Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hard experiences with Ubuntu Hardy

I already wrote about the buggy installation procedure of Ubuntu Hardy Heron. After a few weeks of using Ubuntu Hardy, I am near to throwing it off my system (!) It is simply frustrating, I seem to hit a bug every time I try to use it. The whole release is just a hodge-podge of "latest greatest" releases of software. There is no stability factor involved, the whole thing just feels like a "testing" release. I used Ubuntu Feisty and Gutsy and in fact, I was happy with Gutsy. Maybe I should reinstall Gutsy, argh.

As said, every day I find another bug in Hardy. I have a talent for finding bugs in bad software, as I was software tester in another lifetime. So, I decided to lend the Ubuntu project a helping hand and submit my bug reports to
I hit bugs dating back to as far as 2005 that were closed as invalid because the support guy said he need to have more information. I quickly found three other instances of "I need more information", while the bug report was perfectly well described and clear to me.

From the top of my head:
  • dvorak keyboard setting is not being remembered. This little bug is three years and was closed due to insufficient information. Lots of googling led me to the astonishing solution: GNOME gets its keyboard settings from Xorg. It doesn't matter what you configure (or try to configure) in the System|Preferences|Keyboard menu. The setting is really tucked away in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. Use sudo vi to change.
  • Firefox 3 is beta, and it shows. Random crashes all over the web. Reporting the bugs won't help you, they are closed as invalid because they can not be reproduced. Yet everybody is experiencing these random crashes.
  • can't add bookmark in nautilus (the GNOME file manager). It turned out that at the time, my disk was full. Nautilus didn't report the error. Ubuntu support calls this a "user error", because my disk shouldn't be full. Hmm, Linux for human beings...??
  • The hardware testing application shows text that is too long to fit in the dialog, so you can not read the text. This is absurd. Who tested this?
  • The IT8212 chip in JBOD mode is not supported. You must build your own kernel and include the right module. A quick check in launchpad shows that this is a long-standing issue with remarks in the ticket like "invalid, need more info, have you tried this with a raid box?" etc. No! I'm glad I solved this issue by myself. I feel sorry for the poor dude who didn't know to build his own kernel.
  • The "Open With" function in nautilus is weird. It shows applications in the list that are no longer installed on the system. How do you open a file with an application that is no longer installed? (Actually, I had a total of four problems with this dialog box).
  • The menu editor, alacarte, doesn't edit the System menu. Or in fact, it does, but it doesn't show this to the user, as it doesn't update the screen properly. Another "invalid" bug from the dark ages of Breezy (now in the dark ages of Hardy).
  • Rhythmbox can't handle my music collection. I have a lot of mp3's, but come on! At startup it grinds and grinds and grinds... until I get fed up with it and kill it with -9. Die, die, you bad imitation of iTunes. (Note: iTunes is not a very good music player, either. But at least it plays music).
The music player is really a story by itself. My fav music player for all time, XMMS, has been obsoleted and pulled from the distro. The player exhibited major problems (stu-stu-stutter) after a change in the Linux scheduler, and the developer went totally nuts over it, flaming around that the whole world had gone insane except for himself. Consequently, XMMS was pulled from just about any distro you can think of.
There is an XMMS2, that I tried, but ... it sucks! As a matter of fact, there are a lot of music players for Linux, and they are all kinda sucky in one way or another. Wait, wait a minute. For the moment, I'm happy with mpd and Sonata. It's kind of weird design to have a daemon and a frontend for playing music, but it's a fun little player and at least Sonata won't grind my disk to pieces when it starts. Too bad the volume control in Sonata doesn't work under GNOME, but my guess is it'll be "invalid" and "need more information" if I report this bug.

Time to take a deep sigh and conclude this blog entry. The Hardy experience has not been a fun one so far. While the system is usable if you spend your days in a Terminal window, it clearly shows deficiencies when you are actually trying to use it. The support guys are not being helpful. Granted, the OS is free and without warranty, but then don't pretend to be a good OS. Ubuntu is not for human beings. Period. The Hardy release was done just to get an Ubuntu release out the door, not to deliver a good product. It's like the Vista of open source. The more tired I get of Ubuntu, the more I love MacOS. On the other hand, Linux paniced on me a lot less often.
Ah well, maybe I should try ArchLinux. Or maybe that distro also includes crappy GNOME, Firefox beta and more untested software. I long back to the days of debian and a simple fvwm2 desktop, maybe I'll try that.