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Friday, July 14, 2006

Dapper


I finally got around to installing the latest version of Ubuntu on my laptop. This latest version is 6.06, code-named "Dapper". Dapper is getting a lot of press lately for its ease of use and overall coolness.





















Linux has had a long uphill climb to being a usable desktop OS, and it's by no means at the top of the hill yet. I've been messing with it for 5 years, and it was a really crusty desktop OS back then. The applications were a joke. Hideously ugly, and prone to crashing and being difficult (at best) to use. Things have been evolving at a steady rate since then. KDE is now a glossy, glamorous sort of Uber-Windows desktop environment, while Gnome is a little more Mac-like. Both are totally usable now, and pretty nice looking. There are a lot more applications available now, and most of them actually work!

So I'd say that, while there's some distance left to go, Linux on the desktop is starting to look like a possibility
for non-technical users in the future. Ubuntu is known for making great strides in usability with each release, and Dapper is another leap in that general direction. It's easier to use than the previous version. Out of the distros I've used (RedHat, SuSE, and Ubuntu), Ubuntu has annoyed me the least, and is easy to use. It kind of reminds me of the BeOS for some reason.

SuSE is another well-regarded desktop-ish distribution. I've always been impressed with the appearance of SuSE. It's probably the best-looking OS I've seen on a screen. The latest version, SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 ("SLED10") is supposed to be pretty sweet. I'm sure it's nicer-looking than Ubuntu. However, since SuSE is mainly used by turtleneck-and-crocks-wearing dipsticks named "Joel", I stay away from it. (I may not be a Mac user, but my image still means something.)

Anyway, back to the review. Installation is a matter of booting from the Dapper CD, and double-clicking on the "Install" icon. It asks for your name, time zone, and some other basic info, partitions the disk, and starts copying files. While it's installing, you can play games, surf the web, send e-mails, and basically use the system while it installs. (It's kind of like test driving the car you just bought while it's being built at the factory.) Once the installation finishes, it reboots, and there you are.

Video
The first thing I do to a new Linux installation is get the video going. I installed the ATI video drivers, and muckedaround with the xorg.conf file, like I did with Breezy. I couldn't get it to work. The screen kept freaking out. I messed around with it, off and on, for several hours, and never did get it working. Then I looked at the original configuration file. Ubuntu had set up the right video driver for my chipset, and there was basically nothing to do. If I had left it alone, it would have been basically 0 minutes to set up the video.

Hibernation
When I installed Breezy earlier this year, it took me about 10 minutes to get hibernation (aka "suspend to disk") working. I had to create a symlink, /etc/acpi/lid.sh, linked to /etc/acpi/hibernate.sh. It worked flawlessly. With Dapper, it worked flawlessly with no effort. Well, other than picking "Hibernate when the lid closes" in the Power Management applet.

Software
One of the things I like about Ubuntu's package management system is that, in addition to using it from the GUI, you can also use it from the command line via apt-get, which is a front end to dpkg and a bunch of other stuff I frankly don't want to know about. So installing everything I want is a matter of making a list of everything I have installed on my old installation like this:

dpkg -l | awk '{print $2}' > my-packages

...and then feeding that to apt-get on the new installation like this:

while read line
do
apt-get -y --force-yes install $line
done <>

...and going to bed.

I restored a backup into my home directory, and that's it. I'm off and running with a completely new install.

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