Adventures with Ubuntu Edgy Eft

A week or two ago I was at Frys and came across The Official Ubuntu Book. I've heard a lot about this flavor of Linux lately and thought it was high time I started working with it.

The book comes with Ubuntu's "live DVD", basically a bootable disc that allows you to try out Ubuntu without going through an install process or even touching your existing OS. What a brilliant idea! The only catch is that you obviously can not update, save preferences, etc. so after playing with it that way for a little bit I wanted to install it onto my HD. This proved to be a little bit harder because of my hardware. I am running a SATA raid and had my WinXP install setup on SATA ports 0 and 2 on a RAID 1. I installed Ubuntu onto a new HD on port 1. Unfortunately the install process put the GRUB boot manager onto my port 0 HD, making both WinXP and Ubuntu unlaunchable.

The fix for this is fairly simple... You pop in your WinXP CD and repair via a fixmbr command. Unfortunately, again, my SATA raid was an issue. WinXP setup needed a driver for that and stupidly enough, it would only read drivers from a floppy. I had no floppy drive (who does these days?) Ugh. I've heard you can hack the WinXP scripts and burn a new CD to use, but instead I bought a $12 floppy drive from Frys and added it to my rig. I'll try to think of it as old school charm...

After getting XP back, I swapped around my SATA drives, putting the XP drives on ports 1 and 2 and putting the Ubuntu drive on port 0. I then ran a fresh Ubuntu installation on that drive and finally all was well. I now have a dual boot WinXP/Ubuntu machine.

The above hardware obstacle course aside, my next small hurdle was getting the native nVidia driver installed and working with dual monitors. I'm no n00b when it comes to Linux and such, so editing config files and installing packages was not a huge deal, but I can see where Ubuntu would still scare away the average desktop user. Bookmark this page: http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Ubuntu_Edgy it will quickly become your best friend. Especially if you want to make Ubuntu really pretty and useful via Beryl and Automatix.

Setting up and running jMonkeyEngine in Eclipse was a lot easier. In fact, it seems like jME runs slightly faster when I boot into Ubuntu then when I boot into WinXP on the same box. Hard to say though. One problem I faced was that the 256M default allocated to Eclipse was too small to compile jME. Bumping that up via command line args to 1GB helped (probably could be smaller, but I had plenty of memory so I figured might as well...)

/usr/bin/eclipse -vmargs -Xmx1024M

The other problem I've found is the resolution settings it detected with my setup. I'm running dual widescreen lcd monitors on an Nvidia 7800 GTX and the only rez choices I'm offered in the default settings splash are 2048x768, 2560x1024 and 3360x1050. Hand changing the cfg file to read 800x600 works fine though. We'll have to do something to make that work a bit better.

Here's a pretty screenshot of water running across both monitors at 3360x1050:



Overall, I would say Ubuntu is the easiest, prettiest, most capable Linux distribution I've ever used. A few warts still remain, but I can definitely see myself using Ubuntu Edgy Eft (the codename of the current release) as my main home operating system.

1 comment:

Christer Edwards said...

I'm glad you found some help at the ubuntu guide. You should also definitely check out ubuntuforums.org and ubuntu-tutorials.com

Also, if you enjoy Edgy Eft you'll love Feisty Fawn, due for final release April 19.