Ubuntu 7.10 on a Macbook: Holy Crap

I burned myself a CD of the new Ubuntu (7.10, aka “Gutsy Gibbon”) the day it came out, and tried booting my macbook into it. I got to see the new “compiz fusion” graphics for the first time (they worked out of the box on the macbook). And I got a yen to try really installing it.

After finding a copy of the now-endangered “Boot Camp” and beating it with a stick until it successfully repartitioned my drive — giving me a 5G space for “Windows” (Linux), I did an install.

I’m blown away by how much works out of the box.

  • all the simple obvious stuff like the touchpad, the screen being the right resolution, the sound working
  • Sweet Compiz Fusion graphics
  • Wifi (!!)
  • scrolling on the touchpad (though I had to do a little work to get right and middle mouse buttons working the way I liked)
  • screen brightness buttons
  • volume buttons
  • bluetooth
  • battery monitor and general power management (though I haven’t tried suspend/resume, and I’ve read there might be a problem there)

The compiz-fusion graphics give the interface the smooth aesthetic appeal that until recently was the province of the mac. Little things like shadows cast by windows and menus, that kind of thing.

There have been a couple weirdnesses. Something weird happened to the screen at one point — it magnified a bit so that I had to move my mouse around to see anything, and it stopped responding to the keyboard or mouseclicks. I didn’t know what had happened and had to restart it. And just a minute ago when I was dinking around with the compiz effects preferences, this browser window where I’m composing this post went all dark and it took a while to go back to normal. I think it was something about the app-switching animations.

If that kind of glitch is frequent, I can see it being a problem… but overall I’m blown away by Ubuntu on this machine. OS X is a really tough act to follow, but Ubuntu 7.10 does a credible job of it.

UPDATE: to get pressure sensitivity out of a wacom pad, you’ve got to do two things: uncomment a few lines at the end of your /etc/X11/xorg.conf, and have the wacom pad plugged in when you start X11. So if you plug in the pad you’ve got to restart X11 to get it to notice it and use the pressure sensitivity.

This is a lot more hassle than most things are with Ubuntu 7.10, but it’s doable, and I found out how to do it in about one minute by googling on “gutsy wacom.”

UPDATE 2: OK, I’m booted back into OS X, and I’m going to calmly step away from the Ubuntu for now. I’m not going to even consider trying to do my work in Ubuntu, because that would mean losing a day or two setting up a usable programming environment…

UPDATE 3: Just got back into Ubuntu for the first time since the last update. Decided to check out sound and video recording. Sound recording is baffling. At one point I had a very faint sound recording working but that disappeared with further fiddling. Ubuntu’s sound system and I have a bit of a history. So chalk this one up as “does NOT work out of the box.” I can’t say whether or not the built-in iSight would work out of the box, as I couldn’t find any applications in the “add/remove applications” list that would obviously be useful to test it. So chalk that one up as “if it does work out of the box, I’d never know it.”

Enthusiasm for Ubuntu fading. This despite the fact that last night (I kid you not) I dreamed about hanging around with Richard Stallman.

On Friday, OS X 10.5 comes out… Redirecting futzmonkey!

UPDATE 4: Sound recording works now, for whatever reason.  I did the sound voodoo here and selected “mic” as my “input source” in the byzantine Volume Control pane.  that same link says that as of now the built-in iSight will not work with Gutsy.

The Homework Assigned To Young Children Today Is Insane… And Pointless

Love & Money – WSJ.com:

It’s official: Parents hated homework as kids, and now they hate their kids’ homework.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the ridiculous amount of homework my son has these days — and the toll it is taking on our family time.

My inbox has since filled up with more than 1,000 emails from parents, teachers, principals and guidance counselors who unleashed a cumulative “thank you.”

Agreed. Our children got homework in kindergarten. Kindergarten. When I was in kindergarten we had nap time. Today they bring home homework.

Alfie Kohn has a few words about homework that reveal just how dismal the whole situation is:

There’s something perversely fascinating about educational policies that are clearly at odds with the available data. Huge schools are still being built even though we know that students tend to fare better in smaller places that lend themselves to the creation of democratic caring communities. Many children who are failed by the academic status quo are forced to repeat a grade even though research shows that this is just about the worst course of action for them. Homework continues to be assigned – in ever greater quantities – despite the absence of evidence that it’s necessary or even helpful in most cases.

The dimensions of that last disparity weren’t clear to me until I began sifting through the research for a new book. To begin with, I discovered that decades of investigation have failed to turn up any evidence that homework is beneficial for students in elementary school. Even if you regard standardized test results as a useful measure, homework (some versus none, or more versus less) isn’t even correlated with higher scores at these ages. The only effect that does show up is more negative attitudes on the part of students who get more assignments.

In high school, some studies do find a correlation between homework and test scores (or grades), but it’s usually fairly small and it has a tendency to disappear when more sophisticated statistical controls are applied. Moreover, there’s no evidence that higher achievement is due to the homework even when an association does appear. It isn’t hard to think of other explanations for why successful students might be in classrooms where more homework is assigned – or why they might spend more time on it than their peers do.

The results of national and international exams raise further doubts. One of many examples is an analysis of 1994 and 1999 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data from 50 countries. Researchers David Baker and Gerald Letendre were scarcely able to conceal their surprise when they published their results last year: “Not only did we fail to find any positive relationships,” but “the overall correlations between national average student achievement and national averages in [amount of homework assigned] are all negative.”

More Local Connections To National Politics

One brother in pulpit, another seeks White House – mlive.com:

David Paul never was much for politics, but the minister at a Grand Rapids church feels this year as if he has a ringside seat.

That would be thanks to his younger brother Ron, whose maverick campaign for president is upstaging many of his more staid GOP rivals.

That’s kinda cool. I think Ron Paul’s rather less promising a candidate than his horde of rabid libertarian net-nerds imagine, but at least he’s against the war. Interesting to see he has local connections.

Chris Dodd Steps Up To Defend the Rule of Law

Mr. Dodd has just distinguished himself amongst the presidential candidates.

Hmm, seems like we have some other Senators among the candidates… They could have done this… but didn’t.

The Military Commissions Act. Warrantless wiretapping. Shredding of Habeas Corpus. Torture. Extraordinary Rendition. Secret Prisons.

No more.

I have decided to place a “hold” on the latest FISA bill that would have included amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President’s assault on the Constitution by illegally providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.

I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have.

It’s about delivering results — and as I’ve said before, the FIRST thing I will do after being sworn into office is restore the Constitution. But we shouldn’t have to wait until then to prevent the further erosion of our country’s most treasured document. That’s why I am stopping this bill today.

Indicate your support for my hold as well as your thoughts on this issue in the comment section below.