Well at least that’s the quote I’ve seen kicking around. In a fit of ‘new things technical’ over the weekend, I erased 10.5 from my G4 PowerBook (I’m sorry Apple, but if you think Leopards performance on the G4 is acceptable, there are at least 2 owners here who would heartily disagree) and decided to stick the Hardy Heron Ubuntu beta on it instead, having been superficially impressed with it in a quick show and tell with Frank on Friday afternoon.
So this quickly turned into a bit of a frustration. Having erased Kubuntu from my now Windows XP SP3(!) Dell laptop (oh so much happiness after Vista), I still feel I need a Linux platform to play on and I have issues with VMware Server (version 1 doesn’t seem to be able to bridge my WLAN connection and version 2 beta is .. dire quite frankly to the point of non-functionality).
The actual installation on to the PowerBook was fine, although booting from the LiveCD it was obvious that my wireless card was not supported ‘out of the box’. Ploughing ahead anyway, I wiped the system and booted back into a very refined Gnome interface (I never thought I would end up back in Gnome, but KDE is turning into a train wreck of a window manager). It certainly looked pretty, but the differences between well supported x86 architechture and Apple’s former PowerPC favourites quickly became clear.
There is *no* out of the box support for the PowerBook wireless. In fact getting it to work was quite the exercise in frustration. The procedure is mildly different from Gutsy (and in fact better) but nevertheless not that easy to find. I managed to get it working for, hmm, about 1 boot. Since then it has refused to work. It can’t even see half the wireless networks that my Dell can – and has great difficulty authenticating with my Linksys router (mind you my PDA also struggles with this). However this leaves me at the mercy of a wired connection, and I’m sorry – I have laptops precisely because they’re portable and it annoys Harriet less to have me in the room with her nerding rather than in the spare room nerding.
Then the other problem start to become appparent. The keyboard backlighting functions are broken, not just the fancy dimming functions – but the caps lock key. The single mouse button is a hindrance beyond belief (which it just isn’t in OS X despite a large number of context sensitive right click operations available). The screen dimming buttons make X extremely unstable. It’s impossible to install OpenOffice.Org currently from the repositories. The machine itself is running hot – and believe me this machine got hot under OS X but it’s managed to iron a nice flat depression into my sofa cushion with Ubuntu on it. Oh and there’s absolutely no support for the ATI Radeon Mobile chipset in it – so no compiz-fusion for me, or at least no way I could see to make it all hang together.
I appreciate that some of these issues might be related to the fact it’s a beta release, but it seems that PPC owners (especially laptop owners) are getting short changed. I’m sure this would work great on a desktop with an NVIDIA card in, but for me having this installed without using any of the joyful, full functionality of the laptop is just plain wrong to me.
It’s a shame, because as a distribution I still think Ubuntu is by far and away the best desktop Linux for those of us for whom compiling systems is just not fun anymore (yes I did used to do it.. 13 years ago!). It’s been rock solid as a server platform for us on x86 and x86-64 (mind you I can happily say that about RHEL4 as well, I just dont like it as much).
10.4 goes back on the PowerBook tomorrow as a) I no longer have 10.5 media and b) it’s faster. Strange how downgrading from the latest OS releases has suddenly become a necessity for me! A shame I lack a dedicated Linux platform to play with though. Maybe I should just get another laptop…..