Dear Kubuntu... it doesn't have to be this hard

I spent this past long weekend hammering my head on the desk while fighting Kubuntu. I’ve got an old MA401 Netgear wifi card on my Vaio 540grx and it’s without fail a headache every time I try to use Linux on the box. You’d think I’d have learned by now and just replaced it.

Anyway, once I gave up - initially it detected the card, let me set all the iwconfig stuff in the gui and looked like it was on the very verge of working - I got the wired lan up and ran the updates and then the MA401 started behaving properly. Since installing stuff that shows up in Synaptic is a breeze and always works, this naturally means that the stuff I want on there first is not available in the repositories. Murphy strikes again.

So, for my first great adventure, I decide that I’m going to switch KDE over to running the Baghira theme. This should be trivial, it’s just a theme, right? Yeah. First off, I didn’t have CVS installed. Then found out I needed SVN too. Then, oh my gosh, they don’t have MAKE on the install. What craziness is that? I thought installing GCC would be enough to do it, but after another 45 minutes of googling and a litany of curses I discovered you have to apt-get the build-extensions kit. Well, I was finally ready to configure/make/make install this thing. Oh, but the CVS downloaded all the stuff with a .v appended to the tail of all the file names. Apparnetly the out-of-box version of CVS is bugged. OY! So I found a package for baghira.tar.gz and manually downloaded and unpacked it. Then it would make. The install blew up though.

At this point I was about 4 hours into installing just a simple window decoration theme. Why oh why does something so trivial have to be such a royal pain? I mean, this isn’t something that needs to be optimized or compiled specifically for the system it’s going to run on. It’s just a graphical package for window borders, an icon set, and a color scheme. Why am I doing a MAKE on this thing at all?!

Now, if I were the coders for KDE, I’d just have a big button in the middle of the theme manager (which, apparently Kubuntu replaces with their own stuff anyway - why?) that says “Import theme from .tar.gz file”. It would do just what it says. I’m a big big (big) fan of objectdesktop from stardock, and their stuff JUST WORKS, ya know?
For reference, here’s how my windows box here at the office looks:
http://www.blackscienceinstitute.org/gallery/desktops/desktop_dec2005.gif

At the current rate, given my unfamiliarity with the deeper juju of linux and the sort of behavior I’ve run into thus far from this thing, my linux box might look that good in late 2006. Maybe. :-)

Oh, I just brought up a debian install on my bench machine here just to see what kernel they’re building with on stable since the 12-10-2005 update. Looks like it’s still 2.4.27-2 for i386. I am, however, impressed that debian built so smooth off the base install cd, without having to download the whole 10-cd set, hehe. Just get me to apt-get and I’m dangerous enough to get a desktop running on this thing. I’ve got the same issue here as at home too, in regards to the sound system. I’ve tried OSS and ALSA and either way it seems that only a single application can generate sound at any given time. So, if for example I have XMMS playing music then all other sounds are lost - such as the beep of an incoming IM.

This is pretty much why I’m jumping up and down with anticipation of finally being able to get myself a Mac. I want a unix machine, I’m sick of windows, and want to learn another OS… however, I want it to work in an intuitive manner and not come with a set of wrenches that are labeled “figure it out yourself, sucker.” It’s just sort of silly that the $2499 powerbook has identical stats to the $599 mac mini at the moment - so I’m waiting to see what Jobs has to unveil at Macworld next week before I start swinging my credit card around at the Apple store.

Amen.

I futzed around with Linux for quite a while before deciding that I wasn’t really as big of a computer hobbiest as I thought. Your tale of messing with OSS versus ALSA sends chills of sympathetic dread down my spine. Yeah, I remember that hell with KDE as well. I really prefer things to work out of the box, so I got an Apple for a work machine. The $2500 Powerbook isn’t really the same as a Mac mini, though. It’s a 1.67 versus a 1.25 chip with a better graphics card, more ports, a larger hard drive, a 17 inch LCD monitor, a keyboard, a mousing device, a DVD burner, and so on and so on. They aren’t at all comparable machines. This may well all change very soon now, but you’ll get what you pay for.

Kubuntu is an offshoot of Ubuntu, which uses gnome. KDE is harder to use than gnome, pretty much by design. It sounds like you’re using the wrong desktop.

As to macs and getting what you pay for… what you’re paying for isn’t performance, it’s ease of use, elegance, and for the mac mini, size and silence. This likely will not change when the intel macs come out later this month. They’ll compete reasonably well on performance (OSX is inherently slow, even on equivalent hardware) but not on price. Apple isn’t competing with dell. They can’t. Nobody can.

Well, I’ve got a gnome desktop ubuntu machine that’s been my file server and print server since hoary hedgehog came out, so I’m fairly familiar with it for that role. Does great. I just want a nice desktop for my laptop, so I thought I’d go with KDE. I’m a fool for a nice candy coated GUI, ya know. I just can’t understand why you have to compile a theme - that’s really absurd.

Now, as for the mac mini vs the powerbook.
Mini…
Processor = 1.42ghz G4 (reported 1.5’s in the wild now)
Memory = 512mb pc2700 ddr
optical drive = dvd/cdrw or superdrive for $100 more
video = ati 9200 32mb

Powerbook…
Processor = 1.5 or 1.67ghz depending on model
Memory = identical to mini
optical drive = superdrive dvdrw
video = radeon 9700 mobility 128mb

To me the processor difference is negligible. Maybe in mac-land it isn’t but in PC-land it sure is. Memory is same. Optical drive is $100 option. The only “real” difference to me is the video - and it’s kinda sad that their “high end” laptop video solution is the same one that is in my 6 year old Vaio notebook. I wouldn’t call it great.

So pretty much you take a mini, add $100 optical drive and call it a $699 machine. You’ve essentially got the same unit as the powerbook minus the screen, and with about a $2000 price gap.

I hate to break it to you but with all the Mac books out there that are being published to fill in the HUGE gaps of documentation that Apple failed to provide for end users, this is not a problem that will be solved by going to OS X. There are many different aspects of the OS that are still unintuitive to the average user, especially if you come from the Windows paradigm (a little less so if you come from using a Unix style system, under the hood wise, although the GUI probably still is very different from the big three desktops – cde, kde, gnome… Only NeXTStep has large amounts of similarities).

Fuck Mac, use Gnome.

No. A $500 Mac mini has a 1.25 chip versus the 1.67 chip on a $2500 Powerbook. Yes, that’s a big difference, whether you’re a mac person or not. The $500 Mac mini does not have built in wireless or bluetooth. That too, is a big difference. As is the difference between a 40 GB and 120 GB drive. And you had a 128mb ATI 9700 in the year 2000? I think I bought the desktop version of that card in 2003 or so and it was state of the art, so you are also incorrect about how obsolete it is. Oh yes, and the difference between the graphics cards on these two computers is also a very big deal, since you’re not going to be playing any 3d games on a 32mb graphics cards.

The whole “Macs aren’t worth the money” idea is a theme dear to the heart of Linux fans, but for the honest observer it is evident that a $2000 premium buys a lot of extra computer. This is a terrible time to buy a Powerbook, but I’d never recommend that anyone buy a Mac mini instead of a Powerbook. A Mac mini is a toy for consumers who can’t tell the difference, and a Powerbook is a capable, if aging, computer.

It’s nothing to do with linux. They really aren’t worth the money. Spec out $2500 worth of PC and tell me it isn’t way better than that mac.

That depends a lot on how you weigh the intangibles. Macs use Unix and I like the Unix-y command line and tools.

That said, I’m not going to even think about a Mac until they complete the move to x86, and maybe not for a while beyond that. But as PC gaming slides into oblivion, I will eventually switch to either Linux (I prefer SuSE) or Mac OS.

I love my 499 mac mini.

Good luck building a PC as small/silent as cheap.

( I honestly dont know if it can be done yet but I doubt it can )

I hear you. But you saw Aszurom’s post. It isn’t about the hardware as much as the software. Wireless that doesn’t require configuration, an effortless “sleep” function for laptops, universal cut-and-paste, etc. Once Linux (or Solaris, I’m not picky, I just want a Unix-like machine) gets stuff like this right it’ll be easier to hit whatever point you want on the cost-performance ladder. As it is, though, Apple has a monopoly on the consumer-friendly Unix-like market.

PCs use Unix too if you install Unix on them.

I love my 499 mac mini.

Good luck building a PC as small/silent as cheap.

( I honestly dont know if it can be done yet but I doubt it can )

Maybe you should look in the thread from like a year ago when Apple first announce the Mini, in which I did exactly that, and it was like twice as fast and had twice the RAM and twice the storage.

Well you know, you have me there. I guess there are just legions that are crying out for a version of Unix that doesn’t require any Unix knowledge or configuration or messy command prompt usage. Just immense hordes. Possibly even a dozen.

We are the 5%.

:)

Assuming you’re referring to the rough 5% of the personal computing market that uses Macs, I highly doubt that all of them, or really, even any of them, use them because they just have to use Unix but they really don’t want to bother figuring out how.

Of course they do. Some number of them have to interact with Unix servers at work, and they like having all of the tools they use for work in a portable little package they can take with them. They like having a bash shell, running ssh or ftp, sed or awk scripts, and vi, and cron jobs, and gcc, and all that crap. They like not having to go through weird contortions to have a working command-line. But then they also like having fully featured programs like Flash, or Photoshop, or Baldurs Gate II. It’s the best of both worlds, work and home, and it’s a breeze to flip between them. I still have my Windows machines for games, but I’d hate to have anything but a Mac for work.

Maybe you should look in the thread from like a year ago when Apple first announce the Mini, in which I did exactly that, and it was like twice as fast and had twice the RAM and twice the storage.

Ah ok I just did.

Its also over twice the size and twice as loud (if not more). Close though!

Also from reading that thread it has become clear that you really really hate macs.

I have plenty of Unix knowledge and I loves me the command prompt; I’d also KILL for a Linux distro that handled wireless gracefully, handled laptop sleep/hibernate without extra wrangling, etc, without my having to dork around with it, so’s I could get on with my work rather than screw around in /etc.

Then install those tools for Windows. It’s an easy download, and, shockingly, doesn’t cost $2000.

Its also over twice the size and twice as loud (if not more). Close though!

If I built that in the Antec Aria, which I probably did, yeah, about twice the size, but still really small. How small do you need a desktop machine to be, anyway? As for the noise, how are you measuring that? And you do realize there’s nothing unique about the hardware and software that make up a Mac that make it uniquely suited to being put in certain types of boxes, right?

And yes, I do really, really hate Macs.

I have plenty of Unix knowledge and I loves me the command prompt; I’d also KILL for a Linux distro that handled wireless gracefully, handled laptop sleep/hibernate without extra wrangling, etc, without my having to dork around with it, so’s I could get on with my work rather than screw around in /etc.

Well, you could set both of those up in Ubuntu in not more than two hours. Not as convenient as having it work right off the bat, sure, but it’s hardly going to stop you from getting on with your work rather than screwing around with the system.

As for the noise, how are you measuring that

I was looking at this review here…

That case has at least 2 fans and the mini only has one that hardly ever comes on. Its not a big deal really I really love this thing. The reason I like how small it is would be because It sits in a space that no PC ever could.