Ubuntu Boogaloo

I’ve long been a user of the openSUSE Linux distribution (I actually started when it was just SUSE, before Novell bought them and created the openSUSE community).  So I had already downloaded the DVD ISO for openSUSE 11.1 when I started my recent system build.  But the day before the build I saw that Ubuntu Desktop 9.04 had been released and that it was generating a lot of good reviews.  Ubuntu is based on Debian, and a couple of years ago I had used Debian on a backup system and found that I liked their package tools, so I decided to give Ubuntu Desktop 9.04 a try.  I figured that the worst that could happen is that I wouldn’t like it and that I would be able to wipe it and install openSUSE.

However, I don’t think that is going to be necessary.  I found it to be one of the smoothest installations I’ve been through in years.  It found and installed drivers for every component in the system and when it finished the final reboot the system was immediately usable.  That’s a far cry from any Linux distribution I’ve used before and better even than Windows, where I often have to install anywhere from 2 to 10 drivers after installation.  The system even included a utility to automatically install the proprietary ATI/AMD video drivers, which was a nice touch.

There is only one fly in the ointment so far.  While the system was usable, it did not correctly manage my dual displays so I ended up seeing the same image on both (stereo!).  This appears to be an issue with the ATI Catalyst 9.4 drivers.  To further complicate matters, Ubuntu Desktop 9.04 contains a pre-release version of the 9.4 drivers.  After I figured this out and applied the latest released Catalyst 9.4 drivers it seems I’m tantalizingly close but can’t quite get there.  The ATI configuration utility tells me that I have to create a second desktop to enable Xinerama, yet the desktop configuration page won’t let me create a second desktop.  It says to “drag and drop” the “objects” yet nothing will drag and drop. 

I’m continuing to investigate this one, but in the background when I have free time, which has been limited of late.

But I don’t blame the above on Ubuntu, since they don’t control the proprietary driver.  Overall I’d say that Ubuntu Desktop 9.04 has been quite polished and easy to work with.  I think it’s the first desktop Linux that I’d be comfortable giving to my Mother to use (once I’d set up everything, of course). 

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