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.

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