Ubuntu? Thanks. But no thanks.

Lots of people seem to be very impressed with Ubuntu, the slick new Linux distro based on Debian, running Gnome. Even my friend and colleague Piers has been bitten by the bug.

To provide balance for all the good press it’s getting, I thought I’d share my experiences. And they’re all bad, unfortunately.

Downloaded the latest release (Hoary Hedgehog) as a live CD image. Burnt to CD. Booted my Dell Latitude X200 laptop with it. No video (apart from the initial 80×25 setup screens). Even trying the VGA=771 had limited but ultimately intermittent success. On the few occasions when I did actually get a Gnome screen, it would only work in 640×480. (Knoppix, and other live CDs work fine on this laptop).

No bother, I thought, I’ll go for an install CD this time, and try it out on my trusty but recently retired old server in the basement. It’s as bog standard as you could get, and has had all manner of Linux distributions running fine on it (RedHat, Fedora, Slackware, and so on).

Four attempts at an install later, and no success in sight. Don’t ask me what the problems were, because I was so annoyed I erased them from my memory as I chucked the newly burnt CD in the bin. I was planning to put Ubuntu, with the nice Gnome interface, on to that old server, and use it to replace my mum’s ageing W98 machine. But no joy.

A shame. I really wanted Ubuntu to work. I’m sure a hell of a lot of work went into putting Ubuntu together. And I’m sure it must be me that’s doing something wrong. But I’ve installed / booted my fair share of OSes in the past (it’s a long-term hobby with me) so I wonder what it could be. I’m after the ease of Knoppix, with the slickness and completeness of Gnome. Hmm, perhaps I should have another look at Gnoppix, but it seems that they’re based on Ubuntu (now?) as well.