In The Armchair

Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon on the T61

Posted in Computers by Armchair Guy on October 23, 2007

Having installed KUbuntu, I was interested in trying out Ubuntu on my T61. I installed it on a separate partition, and I am thrilled with the results. Kubuntu and Ubuntu have their strengths and weaknesses, but Ubuntu seems better on the whole.

I did have a couple of problems during the installation. The Ubuntu GRUB installer got confused and thought the Windows XP Pro partition was another Ubuntu partition… rendering it unbootable. This was fixed easily enough, though, by simply editing the /boot/grub/menu.lst file a bit.

A peculiar problem with both KUbuntu and Ubuntu on the T61 is that the keyboard volume controls don’t work the way you’d expect them to. On Kubuntu, there are only two volume levels you can select with the keyboard controls. On Ubuntu, the controls do work… the problem is that they are not integrated with the system software controls. For example, if I press the mute button, the system doesn’t seem to realize that it’s been muted. Using the volume up and down does change the volume appropriately, and Ubuntu recognizes this and even shows an overlay displaying the volume changing, but this is not reflected in the system volume levels. This confused me a couple of times.

The screen brightness controls on the keyboard (Fn+Home and Fn+End) are recognized. Ubuntu shows an overlay with increasing or decreasing brightness. However, Ubuntu ignores them: it does not respond by changing screen brightness.

Ubuntu has a host of usability hacks that KUbuntu lacks. For example, it automagically recognized the .Xmodmap file I had placed in my home directory (to switch Caps Lock and Ctrl). Compiz works well out of the box on Ubuntu; I couldn’t figure out how to enable it on KUbuntu.

One thing I did miss on Ubuntu is Konqueror’s multi-functionality. I installed Konqueror, but it was a different version and didn’t have the handy “File Size View”.

Both Ubuntu and KUbuntu seem to have problems with their “Switch User” functionality. It’s a little slow, and one of the sessions crashes a little too often. On Ubuntu, there’s a peculiar effect when switching: one of the sessions will slow down a hundredfold, taking several seconds to respond to mouse clicks or draw/move windows etc. Switching back and forth a couple of times solves the problem, but it is an annoyance.

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