|YaK:: WebLog #535 Topic : 2006-06-12 17.28.30 matt : working with kubuntu
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The actual install went great -- I only tried the LiveCD that didn't affect my system previously. That left a bad taste in my mouth because my wireless card didn't work at all, some of their apps crashed and when they did there was no gdb for kde's crash handler to get a stacktrace with, and sound wasn't playing for mp3s or mpeg videos even though the system bell was using the sound card just fine. Even with these shortcomings, it was the best out of the ones I mentioned in the previous post, so I gave it a try.
The install was nice and pretty quick. Even the full install didn't include gdb, so when Kontact crashed on me a couple of times, it couldn't get a stack trace. That's right, I tried Kontact which is KDE's integrated Personal Information Manager app. It is unfortunately a little too unstable, even though I am just using email, but KMail (which is embedded in Kontact) is pretty stable on it's own -- more on that later. I was pleased to see that NTFS support was compiled into the kernel by default, though I was disappointed they didn't go with kernel 2.6.16 which was the NTFS rewrite integrated.
First order of business was getting the wireless to work. I finally found a HOWTO of many manual steps to get it done (http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=1071920&mode=linear), but I confess to being really disappointed I had to break out to the commandline to do it. Once the wireless was up, I was really pleased.... until I realised how it doesn't work. If I sleep my computer, I have to manually go and rerun iwconfig (with the correct essid and key parameters) and the dhcp client. WTF? After the first reboot I noticed the same thing happens then also. Again, WTF? Regardless, I'm happy I got it to work and didn't even have to use DriverLoader (http://www.linuxant.com) or ndiswrapper, the former of which I used very successfully for several years and highly recommend.
The second order of business was the email client. I had grown tired of Thunderbird's long-long-long-standing bugs which are seemingly never going to get fixed. I even offered to bring in my laptop to the Mozilla offices so they could see it reproduced. Then I offered a bounty to fix some of the bugs. Nothing. Now I'm trying out KMail. As I mentioned previously, using KMail's functionality inside of Kontact proved to be a bit unstable. KMail by itself has been pretty great. First, when configuring security options for mail servers, you can click a button that says "Test What This Server Supports" and it automatically chooses the most secure out of what is available. Second, you can set up external spam filtering programs like bogofilter and spamassassin; both of which it finds automatically. Note that this is really, really, really, really, slow. I sincerely hope they find a way to speed this part up soon. The only thing so far that really bugs me about KMail is the fact that keyboard navigation in the main screen is horked. I can't use the up and down arrow keys to select messages, those keys are somehow hard-wired to the message preview pane. There also isn't a default key binding for marking a mail as spam. So, my usually easy task of pressing Shift+Down Arrow to select several messages at once and then pressing 'J' to mark them as Junk is out the window. These should be simple things to fix, though.
The third thing that is really important to me (and Geoff) is printing. Geoff bought this really great Linux-compatible printer+scanner+copier+fax, an HP LasterJet 3030. The printer and scanner work great under gentoo. He set up SAMBA and CUPS to enabled remote printing from our laptops, which worked great for me when gentoo was on this machine. Unfortunately, this is another kink in KUbuntu -- trying to set up the printer results in an error saying that the driver isn't present or I don't have permission to install it. Trying it from the Administrator Mode didn't help. I'm confused as to why it would list something it doesn't have, assuming it doesn't have it. I tried both the foomatic+postscript and foomatic+hpijs -- neither of them worked. I still need to file a bug, so we'll see how that goes. In the meantime I have to copy the file over to Geoff's machine and print from there.
Their package management GUI, Adept, is decently nice. It looks a *lot* like the package manager GUI in Xandros (http://www.xandros.com). The keyword search filtering is pretty slow, and it's difficult to tell when you have the complete results of the search, but it works pretty well. The only trouble I've had so far is when some package was asking a question I needed to interactively answer at the tty -- Adept had no way to tell me that and it just appeared to hang in the middle of installing the package.
Supportability is another thing. So far, I've had around 6 application-level crashes in various places. After manually installing GDB so KDE's Crash Handler could work, only once has there been a usable stack trace (which I filed in a bug). I'm all for speed and efficiency, but whatever compiler and optimizations they are using to build these packages isn't helping with a supportable product. In a forum posting about a separate topic (http://www.ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=26706&page=8), I mention the use of -Os and other things to optimize and shrink the size of the binary packages while maintaining supportability. I also just read about some cool options: -feliminate-unused-debug-types, -flimit-debug-info, and -feliminate-dwarf2-dups. It seems like the linker (ld) could also do some optimizations of dwarf2 output when linking things, but I couldn't find any options related to that.
Next on my list of things to try is the external monitor port on this laptop. If that works, that means I can give presentations at conferences without having to boot into Windows. That would be really, really amazing. After that, I'm going to pay $500 for 10 Ubuntu support incidents, assuming they fully support KUbuntu as well. Once a couple of these issues are resolved, I'll be a really happy camper.
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