Ubuntu 12.10 is basically a glorified Beta.

23 Nov

[Wow. It’s been a year since I last posted. Huh.]

Right. Over the past year, I’ve kinda migrated away from Linux Mint. I like it, it’s good, but there were a few too many things keeping me from loving it. It’s been in a state of constant development over the past year, with Cinnamon and MATE growing better by the day, but whenever I tried it out it on my computers it had an unfortunate tendency to shit itself.

So I tried out Xubuntu 12.04 [rather than vanilla Ubuntu, since I still ain’t a fan of Unity]. And it worked. On both my EeePC and my HP laptop, it worked just fine. Gloriously, in fact. Like a bloody champion. Did everything I wanted it to and didn’t give me any ugly surprises.

Of course, like a lot of Ubuntu users, I went ahead and installed Ubuntu 12.10 when it came out [or, more specifically, Xubuntu 12.10]. I like new stuff. New stuff’s cool. New Ubuntu! What could go wrong?

Well, nothing, to begin with. Xubuntu 12.10 seemed fine out of the box. But with all the hubbub about Steam coming to Linux, I figured it was high time I tried getting the propriety AMD drivers working on my HP lappy, in anticipation of gettin’ my game on. What followed was a full day’s-worth of teeth-grinding, hair-pulling, near crying-jag levels of frustration.

I tried both drivers included with Ubuntu [now squirreled away in the Software Sources], and both dumped me at a stinkin’ TTY text prompt upon reboot. I then tried the newest, most bleeding-edge drivers direct from AMD. Same deal.

It wasn’t that I’d been caught up in the whole AMD Legacy driver brouhaha. My card’s a 6470M — fully supported. No, the problem as far as I could tell from all my Googlin’-about was X.Org. See, with Ubuntu 12.10, Canonical’s gone and upgraded X.Org from 1.12 to 1.13. And that puppy is well finicky.

So I went running back to Xubuntu 12.04. I installed the latest AMD drivers and, lo and behold!, everything was golden. No being shat out to a TTY prompt, no wonky windows, no screen tearing, no dramas. Everything I threw at it worked, and all was right in the world.

Seems there’s a good reason Valve are suggesting Ubuntu 12.04 for running Steam. In fact, seems there’re a couple of good reasons. 1) It’s a Long Term Release [Good ’til 2017!]. 2) It bloody works. Fact is, despite all the whizz-bang improvements to Unity [which I don’t care about], 12.10 is little more than a glorified Beta for the upcoming 13.04.

Which, really, is the case with any non-LTE version of Ubuntu. They’re where Canonical’s developers try out new stuff — which is ace, of course, and necessary. But in terms of stability, they just don’t cut for the average user.

By all means, try out Ubuntu 12.10. Hell, it might work better for you than it did for me [It does seem that way for some folks]. But me, I ain’t shiftin’ from 12.04 until I have a compelling reason. It’s solid, stable on every system I’ve thrown it at, and it’s supported for five good long years.

No, despite the temptation to embrace the latest and ride the bleeding edge, my experience with 12.10 has taught me a lesson: If it works, leave well enough alone.

Linux Mint 12 Released!

28 Nov

Yup, the final release of Mint 12 is out.

I was very impressed with the RC, despite its various (minor) problems, but it looks like they’ve been sorted out.

I’ve grabbed the 64bit iso from the site and will have a play with it on my HP lappy a bit later on. Probably no need to do a review of it considering I’ve already written one for the RC.

Anyway, head on over to the site and give it a squiz, why don’t you?

Hmm.

13 Nov

WordPress thinks the two comments I’ve received so far are spam.

Both were supportive. That much is certain.

But only vaguely so.

Vaguely enough for WordPress to find them worthy of a caution.

“Groovy pics!” says ‘monterey dentist’, in reply to a post containing no pictures.

I’ve decided to refrain from allowing them. I do this in deference to WordPress’s authority, which I assume is informed by a wealth of experience in matters such as these.

I may be naive in trusting WordPress to make my decisions for me. Or I may well be prudent.

I have mixed feelings about it all. Which is why I haven’t completely deleted the comments, but merely left them sitting about idle in the spambox.

I can’t help but wonder whether Jigglypuff and Dr James are real people. Whether they really do enjoy my blog and my groovy pics and I’ve just gone and hurt their feelings.

But then I also wonder whether they’re just bots tacking ads on my wall as though I were a laundromat.

Linux Mint 12 ‘Lisa’ RC released and reviewed! Squee!

13 Nov

Yessir, the Release Candidate of Linux Mint 12, aka ‘Lisa’, has just been released.

I stuck it on my EeePC [replacing Ubuntu 11.10] and had a quick play around with it before going to bed last night, and have played around a damned-sight more since. It’s good stuff.

Mint has gained a bit of a reputation as being “Ubuntu improved”, or “Ubuntu done right”, and Lisa — even at this early stage — shows no signs of damaging that reputation.

Built on top of Ubuntu 11.10 ‘Oneiric Ocelot’ [and thus entirely compatible], Mint 12 uses GNOME-Shell 3.2 by default, but in a nod to those who aren’t quite used to the Shell yet, Clem Lefebvre and his team have built a few Shell Extensions to make things easier. The MGSE [“Mint GNOME-Shell Extensions”] include a bottom panel, an Application Menu in a similar-yet-different style to the much-loved MintMenu, an old-school window list for the bottom panel, a new Alt-Tab that switches between open windows rather than applications, and a further doodad that puts System Tray icons back into the System Tray at the top of the screen. The User Theme, Media Player and a few other extensions are also included, befitting Mint’s reputation for refinement, sexiness and ease-of-use.

It’s a nice touch, with the bottom panel and App Menu a comfort for those more at home with the GNOME 2.x way of doing things. Of course, for those who prefer to do without Mint’s additions, any and all can be disabled in the ‘Advanced Settings’ application.

Mint 12 also includes the GNOME 2.x fork MATE, which caters for those who really don’t want to deal with the Shell. It’s not entirely stable at this point, apparently, but things will no doubt improve as Mint continues to work with the MATE developers. I’ve not tried it myself yet, and probably won’t, since I’ve quickly become a Shell-fan since 3.2 was released and see no need to look backwards.

The default theme is nice enough — clean, classy, classic Mint — but naturally I switched everything to Elegant-Brit almost immediately. The default background is the same as Mint 11’s, only with the ’11’ now a ’12’. I wasn’t a fan of it in Mint 11, and my opinion hasn’t changed [it’s a bit amateurish, it pains me to say — I’m no fan of text in a wallpaper, especially not 3D text], but replacing it is as simple as ever. There are plenty of alternatives provided, as always, or you can go ahead and use your own.

Ooh, meta.

The usual Mint improvements and app selections are in evidence — all the media codecs you’d want or need are installed by default, the superior MintUpdate replaces Ubuntu’s updater, Mint’s own Software Centre replaces Ubuntu’s still-sluggish offering and, thank goodness, Synaptic is here.

Since it’s an RC, there are a few little problems still to be sorted out before the Final release — MATE’s not quite stable yet, as I mentioned, Nautilus doesn’t feature MD5 integration and won’t yet allow you to open a folder with root privileges, installing programs from Apturl links doesn’t yet work, Moonlight is not installed by default, and — much like Mint 11’s RC — adding PPA repositories requires the extra step of changing ‘lisa’ to ‘oneiric’ in the Software Sources doohickey. The last one is probably the only one that’s annoyed me so far, but it’s nothing that can’t be endured until the Final release. Almost all of these problems will be fixed by then.

I’ll probably wait for Final before I install Mint 12 on my HP laptop, but I will install it. Despite the familiar RC quirks, once again Mint has brought the goods. Lisa is a top-shelf offering from the Mint team; a definite improvement on the already-fairly-impressive Ubuntu 11.10. Oddly, it even seems faster than Ubuntu, which is a pleasant surprise I can’t really account for.

Simply put, Mint 12 is the farking shizz. Another fine installment in a grand tradition, and a highly-recommended distro for anyone interested in Linux, from total beginner to old hand — particularly once it goes Final.

People are reading this thing? Amazing.

10 Nov

I thought I was yammering to myself here like a crazy-person. But it turns out folks have been finding this blog through Google searches. Nice!

I hope anything you’ve looked at has been helpful, but I really wouldn’t know, since nobody seems to have left a comment. Oh well.

Getting back some battery life in Ubuntu 11.10 by disabling discrete graphics.

2 Nov

After getting Ubuntu 11.1o to recognise the graphics in my Intel/ATI dual-GPU laptop, only one problem remained. There is no easy way to switch between the two in Linux, and any existing solutions require a fair bit of dicking around to implement and, at the very least, a restart of the X server every time the switch is made.

While Ubuntu uses the integrated Intel graphics by default, the discrete ATI stays on, whirring its fan and gorging on the battery like a regular Augustus Gloop. Compared to 4-5 hours of battery life, Ubuntu would give me around 2 hours. Not good enough.

Since I use Windows 7 for gaming [my only need for a beefy GPU], I wondered if I could just switch off the ATI in Ubuntu altogether. After much Googling and head-scratching, I finally found what I was looking for. A massive thank-you to Matt at http://help.stedman.net.au/ for this info:

[NOTE/WARNING: As always, in the unlikely event that this effs your system, it ain’t my fault. Proceed at your own risk.]

First, to get the Intel GPU’s power-saving features, you need to edit GRUB, by typing the following into the Terminal:

gksu gedit /etc/default/grub

Find this line:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash”

And change it to this:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash pcie_aspm=force i915.i915_enable_rc6=1 i915.i915_enable_fbc=1 i915.lvds_downclock=1 acpi_backlight=vendor acpi_osi=Linux”

Save, close gedit, and run ‘update-grub’.

[EDIT: It appears that these power-saving features aren’t always reliable, which is probably why they’re not enabled by default. I’ve noticed the odd freeze when opening programs — only for 10-20 seconds or so — which don’t seem to occur when the features aren’t enabled. If you have the same problem, you may want to leave the line as “GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash pcie_aspm=force” and simply disable the ATI card as below.]

Then, to disable the discrete ATI card, type the following into the Terminal:

gksu gedit /etc/rc.local

Insert the following line to the very top of the file, then save and close gedit:

sudo echo OFF > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch

Then restart your computer.

For me, nothing went wrong. In fact, everything went right. Upon reboot, the ATI’s fan no longer whirred and my battery life had practically doubled. Which is freaking awesome.

Ubuntu 11.10 not recognising your video card? Upgrade the kernel.

1 Nov

My main laptop’s got a spot all partitioned out on it for installing Linux, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post. I’ve tried a few distros out on it — Mint 11, Ubuntu 11.04, Pinguy — but it was more out of curiosity than seeking anything useful. The machine was built for Windows 7, and Windows 7 runs on it like a champ, so Windows 7 is what I use on it 99% of the time.

But I couldn’t let Oneiric go by without trying it out on the big guy. The major problem I found after installing it, though, was that when I installed and fired up the Hardware Info app ‘hardinfo’, it listed both of my video cards [I’ve got a dual-GPU machine] as ‘Unknown’.

I wasn’t standing for that. I tried the bleeding-edge open-source drivers from the xorg- edgers ppa, but they just made things worse. Neither Unity 3D nor GNOME-Shell would load at all. So then I thought, “shit, maybe it’s the kernel”. Turns out, it was.

Ubuntu 11.10 runs on the Linux 3.0.1 kernel. If your system’s not recognising your video card, as mine wasn’t, you might need Linux 3.1. Installing it is simple. Here’s how.

[NOTE/WARNING: Don’t blame me if this arses-up your system. It shouldn’t, but if it does, I ain’t responsible. Do the following at your own risk.]

If you’re running the 32bit version of Ubuntu, download the following packages:

linux-headers_all.deb
linux-headers-generic_i386.deb
linux-image-generic_i386.deb

If you’re running the 64bit version, you want these ones:

linux-headers_all.deb
linux-headers-generic_amd64.deb
linux-image-generic_amd64.deb

Fire up your Terminal and type in the following, hitting Enter after each line and following any prompts:

For 32bit

sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-3.1.0-030100_3.1.0-030100.201110241006_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-3.1.0-030100-generic_3.1.0-030100.201110241006_i386.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-image-3.1.0-030100-generic_3.1.0-030100.201110241006_i386.deb

 

For 64bit

sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-3.1.0-030100_3.1.0-030100.201110241006_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-3.1.0-030100-generic_3.1.0-030100.201110241006_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-image-3.1.0-030100-generic_3.1.0-030100.201110241006_amd64.deb

 

If you have any trouble — warnings or errors — then you might need to install module-init-tools 3.13 and try again, but I didn’t need to.

Then restart your system. It should boot the new kernel by default, and with any luck, when you check your Hardware Info, it ought to have recognised your GPU.

In my case, it picks up the on-board Intel GPU. The Radeon card is recognised, too, but isn’t used. No doubt it’s still sucking power, but there’s not much I can do about it at this point. Not until the Linux boffins figure out the whole hybrid-graphics thing, at least.

Big thanks to http://www.howopensource.com for providing these instructions.