DVD Burning. I am embarrassed to say that as of right now, I can’t burn a CD in my home. I guess I can buy Nero for Linux… At least I will get pay-for support. I get an IO error in the logs and a Power something Check FAILED. I’ve tried Brasero and K3B – no dice. I can’t play DVD’s on my system, so I think it may be time to retire my old Sony drive for more Linux friendly hardware.

2. Video Editing. I have downloaded about 3 non-linear video editing apps, and I’m in the process of getting them to work. If Ubuntu can do this for me – there will be no going back to Microsoft.

The wrap: Ubuntu is running steady on my desktop and my Dell Mini. The occasional bumps in the road are probably no worse then if I went over to Vista. I have since upgraded the Mini to Jaunty 9.04 and have had better success with bluetooth, the system seems to boot faster, and my wired ethernet works again! I have been getting back into the swing of linux and Ubuntu has made it great!

About The Author


Hardware hacker, technology integrator, and maker. He enjoys staring blankly at code, voiding the warranty, and touching things in the back. When not doing that he is building and racing a rally car.

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05 2009

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