In my previous post on The leaving of Ubuntu, I described the issues I’d had trying to upgrade my old laptop, I continued to whine about Unity and Gnome 3, and talked about how I upgraded to Mint 12, and while this seemed to get me over the problem with the broadcom wireless, I was getting lots of fails on translation packages on updates, and some of the software I used was no longer available, even when I tried to re-install it.
Now I am writing from my three/four-year-old Advent 1st generation MSI-wind clone, to explain what happened after the previous post, when I decided to try a fresh install of Mint 12, anb because there is something I want to add that relates to the experience of upgrading the Netbook to Ubuntu 11.10.
I re-installed Mint on the aging Compaq laptop, and all worked fine, including the ethernet. The wireless was fairly trivial, as I said, just selecting the bcm-install package in synaptic, and installing the associated packages, typing in the correct parameters for the network, and up and running. Speed was impressive, TBH, seemed better than before. Only problem was the update software still threw up fail/ignore for the translation packages. So, I figure that this has something to do with the repositories rather than me.
Which brings me on to the netbook. I was intrigued to see how it would be for the netbook, upgrading to Ubuntu 11.10. It took an eternity. And in the end, I had a frustratingly difficult machine to administer – the ‘classic’ option was gone. I had this fiddly bloody Unity to deal with, or LXDE, which bluntly, I’m not that keen on any more – mainly because it takes me ages to find anything I normally have in a menu under either administration or preferences. And often they aren’t there, and I have to go hunting for the command-line commands to invoke them. Unity is just as bad. The most significant thing that was missing from Unity in any place obvious was Network Manager. This usually sits on my top panel, and loads and logs in to the network automatically. Back in the good old days. On LXDE, at least it was on the bottom panel, and behaved like it used to. But now, in Unity, I had to hunt the damn thing down, and invoke it, just to sign on.
I searched around the net, and found a suggestion of un-installing and installing again. I tried a re-install in Synaptic, but it still did the same when I rebooted, it just wasn’t in the panel. Then I came across a rather interesting approach to what do about Unity. I forget where I found it, but it is a rather graceful solution:
sudo apt-get install gnome-panel
With that small command, most of my problems with Unity were gone. I could reboot, and once more select Classic, and back into a fairly usable gnome environment again. I have lost the menu that was so useful before for administration/preferences, but at least I could get at the stuff I needed in a way I was used to. And, I could drag applications from the menu and pin them to the top panel again, so I don’t have to go through the menus for the most used applications. The network-manager applet was on the top right of the panel where it has always been, and I can do my alt-tabbing, have 4 desktop sessions if I want, and everything is pretty well back to normal.
Apart from the translation packages, which seem to throw up the same errors as they did with Mint, so I’m guessing the problem is in Ubuntu 11.10, and Mint 12 has inherited it. Never noticed it in 11.04. So, looks like Ubuntu has screwed up again somewhere – certainly the networking is not working as smoothly as it had done for some time. I did think they were getting much better since around 6/7 when I first tried them – but now I am not so sure. I don’t trust them any more. Especially with Unity, which I had been looking forward to initially, as an alternative (rather than complete replacement) desktop.
Firefox is acting a bit weird – the control buttons on the top right hand corner are missing. On Chrome they are in the right place. Who ever thought it was a good idea to mirror the control buttons – putting them on the top left? I guess if you write right to left it might make some sort of sense. I don’t. A bit of delving showed that all windows with a top bar have that bar missing, and with it the mx/min buttons. I fiddled around to try and get this back, but it seems to be a feature implemented with UNE to try and reduce the space windows took up. It isn’t insurmountable, means selecting a menu to close or minimise windows. I looked into it, and there’s a whole range of helpful suggestions that include activating Compiz rather than Metacity and installing Gnome 3 shell. Of course, none of the helpful suggestions actually work, least of all installing Gnome 3 shell, because that doesn’t have the maximise and minimise buttons anyway. You can add them via the configuration manager – but that makes no difference whatsoever either. The annoying thing is that if I switch the window to full-screen mode, the window bar and max/min/close buttons do appear briefly and scroll off the top of the page – and can be accessed by pointing the cursor to the top so they scroll back into view. But, when using the window as a window that is not in full-screen mode, there is no obvious way of getting at the buttons. I could waste more time hunting down half-arsed suggestions on-line about how to fix this, but which won’t, or hold on for six months in the hope that somebody can be bothered to address some of these issues, but probably won’t. So, it is starting to look like even the netbook is going to lose the once beloved Ubuntu soon, to be replaced by Mint 12.
I think what galls me most is having spent time getting to work with Ubuntu & Gnome 2 comfortably, and liking it, I have to throw it all out of the window. Of course, I could just leave the older version of Ubuntu running, updating regularly as long as that version is supported, and letting it eventually limp along in the same way XP did for a few years at the end. But that sort of prospect is not what attracted me to Linux, to be honest. Or, I could stop being lazy and get back under the hood and fix the things that irk me myself – but if I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t be using Ubuntu anyway, I’d use Debian or Fedora.
My advice to anybody wanting to try Linux from now on will advise caution. You get what you pay for. Buyer beware.
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