So How Can You Graphically Install Ubuntu 7.10 On Generic VGA, Anyway??

by Jon Davis 30. March 2008 21:13

I noticed in my Start menu that I had installed VirtualBox a few weeks ago. In a bored moment, I fired it up for the first time and started up the Installer/LiveCD for Ubuntu 7.10.

When I went to install Ubuntu, I got stuck right from the get-go. I couldn't click on 'Next'! The installer screen was way too large, and the high resolution VGA drivers weren't installed yet (as Ubuntu wasn't installed yet) so I couldn't change the resolution.

Classic moment of pure ludicrous idiocy here. Those Linux folks are always so smug, with such attitude, they deserve shame when they screw up this bad. Yay for corporations with coordinated QA teams!!

And yes, I did try using tab + spacebar. Got me to the next screen (time zone map), but tab doesn't work to change button focus on that screen; once the drop-down list has focus it won't let go of it with tab. 

Geek buddy says, "That's normal. Your environment can't support graphical mode installation. Graphical mode installation is for systems that can support it. Yours can't, because your VM video card isn't on the built-in drivers list."

That's crap. Hardware vendors, not OS distros, provide hardware drivers. Generic VGA @ 800x600 is a well-established minimum common standard. You install the hi-res video driver post-install; the fact that OS distros often have the driver bundled is just a bonus. Besides, I am in graphical mode!! If it's not supported because of resolution, it should say, "Sorry, you must reboot and enter Text mode to install, because in graphical mode we want to be promiscuous with your screen real estate when installing, and we don't know how to do that with your hardware." But that would still suck. Best to just scale down these rediculous installation screens! Or, at *least* set a maximum window height to the desktop and insert ugly window scrollbars if the height has max'd out.

Sure, perhaps I can track down valid hardware drivers (in this case VirtualBox drivers) and activate them somehow at runtime, just to get to the Next button. That's not the point. Sure, I can choose install in text mode. That's not the point, either. The point is that this is lunacy. If they just scaled down these windows, the user experience would have been acceptable. It's like these Linux people DEMAND and ENFORCE that you geek out just to get yourself initiated. Yet they keep bragging about how user-friendly Ubuntu and other distros like it are.

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Operating Systems | Linux

Open-Source Desktop: Giving It Another Go

by Jon Davis 31. August 2007 15:02

A week or so ago I posted a blog entry describing why I felt that Linux simply isn't the long-term answer for the need for an open-source, community-supported desktop operating system. I got some good feedback on this, as well as some not-so-helpful feedback ("here's another troll", "this goes out to everyone ELSE, not to Jon Davis, who has clearly made up his mind", etc). I also commented that Haiku looks beautiful and is quite promising since it is based on (that is, inspired by and compatible with) Be OS, which is the closest I've seen yet to an OS done right, but that Haiku won't be the answer, either, until it gets past R1, which may or may not ever happen. Meanwhile, I brought up ReactOS and how it isn't the answer, either, because if we wanted Windows we can just install Windows. (Couldn't say that about Haiku / Be OS because Be OS is no longer available.) Over the last week I downloaded the latest React OS build and ran it in VMWare. It's not nearly as far along as Haiku is, in terms of stability (not to mention the front-end aesthetic talent). Finally, one of my biggest complaints about Linux--the rediculously arcane file system layout which never seems to go away--seemed to have been resolved in Gobo Linux, until I realized that it's even worse: it's Proper Cased, and since Linux uses a case-sensitive file naming system (which sucks), that makes Gobo Linux nearly unusable for administration, having to constantly check the case of each and every letter rather than just trust that everything will be lower case.

I came across a few interesting tidbits of information since that post. I also received my old laptop from repair (replace the keyboard for a missing 'O' key), an Acer Aspire 5050 that I got at Wal-Mart about ten or eleven months ago, and I decided that since the laptop has since been replaced, before I go pawn it off I should format the drives and actually try installing Ubuntu Linux on it so that no one can say that I've only tried Ubuntu within VMWare. Unfortunately, the latest Ubuntu Live CD doesn't even boot on my newer Toshiba Satellite X205-S9359, so I couldn't even try to install it on my old laptop hard drives that were replaced. Sheesh.

Compiz-Fusion seems to be for Linux what Aero is for Windows, at least in theory. I still have not gotten it to work; "GL Desktop", which I assume is related, doesn't seem to do anything when I turn it on from the System menu. OpenGL stuff does work--I ran the OpenGL implementation of Tux Racer, worked beautifully. I tried the drivers from ATI/AMD but the stuff won't execute. Changing the Compositing option in the xorg.conf file doesn't help. *sigh* Oh well I'll keep tinkering.  UPDATE: I did get it to work, partially. At least, I get the wobbly windows. Not much else, though, like I can't get the Emerald themes to turn on. Seems there's some limitations on my video card chipset such that they disabled 3D support (even though my video chipset fully supports high-performance 3D).

Device support for Linux at install-time is improving, as are the tools for device support, but it is still an awful mess. I have never seen so many files fly across my terminal screen in my life just to try to install the ALSA audio driver. And with it installed, there's still no sound. Hello, guys? If there's no sound, the audio control panels shouldn't behave like everything's hunky dory. For the specific sound card driver I've scoured Google and Ubuntu forums regarding ALC883 support and it's clear that other people are having trouble with this sound card, so I'll have to keep tinkering with this. But that's not the point with regard to it being a mess. Scanning the forums for support, it confounds me how comfortable people are with opening up configuration files and toying with them, the only difference now is that they use gedit instead of vi. Holy cow, someone needs to give these Linux developers a lesson on UX! It has nothing to do with editing in a Windows-like editor--I have actually finally gotten used to vi, and prefer not to have to move my hand to a mouse to reach the scrollbar.

The ideal desktop operating system should not use antiquated techniques like service-proprietary configuration files, or configure / make / make install, not even if that stuff is hidden from view using some wrapper shell which in the long run only makes things more complex. In fact, compiling anything outside of a JIT'er seems rediculously arcane to me. Call it a matter of opinion, but that's one thing I really like about having a central authority (like Microsoft) to basically say this is exactly how hardware drivers should be deployed. Don't get me wrong, Windows is a mess of its own with its Registry mess, etc. But then why do you think the notion of open source desktops has gotten me curious (and critical) lately?

On that point, yes, I get it, I get that Linux's advantage is that, being an open system, it is necessary for stuff to be "recompiled into the system" but really makes me wonder why Bill Gates, rather than Linus Torvolds, is given the Borg treatment, when assimilation is done in Linux at a technical level at runtime in much the same way Microsoft traditionally did using business agreements. For that matter, what's so wonderful about a system being "open" for some source code to compile against any of its many flavors and then (crossing fingers) maybe run, as opposed to having just a few "flavors" and putting time and energy (and, yes, money) into making sure that the stuff has already been compiled, is already known to run, and will almost certainly "just work", assuming that there are no device hardware driver conflicts.

Wouldn't it be ideal if there was a cleaner pluggable hardware abstraction model that the operating system exposed and that drivers could just plug into in a cleaner fashion than the nerdy way the stuff is managed now? Isn't that essentially what a kernel is supposed to do, along with executing user-level applications? Virtual device drivers suddenly popped into my head, a la VMWare and its virtual machine and virtual devices. Abstraction is so cool. Say, why can't each basic hardware function that software expects to be able to use--file system I/O, video card / display, audio, keyboard, mouse--all be cleanly tucked into a clean API that the hardware manufacturers' drivers sit on top of, rather than vice-versa. Why can't we put them into a virtual hardware sandbox? Why can't hypervisors be taken to such an extent as to allow for physical base-level hardware to be virtualized, so that each hardware device driver "sees" a virtualized reality?

Of course, then performance and virtualization management become the huge issues.

More importantly, this isn't particularly a realistic notion since currently hardware drivers literally read/write to/from memory spaces that the kernel maps to the physical device, and execute by way of things like IRQ events. Sometimes I wonder, though, why even that shouldn't be rethought. But now I'm getting into real physical hardware design space, so it's not like I can just pull up a trusty C compiler and recompile a new motherboard. Besides, putting hardware device manufacturers into a software sandbox certainly stifles their opportunities to innovate.

Over last weekend I thought it would be cool, if naive, to actually spawn off YAOS (Yet Another Operating System), derived from nothing, but appended with virtual support for Win32 (like WINE) and Linux (like Cygwin), but inherently have its own system. After all, that is essentially what hypervisor operating systems propose to do. The difference is that it would be ideal if the hypervisor operating system itself could be a viable operating system.

VMWare ESX and Xen, being hypervisor operating systems, run on the Linux kernel variants.

Windows Server 2008, having hypervisor support (however limited, I'm not sure), runs on, well, Windows.

Good starts on hypervisor concepts, but why not take the opportunity to flush out this legacy stuff and build a hypervisor-supporting system that can also be a new OS? Oh how I would love it if, once R1 stablizes, the Haiku operating system added hypervisor support!

I'll post to my blog here at http://www.jondavis.net/blog/ as I continue to tinker with Ubuntu on real hardware.


 

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
 
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of jondavis.net have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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