Ubuntu "Breezy Badger" (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Wed, 04 Jan 2006

Ubuntu "Breezy Badger"

I installed the latest Ubuntu Linux, called "Breezy Badger", just before leaving to visit family over the holidays. My previous Ubuntu attempt on this machine had been rather unstable (probably not Ubuntu's fault -- 2.6 kernels and this laptop don't get along very well) but Ubuntu seems to have some very sharp kernel developers, so I was curious to see whether there'd been progress.

Installation: Didn't go well. I had most of the same problems I'd had installing Hoary to this laptop (mostly due to the installer assuming that a CDROM and network must remain connected throughout the install, something that's impossible on a laptop where both of those functions require sharing the single PCMCIA port). The Breezy installer has the additional "feature" that it tends to hang if you change things like the CDROM while the install is in progress, trashing everything and forcing you to restart from the beginning. (Filed bug 20443.)

Networking: But eventually I found a sequence that let me get a network-less Breezy onto the laptop, and I'm happy to report that Breezy's built-in networking tools were able to add networking after the first boot (something that hadn't worked in Hoary). Well, admittedly I did have to add a script, /etc/hotplug/pci/3c59x, to call ifup when my cardbus network card is plugged in; but every other distro needs that too, and Breezy is the first 2.6-based distro which correctly calls the script every time.

Suspend: Once up and running, Breezy shows impressive laptop savvy. Like Hoary, it can suspend either to disk or to RAM; unlike Hoary, it can do this without my needing to hack any config files except to uncomment the line enabling suspend to RAM in /etc/default/acpi-support. It does print various error messages on stdout when it resumes from sleep or hibernate, but that's a minor issue.

Not only that, but it restores both network and usb when resuming from suspend (on hoary I had to hack some of the suspend scripts to make that work).

(Kernel flakiness: Well, mostly it suspends fine. Unplugging a usb mouse at the wrong time still causes a kernel hang. That's a 2.6 bug, not an Ubuntu-specific problem. And the system also tends to hang and need to be power cycled about one time out of five when exiting X; perhaps it's an Xorg bug.)

Ironically, my "safe" partition on this laptop (a much- modified Debian sarge) mysteriously stopped seeing PCMCIA on the first day away from home, so I ended up using Breezy for the whole trip and giving it a good workout.

Hal: One problem Breezy shares with Hoary is that every few seconds, the hald daemon makes the hard drive beep and whir. Unlike Hoary, which had an easy solution, Breezy ignores the storage_media_check_enabled and storage_automount_enabled hints. The only way I found to disable the beeping was to kill hald entirely by renaming /usr/sbin/hald (it's not called from /etc/init.d, and I never did find out who was starting it so I could disable it). Removing hald seems to have caused no ill effects; at least, hotplug of pcmcia and usb still works, as do udev rules. (Filed bug 21238.

Udev: Oh, about those udev rules! Regular readers may recall that I had some trouble with Hoary regarding udev choking on multiple flash card readers which I solved on my desktop machine with a udev rule that renames the four fixed, always present devices. But with a laptop, I don't have fixed devices; I wanted a setup that would work regardless of what I plugged in. That required a new udev rule. Here's the rule that worked for me: in /etc/udev/permissions.rules, change

BUS=="scsi", KERNEL=="sd[a-z]*", PROGRAM="/etc/udev/scripts/removable.sh %k 'usb ieee1394'", RESULT="1", MODE="0640", GROUP="plugdev"
BUS=="scsi", KERNEL=="sd[a-z]*", NAME{all_partitions}="%k", MODE="0640", GROUP="plugdev"
Note that this means that whatever scripts/removable.sh does, it's not happening any more. That doesn't seem to have caused any problem, though. (Filed bug 21662 on that problem.)

Conclusion: Overall, Breezy is quite impressive and required very little tweaking before it was usable. It was my primary distro for two weeks while travelling; I may switch to it on the desktop once I find a workaround for bug 352358 in GTK 2.8 (which has been fixed in gnome cvs, but that doesn't make it any less maddening when using the buggy version).

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[ 22:43 Jan 04, 2006    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

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