Unbuntu 8.04

I installed the latest version of Ubuntu several days ago with great hope and anticipation. If you have read any of my posts you know that I have had three gripes with Ubuntu and Linux in general. They are:

  1. Bad support for suspend to RAM/disk.
  2. Little to no support for syncing to smart phones/PDA’s
  3. Inability to auto detect and use external monitors.

My hope was based on some things I had learned and read during the last few months. I felt I had solved the sync issue by changing the way I thought about sync and making Google Calendar and Mail the central focus of syncing instead of my PC. There are programs available to sync my ATT Tilt to Google and Thunderbird/Lightning can also sync to Google. Everything could be synced just as before but with Google as the hub.

It also appeared that better support for xrandr and other advances in Ubuntu would enable better support for external monitors. All over the web there were reports of people having 8.04 beta versions provide support for suspend/resume out of the box. My hopes for being able to return to Linux were therefore high.

So what did I find?

Suspend to RAM works, without any adjustments, with the non-free NVIDIA drivers enabled on my Latitude D820. It was a long wait, but it really works. Now you can’t set the system to suspend to Disk after it has been suspended to RAM for a set period of time, but suspend to RAM works like a charm when you close the lid. Very cool.

There appears to be absolutely no way Ubuntu will support automatically using an external monitor attached to your laptop or docking station, in fact, after a couple of hours fooling around with settings in xorg.conf and in the the Display preferences I couldn’t make an externally attached monitor come on at all, although there is plenty of evidence online that it can be done. I posted a request for information about how to configure the behavior I wanted and got one answer that suggested I write a script to make things work (and gave me the exact script to write).

And by the way, thanks to the kind soul who tried to help me. The Ubuntu community, like most of the OSS world, is full of great people.

I wrote the script, put it in /etc/init.d/, made it executable and set it to run at startup using update-rc.d. The result? Nothing, bupkis, no external monitor. Do the Ubnuntu crew not expect that users will want to connect external monitors to a laptop and have it automatically detected and used? Please.

I never got around to testing syncing with Google as the centerpiece. But I feel sure it would work because syncing to and from Google from Thunderbird works on Windows like a charm and the plugins required are not OS specific.

There is a bunch of other stuff to like (or not). I got Avant Window Manager up and working. I installed the trunk testing version which permits launcher’s only and does not mandate that the dock be a taskbar as well. I could not find any desktop widget system that really works with Gnome. Gdesklets was a bust as was screenlets, so I resorted to the tried and true Gkrellm for my monitoring needs. Works fine as always, but its just so 1999.

Thunderbird/Lightning work as well as expected and sync with Google calendar and my IMAP accounts just fine. The only problem there was that AllTray won’t work with Compiz turned on so there is no way to minimize T-bird to the tray. Bummer.

But with two out of three problems solved, I was faced with a larger question: if I solved all of the problems I have with Linux, would I have a system with greater utility than the Windows system I am currently running? About the best I could hope for is that it has the same utility and I fear it does not have that. Why less? Because it still will not run my business applications. Are these applications out of date from a programming standpoint? Yes. But do they still work as intended? Yes. Its cheaper to buy Windows than replace infrastructure programs.

So, while I would like to move back to Linux (in fact I can’t stop trying), I’m still a Windows user.