20 Oct 2011

Coming back to Humanity, or getting Ubuntu 11.10 installed again

After some consideration and some positive results of Ubuntu 11.10 Live run, I decided to install this operating system onto my hard drive.
Because my Live USB was broken, as you can see at the end of linked post, I had to use usual fall back option - CD-RW.

I started installation right from the "Try - Install" selection screen of Ubuntu 11.10. Sure, I did not want to boot into Ubuntu again, because I already knew what was there.
Next step took me some time to complete. Ubuntu 11.10 installer checked resources available for installation. I was not connected to Internet initially and was warned about this. That's why I decided to come back, connect to my wireless network and continue. Luckily, wireless indicator was already active in the top right corner, because Ubuntu 11.10 contains the necessary firmware for Intel 3945ABG card, which my laptop has.
Strangely enough, even after initialization of WiFi and successful confirmation of all necessary resources, next question was about... Wireless networks! I don't get the point of this and would appreciate if someone would explain this one to me. Pass this step, go on...
Next few steps of Ubuntu 11.10 installer were more or less clear. All my existing partitions were assigned to mounting points. Root was assigned to partition were Salix 13.37 XFCE was installed previously. I should note here that unfortunately XFCE systems don't live long on my laptop. Reasons? I don't know.
Rest of installation process was more or less simple and slick. The only other point which I'd like to note here is that my eyebrows went up when I saw status line with GRUB-related messages. Did I ask Ubuntu 11.10 to install GRUB2? No, I did not! Why did it decide for myself? That's not a good sign of users' disrespect from such a respectable operating system.
Finally, installation was over. It actually took longer than I expected, because some parts of the system were to be downloaded.

It was obvious from the very beginning that Ubuntu occupied the hard drive. GRUB2 was definitely taken from Ubuntu - its colour scheme is unmistakable. On the positive side, Ubuntu 11.10 installer detected all my systems: WinXP, Mageia and Debian were listed along with Ubuntu itself. But on the negative side, unfortunately this version of Ubuntu still inherits error in Debian's GRUB2 which cannot properly configure Mageia start parameters. Obviously, I tried and got the usual kernel panic.
Anyway, my first boot was in my Debian system. I wanted to restore status quo and got Debian as my GRUB2 holder. While booting, I had an issue with partitions which apparently changed their IDs. I did not fix the error during the boot, but rather re-installed the GRUB2 from Debian and then manually edited fstab to have /dev/sda7 as partition ID. That solved the problem.
After some checks  - boots into Mageia and Debian - time came to try my installed version of Ubuntu 11.10.

Right after first boot, I got notification that 56 updates were already available for Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot. Of course, all of them were installed and I was pushed to another restart...

OK, now I could start configuring my new Operating System.

First of all, I decided to give a go to standard applications in Ubuntu 11.10. Gwibber, Thunderbird, Empathy... They were easy to configure. But unfortunately I decided to go away from them. Reasons? Let me explain.

  • Thunderbird. I got too much used to GMail conversation-based interface in my @darkduck.com mail both in online version and in my Android phone, that it was difficult for me to get back to linear list of e-mails. As a result, I decided to remove Thunderbird from system at all. That was an easy task in Ubuntu Software Centre. By the way, if you want an address @darkduck.com, I can give this one for you for free - just write admin @ darkduck.com. 
  • Gwibber lacks some features which I expected to see. For example, I did not find how to retweet the message. Unfortunately, Gwibber is so closely integrated into the Unity, that there was no option to remove it. I had to leave it in my system, but removed all the accounts.
  • Empathy lacks ability to work with Mail.Ru Instant Messenger, which I still need to use. The better alternative here is Qutim, which I will talk about little bit later. But fate of Empathy was similar to Gwibber. I could not uninstall it, and left inactive.

Similar to Live run of Ubuntu 11.10, Firefox was able to show videos right out of the box. Is it because necessary options were selected during the install, or because Flash was included in installation image? I am not pretty much sure, but does it actually matter?

Unfortunately for me, Chrome decided not to install in Ubuntu 11.10 at all. Ubuntu Software Centre (USC) gave me Internal Error saying that file could not be opened. That was very strange and weird since it was the very same .deb file which I used during the Ubuntu 11.10 Live run. That made me to change my habits a little, and I installed Chromium instead. Chromium is listed in USC and was installed without any issue.
When I tried to create Application shortcut from Chromium, it was done without any issues. Positive change since my experience in Live run, isn't it?
What I did not like though is that Launcher still groups items even when I'd like to see them separately. The best example here is my e-mail "application shortcut" and normal instance of Chromium. I would prefer to see them as 2 separate items on the Launcher, but was able to see only one. Moreover, windows are even grouped in Alt-Tab window switcher, and I was only able to see full list of them after pressing the arrow button.
Another small issue is about message counter in Gmail-based darkduck.com mail service. Chromium item on Launcher does not show number of new messages, which is very useful feature I always use.

Next in the list was Skype. It requested access to oneiric-partners repository of Ubuntu 11.10, which I believe is fair enough. Once access was granted, Skype was installed successfully. Nice change from Ubuntu 11.04, Skype now correctly correctly places its icon onto the top panel.

I was pretty happy to find my favourite Internet Messenger Qutim in Ubuntu repository straight away. It is my favourite because it suppports Mail.Ru Instant Messenger system "out of the box". Another messenger with this support is Pidgin, but it requires additional plugin to be installed. Unsurprisingly, Qutim was successfully installed in my Ubuntu 11.10. Similar to Skype, its indicator was correctly placed on the panel.

Even though installation and general setup of Qutim and Skype went without major issues, I found that these programs are not so easy to restore from minimized status. Neither right nor left click on panel icons helps. If Skype has "Activate" option in right-click menu, same is not valid for Qutim. In other words, I am slightly disappointed by Unity/Skype/Qutim integration in this area.

To finalize set of my "must have" applications, VLC and GIMP were installed. Of course, no issues here again.
VLC plays MP3 and Chromium plays Flash
videos on YouTube in Ubuntu 11.10
Like in Live run, Russian keyboard layout was activated successfully in my Ubuntu 11.10 installation.

To do my most important check in Ubuntu 11.10 operating system, I had to install additional package in USC. This is smbfs, which is responsible for ability to mount network Samba partitions (cifs). Once it was installed, I only had to create directory for new network partition and add record into fstab. Command sudo mount -a did all the necessary job and my network drive was mounted correctly straight away.

When all my installations and some uninstallations were finished, I had to finalize my network unmounting check. The best option here was to reboot. And it was completed within reasonable time, without any cifs-related error messages. Proven - it works!

If you are subscriber to this blog, you should remember that my laptop Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 has semi-hardware controls for brightness and volume.
How did my newly installed operating system Ubuntu 11.10 work with laptop-specific control elements? Unfortunately, not better than most of OSes I have tried so far on this laptop.
Brightness controls Fn-F7 and Fn-F8 work correctly.
But volume controls Fn-F5 and Fn-F6 drive system mad. They hanged the system when I tried to change volume using these buttons. Ubuntu was not responding to mouse clicks and almost any keys. The only option to save it from full reboot was to restart X-server via Ctrl-Alt-Backspace key combination. Not very good for me.

Finally, I would like to mention that Ubuntu 11.10 system was quite heavy on resources. It was not unsual to get delays for longer time than I used to see in other systems. Also, memory and swap usage were quite high.

What is my overall impression of Ubuntu 11.10? I'd say it is not bad in general. It definitely got better and more user-friendly than Ubuntu 11.04. Yes, there are some points I still can't get used to:

  • Application grouping on Launcher and Alt-Tab switcher
  • Message counter not visible on Launcher
  • Terminal window is not available from nautilus File Manager
  • Applications which are minimized to tray are not so easy to restore (Skype, Qutim)
  • Issues with semi-hardware buttons (usual for all Linux OSes I've tried)
  • High system load

But despite these facts I think I'll keep Ubuntu 11.10 on my hard drive for some time. Maybe I'll get used to new Unity interface and its features.

In the mean time... if you want to try in Ubuntu 11.10 yourself, why not order CD with this Operating System via Buy Linux CDs service?


  1. Good review. BTW it's "Gwibber" not "Gwibbler".

  2. @Jonquil:
    Thanks for pointing this out! Fixed.

  3. In regards to Thunderbird, there is an add-on for gmail style conversations... https://github.com/protz/GMail-Conversation-View/wiki :) I actually use both Thunderbird and Evolution in Ubuntu 11.10. Funny thing is, I never cared for Evolution, it always seemed restrictive, in some things at least, but its matured over the years and now I like it enough to use it on a daily basis... :)

  4. @MAS Geeks ERP AZ:
    Could you please provide a link to the TB extension. I could not find it.

  5. There`s a envelope icon on my panel and when I right-clicked on it, the second option was Google Mail, which is Gmail. I entered my gmail address and password and it was good to go.

  6. Never mind, lol. I`m using Voyager Linux, an Xfce-based 11.10.

  7. Unity has definitely improved, but I've switched over to LXDE on Lubuntu. It's not perfect, but it's the closest supported thing to Gnome 2 that I can find.

  8. @Shergill Games:
    Why not XFCE?

  9. wifi is showing unavailable in Ubuntu 11.10 whereas it's working fine in 11.04

  10. @Anonymous:
    I had similar issue with version 10.10 -> 11.04.
    The reason was that driver was blacklisted for some reason. Check if it your case.
    I wrote about this here: http://linuxblog.darkduck.com/2011/05/fighting-with-ubuntu-1104-unity.html