Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"upgraded" to ubuntu precise pangolin

well, i skipped oneiric (11.10) all together, so straight to precise (12.04) from natty (11.04). calling it an upgrade is a huge misnomer. in a lot of ways it's good, but it's like switching from a nice car to a nice boat. or a giraffe ... i'm a programmer and spend most of my time in netbeans, gnome terminal, chrome, and i run a command line internet radio app and use google voice as my phone. i run everything full screen and start it all from the command line

so for me, all i really need the UI to do is show me what's happening with the computer and easily control it. i want to see cpu frequencies, load and temp; pulse audio volume and routing (speakers vs usb headset); switch between windows and workspaces; open a terminal with a keystroke and maximize windows (avoid the mouse as much as possible)

this isn't a review or even a rant. just need to keep track of some of the things that i used with natty that i haven't found good substitutes for yet. the big change with (oneiric and) precise is unity. i'm still not sure if it's a window manager or what exactly. but gnome-panel no longer works which was everything i needed in a UI. they've replaced it with some hybrid menubar / indicator area. which saves a bit of vertical - would be cool if i wasn't running my 1900x1200 in profile, ie rotated :)

ported from panel:
- indicator-multiload -- shows graphs of cpu, memory, net and disk usage in the notification area
    apt-get install, run it, add it to the "startup applications"

- indicator-cpufreq -- displays and allows control of cpu scaling and governor
    actually better than the gnome panel applet (sets freq for all cores, not just one)
    doesn't include the cpufreq-selector, which allowed (easy) command line control of the cpus

- pulse audio mixer applet (allows easy routing of pa sources and sinks)
    pavucontrol seems like the only "easy" way to control audio routing, but it's not even close to pama
- indicator-sysmonitor (available for 11.10 but not 12.04)
    some hack to make it work in 12.04 (not sure what that script is doing)

subpixel ordering:
  gsettings list-keys org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings

  gsettings range org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings rgba-order

  gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings rgba-order rgba

workspace switcher applet
my folks like to be able to switch workspaces using the mouse. in gnome2 you could do this in one click with the workspaces applet. unity requires 4 actions, ie bring up the launcher, click the workspaces icon, click on the workspace that you want to switch to, and (if that workspace has multiple windows open) click on the window that you want. ridiculous. and the zoom effect makes me nauseous too boot

can no longer control the arrangement of workspaces. i used to use 3 in a single row. not possible anymore. to control the number of workspaces use:
  gconftool-2 -s /apps/metacity/general/num_workspaces --type int 4
which will give you 4, in a 2x2 grid. i think it always uses 2 rows

one of my machines my parents use and they like it to automatically log them in. this seems to be broken with lightdm - if i enabled automatic login then i was unable to shutdown or restart with any of the graphical controls ("shutdown -h now" still worked). to work around this, i switched to gdm and used the "timedLogin" option. note: gdm used to have an "automaticLogin" and that appears to be broken and cause gdm to terminate silently (only took me 6 hours to track that down)

machine with an asus m2a-vm-hdmi mainboard had problems with mouse jerkiness. seems to be that the driver is constantly probing for a monitor, gets back garbage cause there's nothing there and spams the syslog, which somehow triggers all sorts of issues. it's a radeon x1200 (or x1250, not sure) integrated video card and i'm using the radeon open source driver. adding "radeon.modeset=0" to the kernel command line options seems to have corrected that problem

one thing that is a real pain with unity is that it's not obvious what anything is. with gnome, you could for the most part right click on anything and get an about dialog or see the path of the program the icon represented (ie ran). for the most part, the unity UI is a black box. it does stuff, but you can't easily see the mappings. in the panel you could click on an indicator and move it, remove it, add a new indicator. not so in unity (that i've found so far)

in spite of all that, i'm pretty impressed with canonicals execution with unity. it's a major change, and for the most part, things "just worked". my laptop has seen a significant decrease in power usage. the HUD notifications are improved. dash is bizarre but looks cool. pulseaudio still works. i think they're on the wrong track in terms of trying to simplify things at the cost of configurability. instead they should be working towards making existing things more consistent, and make it straight forward to discover what is going on. but given the path they chose, they've executed reasonably well

interesting ... the netbeans editor seems to be *much* faster after the upgrade. have only used it for a few minutes, but it seems dramatic. more testing / using tomorrow


Anonymous said...

consider Linux Mint (only when built atop ubuntu LTS)

seth/nqzero said...

i'm interested in trying mint. what's the easiest path to "upgrade" from an ubuntu install ?