Monday, October 1, 2012

Ubuntu 12.04 on macbook pro

I'm a long time linux user, I installed my first distro in 1994, it was slackware and required a bunch of floppies and was a fairly painful process. Over the years, I migrated from slackware to redhat and finally settled on Ubuntu as my "daily driver". Every computer in our house (a server, three laptops, and two netbooks) is currently funning a flavor of Ubuntu and I decided to give setting up my work machine (macbook pro) with Ubuntu. The big reason I like Ubuntu is that they are doing a good job of making an operating system (OS) that finds a great balance between "you can do anything you want" and "I just want it to work". Ubuntu has thousands of free software packages that are tested and verified to work that will install with the click of a button. Windows and OSX are so far behind in this regard as to not even be contenders. While there is a little more technical knowledge necessary to get Ubuntu up and running, it typically has so many rewards in the richness of free software that it vastly outweighs the negatives.

I downloaded ubuntu 12.04 LTS, burned the cd, then against all warning and my better judgement, started the install on a train ride home (about 1 hour 20). Note, the installer tells you to be "plugged in", but like a kid with a new toy on Christmas day, I just couldn't wait. The install didn't quite finish, so I closed the lid, a little disappointed, and thinking I was certainly going to be in for an adventure the next morning (perhaps even having to reload my entire machine). The next morning, while waiting for the train, I opened the lid of my mac and unbelievably, the install continued where it left off! One thing I will note is that I did have a wireless internet connection by tethering with my cell phone. Also, for non computer geeks, I would not recommend this technique at home... recovering a machine from a failed OS install can be a horribly frustrating activity and is not recommended for the faint at heart. My recommendation is, if the installer tells you to do it while plugged in, DO IT! That having been said, Kudos to the installer team, I was frankly amazed.

After the install finished, I poked around a little and while the display seems a little less smooth, my machine seems to be functioning well. I will note a couple of gotchas I'm working through right now:

Two finger scroll doesn't work out of the box.

Going to mouse preferences and selecting "two finger scroll" enabled this. I'm not sure why this isn't the default, maybe windows trackpads don't do this out of the box and it was thought it would be confusing?

The trackpad registers touches unexpectedly

This is a beef I've had with Ubuntu for a while on other laptops, the track pad doesn't seem to disable quickly enough when I'm typing and occasionally my mouse pointer will find it's way to the top of my screen. In perusing the documentation, it appears there are some workarounds to make this less of a problem... I'll continue to investigate.

Gwibber seems broken when hooking to facebook

When hooking Gwibber to my facebook account, it seems to not work. There is a bug reported and confirmed right now and I can only assume it will be fixed shortly. Frankly as this capability didn't exist with my Mac (without installing more software) I'm not going to mark it as a serious problem, but I hope to get this working soon.

In my first hour of use (I'm writing this post in ubuntu on my mac on the train right now)l these are the only minor issues I've noted. For any self respecting linux user who really likes Mac hardware, I'm going to highly recommend this as the time to make the switch.

More to follow...