Here’s some more red meat for all you Linux fans to chew me up over. My Lenovo T60p laptop here at work continues to be annoyingly unstable and I can’t seem to figure out what the cause is. I’ve gone as far as to completely re-install Ubuntu adding in only the bare minimum of extra stuff to get it operational and yet it’s crashing to a black screen, which requires me to power off the machine to get it running again, upwards of 5 to 8 times in a day. In the two hours I’ve been here this morning I’ve had to reboot it four times and that’s just unreasonable. These crashes occur in one of two ways: 1) simply browsing the web and 2) logging out at the end of the day. And, before you ask, I have Desktop Effects totally disabled. The two things beyond the basic install that I put on were 1) ATI’s graphic drivers with the Catalyst Control Center and 2) Adobe’s Flash player. That is it.
I installed the ATI drivers because it’s the only way to get Ubuntu to work properly with the 22” HP monitor I have hooked to the docking station. The built-in screen resolution utility with the default drivers absolutely will not detect that I have two displays (laptop and external monitor) attached, though it will kind of clone the display to the second monitor. Nor will it let me set the external monitor to a resolution higher than what the laptop screen will handle. And I installed the Adobe Flash software because the other two options are not fully compatible and everything I’ve read says that version 9, which I’m using, should work just fine with Ubuntu. My guess is that there’s something wonky with the ATI drivers, but there’s nothing in the way of alternative drivers that works properly with the setup I have here. Again I freely admit that my lack of Linux knowledge is a contributing factor to my troubles, but it really shouldn’t be this hard to get a stable system that actually does what it’s supposed to do with so little extra crap added to the box. Every now and then I’ll get lucky and Firefox will just quit for no apparent reason—no error messages, no “this application has to be shut down” dialogs, just gone—and I won’t be able to launch it again until I figure out how to kill the process or reboot the system, but those are rare compared to the black-screen-of-death crashes I’ve been getting.
I read an article recently that said Microsoft should be worried about Ubuntu because it “out Vista’s Vista” and I had to laugh. Here’s the relevant snippet:
Well Steve you forgot your biggest threat so far, forget Apple for the moment, they have a few problems of their own to worry about before they are any real threat, Google is so far in front of you at the moment that they possibly dont even consider you a threat yet and Yahoo, well the further you distance yourself from that, the better, you really need to worry about Linux, and Ubuntu in particular as the current version called Hardy Heron out Vista’s Vista. It out performs Vista on the same hardware and it works right out of the box without a drama, the inclusion of Wubi, thus giving it the ability to install within a folder on a Windows machine, yet run as a complete OS without having to fiddle with boot loaders and such will give a lot of die hard Windows users a look at just what Vista should have been, and maybe turn them towards open source.
Not from my experiences it doesn’t. I’ve been running 32 bit Vista Business Edition for quite some time now and it has been rock solid stable. Certainly much more stable than Windows XP was and a helluva lot more stable than even a minimal install of Ubuntu has been. Useless as it is I can enable full desktop effects on Vista without worrying if it’s going to crash my system, not true on Ubuntu 8.04. I can install the proper video drivers for my video card and access all the features without having to worry if it’ll make my system unstable. I can install Adobe’s Flash player and not have to wonder if it’ll make my system unstable. “Works right out of the box without drama”? From what I’ve seen it is to laugh. This became even more glaring to me when I consider the fact that literally all I do on my work machine 99% of the time is run Firefox. Compare that to my Vista box which I not only browse the web with, but edit videos, play system taxing 3D games, playback music, and a whole host of other much more intensive applications.
Let me reiterate that this may be entirely the fault of my own personal ineptitude at using Linux, but it seems like it’s a lot harder than it should be. Perhaps it’s the laptop I’m trying to run it on. I’m told that some Lenovos don’t play well with Ubuntu, but I don’t have a choice in the matter as it’s a work machine. The odd part to me is that I have two Lenovos sitting here – the aforementioned T60p and an older T43p – and Ubuntu works just fine on the older laptop, but then I hardly touch the older laptop during the day so it spends most of its time idling. I also haven’t installed anything extra on the older machine as compared to the two things I installed on the T60p. Is the message I’m supposed to take away from this that Ubuntu is great so long as you can live with the default install and hardly ever use the damn thing? That wouldn’t work for me because I’m an unabashed tinkerer. I’m always trying out new software and new things on my hardware. Am I foolish to expect that the OS should know how to handle dual monitors without barfing all over the place? Is it really too much to ask for a simple hardware interface that doesn’t require poring through obscure text files to change system settings in hopes it’ll solve the problem? Google searches turn up no end of suggestions all of them providing differing changes to be made to various system files and none of which seem to solve the problem. The point I’m trying to make, again, is the fact that I’m considered a “Computer Professional” and I’m having a hard time. Do you really think Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular can really steal Microsoft’s crown with the average computer user if I’m having this much trouble?
Let the gnashing of teeth begin.