Ubuntu, Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope, MSI Wind netbook, and everything in between

I just downloaded Ubuntu 9.04 codename Jaunty Jackalope (let’s call it Jaunty for brevity’s sake). I’ve been very occupied the past few days with my morning and afternoon/evening work that’s why it took me this long to sit down and check out Jaunty.  And this post is a quick overview of what’s it like to experience Jaunty, specifically over my MSI Wind U100x.

Aesthetics

Jaunty looks much sleeker and more streamlined than previous Ubuntu incarnations, as shown by the loading splash image.

The login screen has also been revamped and kind of feels more like KDE (which isn’t bad in my opinion).

The geeky stuff

Jaunty gives you the option to install your system using the new ext filesystems, ext4. I tried it out and though I haven’t done any timing tests, the bootup from a clean install seems to be slightly faster. Of course, ext4 has been released for quite a while now and one more reason to use it other than it improves upon the performance of ext3 is that Ubuntu usually never releases/allows untested software (filesystems not the least of these) so you can be pretty sure ext4 is a safe bet. Plus, there’s support from Canonical.

I’m still plowing through Jaunty but the news is that ctrl+alt+backspace, used for restarting the X server, doesn’t work by default. To turn it on, edit your xorg.conf and add:

Option "DontZap" "false"

to the ‘ServerFlags’ section which you should also create/add. The result should look something like

Section "ServerFlags"
    Option         "DontZap" "false"
EndSection

and can also be quickly resolved via a quick Google search. If you want to turn off the restarting effect of ctrl+alt+backspace, then change ‘false’ to ‘true’. More info here.

The boys and girls at the MSI Wind forums have been talking about how Jaunty works in MSI wind. The MSI Wind wiki even has an entry for Jaunty found here, though I must say I didn’t really need much or even all of it to make everything run on my Wind. I’m also quite surprised that that wiki is pretty updated, last updated April 30 when I checked last. The webcam, wi-fi (which is quite surprising since it’s been plagued with problems since Hardy and Intrepid, the 2 previous Ubuntu releases before Jaunty) and others work after a fresh install. Of course for the web cam, you’d have to install a web cam softwaree like Cheese for example, which is readily available in the list of availabe software for download. No config whatsoever as written by the links I gave above. That hassle free setup is kind of scary (at least for me) since I usually like fiddling with my *nix box via the console, but then again nothing is really stopping me right?

Ubuntu 8.04.X (Hardy Heron) wi-fi on Wind

As for making wi-fi run on Hardy, I essentially followed what’s been written here in this part of the MSI Wind forum, particularly this section:

First, you need a proper build environment with the appropriate kernel headers. This is done fairly easily:

Code:
sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-`uname -r`

Next, download and unpack the modified driver sources:

Code:
wget http://scopeboy.com/things/rtl8187se_linux_26.1012.0331.2008_modified.tar.gz
tar xvzf rtl8187se_linux_26.1012.0331.2008_modified.tar.gz

Now build them. Note that you’ll need to set an environment variable in order to avoid a certain problem:

Code:
cd rtl8187se_linux_26.1012.0331.2008
export KBUILD_NOPEDANTIC=1
./makedrv

Now, assuming everything compiled without errors, try starting it all up using the wlan0up script. This will insert the appropriate modules and enable the wireless device. You should then be able to use it with Ubuntu’s network manager.

Code:
sudo ./wlan0up

One other thing to note here is that the person who wrote the piece above was using 8.04.1, and not just 8.04, so it may not necessarily work for you. What you do is just download (from the same forums) the tar.gz driver appropriate for your Hardy version. I myself was using 8.04.2 so I used a .1016.0331 driver package instead of the .1012.0331 shown above. The you can install programs like wi-fi radar (to install it just run ‘apt-get install wifi-radar’) to scope out existing wifi networks around you.

The cool commandline tool I like using is iftop  (apt-get install iftop). The tool iftop shows you what networks/hosts/IP addresses you are connecting to or they to you. It also shows you all the traffic that goes your network card’s way. You run it via

    sudo iftop

which by default let’s you view your first NIC which is usually your wired connection so you do a

    sudo iftop -i wlan0

to view the traffic passing through your wireless card (just replace wlan0 with whatever the command ifconfig gives you as the device name for your wifi card). Then assuming you followed the steps above correctly and you didn’t encounter an error, you should be seeing arrows pointing to and from your IP address coupled with the download and upload speeds (in Bytes, KB or even MB depending on how fast your wireless connection is).

Verdict

So if you really want to stick with Ubuntu’s current LTS (i.e. Hardy) since it gets software updates till 2011, then try the trick above to make your wifi run. Otherwise if you don’t really mind updating your system every 12 months or so, then go for Jaunty. Look and feel and performance is topnotch. So far 🙂 But knowing Ubuntu’s history on software updates and support, plus the huge community and industry support/help you can get, it’s more than enough I think to make you switch from the ‘other’ popular operating system with 4 colors 🙂

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One Response to “Ubuntu, Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope, MSI Wind netbook, and everything in between”

  1. Thoughts on Ubuntu/Kubuntu 9.10 « F241vc15′ Weblog Says:

    […] restarting X? It turns out, the ‘dontzap’ option didn’t work anymore, I tried it. The ‘dontzap’ directive worked for 9.04, but apparently not so for 9.10 onwards.  As a result, one way to turn on […]

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