Installing Ubuntu 6.10

So with the release of the new version of Ubuntu, 6.10 (6 for 2006, 10 for October) I decided that rather than merely upgrading my system from 6.06 to 6.10, I would wipe clean my hard disk, wipe all my desktop settings and try to start afresh to see how long it would take me to get a clean, default install into a position where I’m happy with it.

One of the main reason for starting afresh was to separate my personal files onto another partition so that I easily could reinstall the system another time without risking all of my settings which I find to be such a sane idea that it might be considered for the default.

It worked very well. All I had to do was to create a third partition after the standard 2 (root and swap) and choose that as home in the installer. Easy.

So the installation went without a hitch, until I tried restarting the system without the CD-ROM in the drive and got the dreaded “Hard disk boot sector invalid” error. The system worked fine booting from the CD-ROM and I could then figure out how to reinstall GRUB and make the root partition bootable.

Then I could go on to adding all the extra software I use which isn’t in the default installation, and it for the most part worked really well, partly because I knew exactly which obscure names the applications I wanted were hiding behind, partly because the GNOME application installer just works really well. In general, Ubuntu is reaching the point where it is not just the best Free Software desktop out there, but the best desktop period. Much kudos to the hard working developers – especially those who managed to fulfill their hard work despite of my anthropological nagging and random visits. 🙂

The only issues (apart from the rather unfortunate boot sector debacle) arose when it came to the multimedia bits. With all the licensing issues surrounding the various formats, you’ll need to through a few hoops (and a lot of packages) to get all of it working. It will be nice have some centralized way to do multimedia codec installation in Ubuntu. Though installation of the installation of the kind of proprietary software that is fundamental for Internet use has become a lot easier by making most it available through the GNOME application installer, I really hope that we can make it even easier to make ready by creating a meta-package for it.

All in all, it took me a couple of hours to bring the system into a state where I felt that it was *my* desktop. Another few hours if you include the backing up and the downloading and burning of the CD-ROM. Not bad, but there’s room for plenty of more polish.

Note that all of this is in the “nice to have” category, and that it is the sort of thing that won’t bring developers out left and right to remedy this. But it is the kind of polish that will give people that positive surprise that will make them fall in love with their system. It’s the kind of saying “oh, we know you’d most likely want this as well. So we made it easy for you to get working” that evokes trust in the user. She will think “If they’ve thought about this as well, they must really have spent a lot of time making sure everything is works well.

Designer Emeritus Don Norman has written a wonderful little book on “Emotional Design” which sums up how this emotional relationship between the user and the used object (in this case an operating system) is created. Among other things, he asked people he met about their favourite things and their most positive experiences with technology. One answered:

I still tell people about my experience, years ago, at the Austin Four Seasons Hotel. I checked into my room to find a TV-Guide on the bed, with a bookmark placed on the current date.

Which exactly sums up the kind of positive surprise that good design should deliver. The kind of forethought that makes it a joy to use. For me, when installing Ubuntu 6.10, the surprise came when I saw the new default wallpaper:


There has been a lot of discussion about the new Ubuntu artwork, and the SABDFL has been working hard to impose his vision of a glitzy, saturated look. But this is actually pinkish. And too bright as well. What happened to the proper brown? Hoping for alternatives, a simple right click on the desktop brought up this wonder of chocolate loveliness:

Choc love

And I felt that positive surprise: “Ah! They thought about that after all.” To whoever did that wallpaper: Thank you! I’ll buy you a beer next time I meet you. It is almost edible in its chocolate love!

And that’s the conclusion of Norman’s book as well: Good design not only fits the user’s needs, it also enables the user to make the technology their own, to customize it to their own needs. As Norman quotes Harrison and Dourish:

A space can only be made into a place by its occupants. The best that the designer can do is put the tools into their hands.

This is especially true with computer programs where everything is potentially customizable, and the machine itself has so little emotional value attached to it to begin with. One recent example of appropriating this new space and turning into something personal was on Planet KDE, the aggregated communal blog for the KDE desktop project where a developer wrote about receiving and customizing her new laptop.

There even seems to be a whole F/OSS subculture focused on making the desktop look nice and glittery with all of the latest eye candy, sharing screenshots of their desktops, where people have a place to utter the essential words of Emotional Design: “I want this.”


Add Yours →

On the Dapper to Edgy upgrade front. I??m sorry but the upgrade process is going to have to be better than this.

Ubuntu Dapper was the best OS ever done. Edgy from an upgrade is far worse than WinME. And I don??t buy that this is a cutting edge release. This is just plain bad. So bad that I have had to go back and apologize to some Windows Fanboys because I had stated that no Linux release could be as bad as a Windows release.

A lot of us have been putting our reputation on the line advocating Ubuntu and this release is a complete betrayal.

Well, it IS a cutting edge release. It was but together in 4 months, and introduces a lot of new software infrastructure.

As you may have noticed, I reinstalled from the CD in such a way that it will be easy to do another time (with a separate Home folder), exactly because I’ve had trouble with upgrading before (mostly due to community scripts such as Automatix which you really can’t blame the developers for).

There has been a lot of discussion about the upgrade process, and there is certainly going to be some changes made. But calling it complete betrayal is absolutely over the top. You’re getting this for free, remember?

And how can I tell Windows users they should trust it.

As for the free part, that sounds like the argument the Windows Fanboys use.

Don’t use open source because it’s free and you get what you pay for.

If Ubuntu is going to rush out a release like this, I will have to consider other Linux versions.

So far the Windows vs Linux discussion groups have not heard about this. I’m almost afraid to show my face in those discussions.

Edgy is plain unstable to the point of being unusable except from maybe a clean install.

I’ve been telling business users that they should switch to the Ubuntu/Crossoffice setup instead of Windows.

This was not a beta release. Cutting edge should be able to upgrade. I had 2 PC’s with brand new Dapper installs and the Edgy upgrade couldn’t even handle those 2 because of the Automatix.

I also don’t care for the way everyone is blaming the Automatix people for this.

So I think the word betrayal is over the top at all. The developers are moving to a business model were they will be getting paid for services as well. Open Source should be better than Commercial software. At least that’s what we are telling everyone outside the comunitee.

If we can’t do proper upgrade then we might as well stick with Windows.

I owned a Windows tech support company that I gave up do to problems with their software that they accepted as normal.

I would hate to see the number one Linux distro follow this same path.

For your multimedia addiction is a cure:

…it also installs Acroread and other stuff!



Timothy – it is ironic that you expect the Ubuntu developers to test and support 3rd party scripts which they have nothing to do with. Surely if you insist on using Automatix it is the responsibility of the Automatix developers to integrate and test it with the Edgy desktop.

In any case, you are not really working towards a positive solution to this problem with your accusations of betrayal. I suggest you participate positively to help solve the issues that you raise. Either by helping to test Automatix towards the new development release, or by helping to integrate the functions of Automatix into the official system as I mentioned in my post.

Joachim – I don’t if you saw this, but many people consider the unreliable and insecure Automatix script to be the cause of many of the upgrade problems surrounding the Dapper -> Edgy Upgrade.

Please at least warn people about this when you suggest that they use Automatix, or even better, help the developers integrate the functions of Automatix directly into the system as mentioned above.

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