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Why Ubuntu Netbook fails in real life


On paper, Ubuntu Netbook Edition looks great. I mean, what's not to like? It's got a sexy launcher, a lean and mean footprint, fast boot times, ... and it's free!

So, I decided to take the plunge. I didn't use a virtual machine to just "review it," though. I actually took an old Acer Aspire 1650 laptop -- which was running XP -- and switched it to Ubuntu Netbook Edition.

Installation was a breeze. I just fired up Wubi right from XP and within an hour the whole thing was downloaded and installed. It was also installed in such a way that I could uninstall it from within Windows later (and boy, am I glad I did it like that).

At first glance, the system holds a lot of promise. The launcher is very nice; the default applications are cool, too.

However, when you start trying to get something done, that's when FAIL sets in.

I tried to do something very, very simple: connect to a Windows share. That's all. Okay, so I go and read the Help. Help sends me to a menu that exists on Ubuntu Desktop but not on Ubuntu Netbook. I figure it out anyway (the "connect to server" command in Nautilus).

After fumbling around for the command, I finally manage to connect to the share! Yay! Now, I want to rename it. I right-click its entry in the Nautilus side pane, select "rename," and edit the name. I hit Enter and nothing happens. The name stays just as it was.

Okay ... I try again, to no avail. It's simply useless. When I go to the Bookmarks menu and try to rename it from there, the new name appears already! I rename it again anyway, and now it does work.

That's fine. I've had enough for a while, so I set the computer to sleep. When I come back to it, it won't boot correctly; graphics do not redraw on the screen, and the whole thing is frozen.

I switch to a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+F1) and try to figure out what's up. At this point, so many error messages are popping up that I cannot even see what I am typing. Switching to another terminal does not help; the error messages just follow me. It's actually the same message about a video card problem, again and again. Yes, I know there's a video card problem, thank you. Despite typing my username and password, it won't log me in. I try root, but there's no joy. Okay, I need to physically shut down the computer and cold boot it.

I boot it up and discover that it now requests both the Wi-Fi password (without a checkbox for "remember password") and the password for the network share again (also without any way to save it).

I enter the two passwords, and then I try to figure out how to mount the network shares permanently so that I don't have to enter the password again with every boot. I know I can fire up nano and manually edit fstab, but I want to see what the Ubuntu guys have in store for novice users.

And the answer to that, my friends, is apparently nothing. There was no simple way to permanently mount a network share; I searched throughout the system and the docs for quite some time, and I came up with nothing.

That is just one example, but it's a real scenario. Utter fail, Ubuntu. Thanks for letting me uninstall quickly, Wubi. Let's hope CrunchBang Linux (which we've looked at before) will be better for this aging Acer laptop; at least it doesn't pretend to be "for dummies." I'll let you know once I try it out.

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Tags: linux, netbook, operating systems, OperatingSystems, oss, ubuntu