Experiments with Ubuntu

The older I grow, the better I was.

This message at the back of a car seemed to be echoing my sentiments after a week of struggle to get Gentoo, a Linux flavor, up in place of the Windows XP operating system I use.

Try as I might, I found it difficult to cope up with compiling the Linux kernel from source. Not that I was new to this. About 6 years back, I had compiled Red Hat on an AIX system. Intervening years I had graduated from programming to working on documents, email and spreadsheets. It seemed like a long time ago.

The realization was slow to come, but devastatingly clear:I am no longer a nerd. Or at least, I was better once.

A google search revealed that Ubuntu was one of the better variants recommended by a number of techies, and they were right. It took me probably an hour or so to install Ubuntu last month, when the Edgy version was available. To say that it was a breeze would be an understatement.I took to it like fish is to water- and found it to be even better than the Windows XP I had been using. For one, I was no longer using Bill’s software (whose memories for me include the infamous ‘General Protection Fault’ of Win 3.1, among others). Not that it has worried me much, but I was also no longer at risk using pirated software. What is amazing about Ubuntu is that for an end user, it is very intuitive.

Almost all the software that I need is there: OpenOffice substitutes well for MS Office, Firefox takes care of the internet part, there are media and sound players galore, and a huge number of stable applications.It comes along with a pre- installed bit torrent software, something that was new for me.

With a broadband connection, it is supremely easy to install or uninstall any software.

Ubuntu boots much faster than XP, and incidentally, fewer re- boots are required !

Not that it is without glitches. My Lexmark Laserjet E238 prints garbage with the original driver from the Lexmark site. Instead, the printer works wonderfully with the HP Laserjet driver! Reality beat imagination here.

Similarly, RealPlayer refused to work with npr.org and musicindia.com, though it worked with bbc.co.uk, dishant.com and a few other sites that I listen to. The Ubuntu forums helped. RealPlayer magically remedied itself during the Feisty Fawn upgrade for npr.org, musicindia.com still does not work.

The Movie Player has a strange habit of showing a blank screen, unless I move the window, even if slightly.

AdobeReader installed flawlessly, though some tips helped. Ubunto comes with a utility to convert pdf documents to text (pdftotext).

Google Talk client is not available, though there is an online version with limited functionality. Haven’t got around to using it as yet, but should work without glitches. Google Earth, and I am sure, quite a few other software would not be available on Ubuntu for at least quite sometime.

A site also recommended using Microsoft fonts, but each time I installed it, my system would begin to crawl, and I had to re- install the OS to come back to a stable speed.

Another funny thing- the external hard drive on which I installed the Edgy (and later the Feisty Fawn version), would not boot on a different system other than the one one on which it was initially connected.

This weekend, I upgraded to the new Ubuntu version- Feisty Fawn. The upgrade via 56kbps broadband took a few hours (I came across this piece of advice later), and it was utterly flawless.

The media players are much better- and look for codecs when they do not find one installed. This takes care of a big potential headache, especially for someone new to Ubuntu. I haven’t faced any problems with the network speed. I am still using the HP Laserjet driver, so not sure if the Lexmark driver will work or not. Fonts also seem to be better. Certainly, I am not not going to install the Microsoft fonts for quite sometime.

Feisty Fawn also has a nice wobbly window effect when moving from one window to another, and a few experimental Desktop Effects that I haven’t tried as yet.

Overall, a 9 out of 10. And though there are glitches, I am sure they will have a solution. Meanwhile, I have certainly said good bye to XP.

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14 Replies to “Experiments with Ubuntu”

  1. Thanks to Krish, I installed Automatix which helps to install a lot of commonly used software very easily. A lot of the problems I have mentioned above (realplayer, fonts, codecs) work flawlessly. He also informs me via the same email that musicindiaonline.com has a bug and the problem is not with realplayer.

  2. Woo Hoo! Finally, some one else who listens to NPR on Ubuntu and it actually works.

    I have fresh install of Ubuntu 7.04, and except a few tricks I needed to do to make my “non-exotic but troublesome” wireless card work, things have been pretty smooth.

    using Automatix (everyone should be using it) I was able to get Mplayer to play NPR streams. The problem is that it has an annoying way of working where it has to down load the whole story before it will play. that means that if it finishes playing one story, and the next one is say 4:30 long, it takes the whole 4:30 to load before it will play the story. That means that to listen to 2 hours of NPR, it takes 4 hours. Painful in the least.

    So I was wondering how well Helix (the open source Realplayer) works. Does it do the same, down load the story then play, or does it play as it down loads? My past experiances with Helix left a bad tast in my mouth and I am loath to go down that path unless I can get a vote of confidance from some one.

  3. It works the same way for me– I had installed the Helix version and then did the upgrade. The 24 hour streaming radio works fine, but the recorded ones, takes sometime, a 3:32 minute story took about 1 min and 30 secs to load.

  4. Seems Strange. The has to be something about their codex. I can go to Radio 360 and play all kinds for streams just fine. But for NPR, it is a double. If a story is 2 minutes long, then it takes 2 minutes to load, then 2 minutes to pay (under Mplayer) but it does work, so this clearly leads me to think it is a codex issue.

    if i am reading you right, then you use Helix and it takes LESS time. That would be an improvement over what i am doing now (see above). The helix .bin file is giving me grief thou. I can’t seem to get it to load or install. Is there a specific package that I have to open it with?

  5. Huh. I followed your links and several others. All of them gave basically the same instructions. I followed those and got

    Some required libraries seem to be missing from your system. Installation
    can continue without them, but you will be unable to run the HelixPlayer
    without them. You will need to install them (or if they are already present
    you may simply need to update your system’s library paths or LD_LIBRARY_PATH
    environment variable.
    GTK+ 2.0 (libgtk-x11-2.0.so)
    ATK 1.0 (libatk-1.0.so)
    Pango 1.0 (libpango-1.0.so)
    PangoX 1.0 (libpangox-1.0.so)
    continue with installation? [y/n]: n

    i tried going into the package manager and manually finding the files (or tried to) and installed everything that came up (the versions i found were slightly different) Still the error persisted.

    Then I noticed something. All of these site refference 32bit Firefox. I use 64bit feisty. i don’t think (can’t find) a a version of helix that is 64 bit. So are you 32bit or 64 bit? it maybe that it will never work for me under 64 bit. that was the problem six months ago and one reason i abandoned Ubuntu at the time (along with wireless things)

  6. Hmmmm, I suppose it is an honor or a lack of imagination, that when i put in to Google “NPR 64 bit Ubuntu” THIS is the page I am referred to. 😛

    Go me. Now the blind lead the blind.

  7. Hmmmm. Well, I re-formated my partitions (not sound related) so I got a virgin system again, and I am ready to do this all over again with 64 bit. Wish me luck! I will keep you posted if anything actually works. I got a lead on a thread where some ones friend thinks they have made it work…..why does this feel like I am back in high school looking for drugs?

  8. Oh momma! I got it working!

    Ok, it is not really the way i wanted, but it solves my problem.

    Go to this thread: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=2877149#post2877149

    This will instruct you in installing Virtual Box for Ubuntu.

    what can you do with Virtual Box? Well, how about run a virtual installation of Windows XP?

    So that is what I got now. i formated the whole drive Ubuntu, then installed a virtual Windows XP. Now I ahve a fully functioning XP distro CONTROLED by Ubuntu. That means i just load NPR in my Virtual XP, listen to NPR, and continue working in Ubuntu! Joy!

  9. Just an addition, if you also listen to Market Place, then you can do that in Ubuntu by clicking the “download MP3” button. It plays just fine in Firefox, except that it doesn’t seem to actually “download” the MP3, it just plays it.

    the Plus: There are no delays, sound great, you even get visuals

    the Minus: There are no controls, so if you want to replay something, I don’t see a way to do that. But hey, I will take any progress.

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