Thursday, September 15, 2011


So I've been doing a fair bit of rebuilding on my computer infrastructure in the past few months. I built a new desktop system at home (Went with a quadcore beastly Core i7 2600K - 3.40GHz), and promptly spent the better part of the night installing Gentoo. This in and of itself was great - typically, installing a desktop from scratch under Gentoo would take me nearly a week, but on my new behemoth of a system, I got it up and running to satisfaction with Gnome that evening. Fast forward a few weeks, and to be blunt, shit broke, and I mean really broke. Udev, hald, upower, udisk, and then X11, all went up in virtual flames to the point I thought about just re-installing from the latest nightly stage 3. My roommate, snickering the whole time, suggested I try Ubuntu and have a system that "just works". It'd been years since I tried it, and last time was an utter catastrophe, but I figured I'd give it another go. I promised myself I'd install it and try it for 30 days before passing judgement, and now that my 30 days are up, I'm faced with a dilemma: do I keep it, or go back to Gentoo?

Well, I made up my mind, I'm going to stick with Ubuntu. Official Google Chrome builds are nice, Google Plus's hangout voice chat and video plugin is also available out of the box, no more hunting for ebuilds. I hated Ubuntu the first time because I couldn't install Firefox 3.5 with out causing all kinds of dependency hell when it tried to remove Firefox 3.0 (simply named "firefox" in the package manager, so every dep on "firefox" got uninstalled and "firefox-3.5" couldn't satisfy it), among other trivial minutia. Well, it's that trivial minutia I decided to fix, starting with uninstalling the crapware. Yes, Unity, this means you. The stupid scroller widget that funkifies scroll bars? Yep, you're next. Finally, a rewrite of /etc/bash.bashrc, /etc/skel/.bashrc, and redistributing it to every user on the system, so I can have my color prompts, my directory listings in color, and have my Gentoo style terminal back complete with shortcuts. Gone is the annoying "suggest package" upon commands not being found. Gone is the annoying stoic white prompt. And no, for the record, using using the force color setting was not to my preference - the prompt still wasn't very Gentoointive. Configuring Gnome the way I want it has taken a little bit longer, including installing some basics like Compiz Configuration Manager. While I certainly installed 3rd party software such as Gimp and TrueCrypt in my initial 30 days, I felt that if Ubuntu ships with compiz but not the manager, it's for a reason, and I should tolerate that as part of the true "Ubuntu Experience". But after 30 days, all gloves are off. I have my 3D effects back, my wobbly windows, rotating cube, and similar once again. I'm also enjoying media cards and USB hard drives that automount (a feature of Gnome that has frazzled me for months) when inserted.

All in all, I don't regret switching my desktop over to Ubuntu. If anything, I've found it to be a slightly better system than Gentoo, in places where you'd expect a system to be rock stable. Mainly, X11 for a workstation. I still have a lot to learn (manipulation of apt-cache comes to mind) and I have a few books on the subject I'm reading on my Galaxy Tab, but I think for the foreseeable future, I'm sticking with Ubuntu now for a desktop machine. I liked it so much, in fact, that when I got a new work laptop, I dual booted it the day I got it with Ubuntu, and I'm glad I did. As it turns out, it has one of those hybrid nVidia Optimus technology video configurations, and the only way to get that to work with 2D and 3D both is by running ironhide which is actually only a small pain in the ass to install under Ubuntu but a royal one under Gentoo from the looks of it. As a result, I think I'd be stuck on Ubuntu on my work laptop regardless, so I guess it's better that I actually like it I figure. Now, if only I could get the video ports on the damn docking station to work, but that's a battle for another day.

I feel obligated to say that while I have a new found respect and appreciation for Ubuntu on the desktop, my server platforms are still Gentoo, as I feel that Gentoo is a more solid base system with explicit feature control over packages and options that Ubuntu simply lacks - the only points Ubuntu has over Gentoo is X11, which shouldn't be installed on a server anyway. As such, I don't see my switching to Ubuntu any time soon on the server side of things. In fact, one of these days, I may re-install BB1 and convert it from Ubuntu Server to Gentoo, just because it's sticking in my craw a little. Watch out, @ChrisSoyars, muahahaha.