Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Ubuntu isn't perfect, but it's damn close

I have everything working on my new MacBook Pro. I installed Ubuntu Hardy (i.e. 8.04) like I mentioned in the previous post and after using it for a few weeks for my day to day tasks I can honestly say that it's 99% there.

I've discovered a few annoying issues that are slowly being worked on by the Linux community at large and I hope will fix my problems once they release the new version of these applications.

Which applications are causing problems? Well the two worst issues are the ones that unfortunately I think are quite important. One is something I need to have for daily use - a softphone. Now there are several applications out there: Ekiga and Twinkle are two of the Open Source ones that are available for install - Ekiga being the default. However I found that there were a few times where they didn't work. When I used Mac OS X I would use X-Lite, then I discovered Zoiper and used that instead. Well, Zoiper runs on Linux too, so I've installed it as well to test. I also found WengaPhone which I installed and tested too.

The reason for testing all these applications is that I would always encounter a problem or on a different application, a different problem. On Twinkle, my audio drivers would not work if some other audio application (or itself) crashed. With Ekiga, I couldn't get it to work over the VPN. I tried different settings and maybe I missed something, but on a VPN it doesn't work. With Zoiper - I thought that being on a familiar application I would be able to troubleshoot it better and get it to work. Well, that didn't work either. I also tried WengaPhone which worked much better, but had the same problems as Zoiper - the audio would sometimes fail and I wouldn't be able to hear or talk to anyone. I think this may be due to the applications being 32 bit while I'm on a 64 bit installation. I have the compatibility libraries - including sound, but still no go.

Anyway - while I'm in the office I'm going to use Twinkle and just have to reboot if the audio driver fails (what a pain.) A possible solution which I haven't tried yet is finding a way to reload or reset the audio drivers. If you have an idea of how I can do this easily, let me know. I may just have to script the rmmod, insmod for the sound modules.

The other issue that I have is related to the wireless connectivity. At home I setup my wifi to use WPA+WPA2 for protection. I was able to get our wifi printer on the network, our Nintendo Wii and the two other computers. My MacBook Pro on Unbuntu sees the network requests the key and then doesn't do anything. It seems to connect to the network, but doesn't get a DHCP address. I've tried using a static IP address, overwriting Network Manager, but that worked once and then stopped working. I even had created a profile for "home" so I could just toggle that and have a static IP at home... but nothing!

For now I'm tethered via a network cable. Not the best solution, but it'll have to do until I find a solution.

By the way, I did disable the WPA+WPA2 settings and went with JUST WPA and then with JUST WPA2, but in both situations I had the same problem that I don't quite complete the connection and don't get an IP address from the router's DHCP server and I can't get the static IP address to work either.

Anyway - all in all - I'm very pleased with my Ubuntu installation.

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