* If you don’t know who or what these are, check the Glossary page.
We’ve had an interesting few days trying to get Ubuntu Studio working. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that HE* ran into trouble. Let me make a quick point about Linux distributions in general and Ubuntu Studio in particular.
HE usually tries to look at new Linux distributions from the perspective of a naive user. By naive user, I mean someone who is probably familiar with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) system like Windows™ or MacOS™, but isn’t familiar with CLI (Command-Line Interface)… in fact, may not even know what CLI is. Our position at The Robotic Frog is that if a distribution claims to be for naive users then that user should have a reasonable chance of getting it working on any mainstream, non-exotic hardware (HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc). The distribution must achieve four things: 1) The installer must be reasonably understandable and work without the need of special-knowledge intervention, 2) The software updater must work properly, 3) The recommended software / package manager must work, 4) The system must operate properly (no video or sound problems, keyboard and mouse work as expected, wireless works properly, etc). Sadly, there’s only one Linux distribution that we’ve tried that meets these criteria…and it’s not Ubuntu Studio.
Before someone decides to lynch me, let me be clear that we love Linux here at The Robotic Frog. It’s our operating system of choice and we would only grudgingly use something else. Windows™ and MacOS™ are terrific systems, but Linux continues to suit our needs best. We highly recommend it for those who have some computer experience and enjoy learning new things and tinkering. For a naive user, we recommend Linux only if they have a techno-dweeb on hand to help get things going the first time.
When we loaded Ubuntu Studio onto Whitestar and were impressed…only for the wrong reason. Based on the information at the Ubuntu Studio web site, we expected something that looked like this. I’m pretty sure that in a perfect world, it would have looked like that. This isn’t a perfect world, though. We’re using Ubuntu Studio 11.10. Ubuntu Studio apparently used Gnome2 as their GUI prior to 11.10. They are in transition from Gnome2 to Xfce as their GUI environment.
We were greeted with a screen that looked something this…which made us pretty happy. We didn’t expect Xfce, so we were surprised at first. Once we confirmed that we’d installed the correct distribution, we were in love. Xfce is our GUI of choice. This had to be a good sign. So far, we’re extremely happy with Ubuntu Studio on Whitestar. It’s running very well and has a treasure trove of creative software. All of the other applications that we consider critical are in the repositories. We had one minor glitch.
We like to listen to music with Pandora while working on almost anything else. We had Pandora playing on Whitestar as we began loading Ubuntu Studio onto Defiant*. Suddenly, the music stopped. We looked up to see what had happened. The picture of our screensaver was on the screen, but was frozen. We’ve had trouble with screensavers from time to time, so we immediately suspected it as the culprit. We tried keyboard and mouse with no response. No problem, we’ll open a terminal window and shut it down from the command-line…or maybe not. I can’t remember the last time this happened with a Linux system. The whole machine was locked up. The only way we could correct the problem was to power the machine off and reboot. (brings back memories of the ‘blue screen of death’) Once it came back up, we disabled the screensaver and haven’t had a problem since.
Getting Ubuntu Studio installed on Defiant was no problem. We were impressed. As we said in our previous post, we were concerned about a *buntu being able to maintain a wireless Internet connection due to our experience with Xubuntu. We went upstairs to the point on the LilyPad farthest from our wireless router. There, for two hours, we worked on our previous post. Ubuntu Studio maintained a rock-solid connection. We thought we were home-free.
We stream movies from Amazon.com. In fact, we stream almost all of our audio and video entertainment. It has become a rarity that RoboFrog and I watch television or DVD movies. We stream movies from Amazon.com, music from Pandora, and television from Hulu. MsRoboFrog watches some television, but if it were up to RoboFrog and myself, we’d maintain our Internet and drop the cable television altogether. (That’s also why it’s important that we have a reliable wireless connection.)
Okay, so RoboFrog and I decided to watch a movie. Guess what? Half way through the movie, we lost the Internet connection. Just as with Xubuntu, the only way we were able to reestablish our wireless connection was to reboot.
MsRoboFrog doesn’t always fully appreciate the dweebish techno-creative genius at work on the LilyPad. RoboFrog and I were trying to get the wireless working again when MsRobofrog walked by, stopped, and looked at us with that look. You know the one, right? Looking at us with slightly squinted eyes, HER head cocked almost imperceptably, SHE says, “What are you doing with all of those DVD’s?”
There must have been six of them spread across HER coffee table. “Trying new Linux distributions,” says I. SHE shook her head, gave us that other look…and without another word, went to bed. Now, I tell you this micro-story so you’ll understand the setting. There are five or six different Linux installation DVD’s on the table next to us. I’m watching MsRoboFrog as SHE walks away toward the bedroom wondering if I’m in trouble for something I forgot to do, making a mess on HER coffee table…or maybe it was simply random curiosity. HE, however, is unperturbed. HE grabs the PCLinuxOS installation DVD and says, “Hey, we know this works really well up here. Let’s load it up and finish the movie.” …and off HE goes.
Before I finish this story, let me say that we really like PCLinuxOS. It’s the only distribution we’ve tried that meets all four of our newbie criteria. The only thing that keeps us from using it is that our hardware is old and slow. It runs really well on all of our machines, but is a bit sluggish. For someone new to Linux, this would be a terrific one to try.
PCLinuxOS loaded without a hitch; we finished our movie (no problem, here, maintaining an Internet connection); and…went to bed.
There’s more to this story. I really am coming back to Ubuntu Studio…and what made the weekend so interesting. Next time…