Ubuntu across the board

My experiment with Ubuntu on two other computers have gone very well, so I bit the bullet over the New Year's holiday (while recuperating from my intercontinental trip) and migrated to Ubuntu on my right arm machine, my Dell Inspiron 8600.

Setting up the laptop proved trickier than the desktops, but I don't think any of my troubles were Ubuntu's fault. The first pass seemed to go well enough. It was really cool when the greeting chime came on too loud, I reached on a lark for the Dell's special software volume buttons (which had never worked under Fedora), and I saw a little volume widget dutifully cranking down the volume for me. That's the famous Ubuntu "it just works" experience.

Then the trouble began. I started to restore key files from the full backup I'd made to an external USB disk. All of a sudden I started getting "unable to write" errors. My file system was read-only. dmesg revealed the dreaded:

[4302337.674000] EXT3-fs error (device hda3): ext3_new_block: Allocating block in system zone - block = 3244032
[4302337.674000] Remounting filesystem read-only

I rebooted a few times, but the file system always found a serious error and remounted read-only after a while. I'm not alone in this. I decided a reinstall was in order. I started the reinstall, but now I started to have a problem where the install disk would boot, but then the installer would claim it could not mount the CD. Again I'm not alone (1), (2). I followed the hints that this might mean a bad install CD and burned a new one. Success this time. It occurred to me that a corrupt CD might have been the reason for the file system problems before, as well.

I resumed the backup, but I now found that the backup tar/bz2 on the USB disk was corrupted. I suspect this might have been related to the file system blow up, because I'd sanity checked the backup before nuking my laptop drive. Oh well, luckily I had a secondary backup of my most important files (my home directory) via rsync to another computer. I restored from that. My Wifi connection kept falling over as I copied Gigs of files via scp, but I got through it. I think this is just persistence of my old Intel Centrino kernel driver problems.

This time I left the install of things such as multimedia and Firefox 1.5 to Automatix, which rocks, and is one of Ubuntu's secret weapons. I've learned that it's much more predictable to install things from Automatix a small group at a time, rather than clicking every checkbox of interest and doing a mass install. The problem with this is that the checkboxes of what's being done by Automtix are not maintained between sessions. You can keep track of what you've done by checking ~/automatix.log.

We'll just have to see over time whether I ever even cast a glance back towards the Red Hat/Fedora family. So far, not a bit of that. Ubuntu impresses my socks off, and I'm glad I've made the switch.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia