Why Ubuntu is both one of the the best and one of the worst linuxes ever

Well, after it being many years since I last used Linux as my main workstation OS, I have realised that I no longer need the Windows apps which caused me to stop using Linux at home as I had done previously for many years, and reverted back to what I know is better, only, i’m a little dissapointed, and I’ll tell you why…..

My last foray into Linux workstations led me (through laziness) to Ubuntu Studio – a far superior spin of Ubuntu, which offers, pre-packaged, all of the multimedia gems that you could want for a Linux based *multimedia* system, it was like SuSE but without all the bad vibes from their Novell and Microsoft dealings. I come from a Slackware background and have never impressed by fancy guis and a shit-heap of patches on top of every app compiled from source, so i’ve never been a fan of Red Hat Linux for many reasons outside of the scope of this post.

So, I thought ….. Hmm ….. Slackware …. or …… Ubuntu Studio, err, which boiled down to the act of thinking and doing (or desired lack thereof) …. configure Slackware the hard way ………… or ………… use auto-configuring Ubuntu Studio? Easy, I haven’t got time for the krypton factor, so Ubuntu Studio it is.

Ubuntu Studio installed fine, but I was massively dissapointed that it didn’t support LVM on install (i’m yet to transplant it onto a LVM setup), so I decided to go with a 2Gb boot, 2Gb swap, and rest-of-disk root setup, with the on-disk ordering of swap, data, boot through using fdisk from the command-line. I don’t know why but I’ve never trusted the installers to partition the disks properly, I see some abhorrences of set-ups used by which quite frankly is going to be the subject of another (maybe next?) post. Here’s my partition table:-

    Device   Boot              Start                End        Blocks      Id     System
/dev/sda1     *     1460954864  1465149167       2097152   83   Linux
/dev/sda2                        2048        4196351       2097512  82    Linux swap
/dev/sda3                  4196352  1469854863   728379256  83    Linux

With sda1 being /boot, sda2 being swap and sda3 being root (/)

The rationale for my partitioning was this:-

  • You shoudn’t need more than a few gig for a few kernels, and disk space is cheap
  • You shoudn’t ever need more than 2-4Gb of swap – if you’re using this much swap – you don’t have enough RAM – simple. The essence is this – if it’s imporant enough to want running – you don’t want it sitting in swap, and conversely, if it is sitting in swap then you have to ask yourself is it important enough to keep it running? sometimes yes, most often no
  • For the actual ‘UNIX’ filesystem you can partition and fragment your filesystem across your disks to your heart’s content and in a plethora of ways but in essence, with one spindle only, it can only do so much, and despite the number of partitions per spinde (set), will take the same amount of time per spindle (set) to recover hence I opt for a single filesystem on the grounds that with a single disk, it’s all-or-nothing anyway.
  • Logical partitioning should be in the order, boot, swap, root – why it makes sense and is easy to conceptualise
  • Physical partitioning should be in the order swap, root, boot (the 1024 cylinder limit doesn’t apply now!) – why this order? because swap is wanted on the fastest part of the disk, and we don’t care how slow boot is so long as it works, so boot gets the slowest slice and swap gets the fastest slice, and in-between, root or LVM gets the rest.

This was great, and the install, once partitioned to my satisfaction, was seamless, I had a working machine.

I then proceeded to install KDE through “apt-get install kubuntu-full”, and many will ask – why didn’t you just install kubuntu and then install the packages you need for everything else? well, the reason is that I wanted a multimedia system, and Ubuntu Studio offers the best multimedia foundation (IMHO), hence my starting point.

But… being a cradle-to-the-grave KDE user (i’ve never cared too much about the cathederal and the bazaar so long as everyone gets their expected cut), I just had to have KDE over XFCE and/or Gnome, I would use WindowMaker as my second choice, but I’ve just got to move with the times (although it’s an excellent light-weight window manager for recovery shells).

So… Now I have a working Ubuntu Studio + KDE system, and i’m rather happy.

I then go venture under-the-hood, crack open konsole, and install MySQL and Apache. “apt-get install xxx” works fine as expected, and then I go to bounce the services, to be notified with:-

  • “Rather than invoking init scripts through /etc/init.d, use service(8)
    utility, e.g. service mysql restart
  • Since the script you are attempting to invoke has been converted to anUpstart job, you may also use the stop(8) and then start(8) utility is also available.
    e.g. stop mysql ; start mysql. The restart(8) utility is also available.

WTF? what’s wrong with calling init scripts from /etc/init.d/xxx <start|stop|restart>?

I refer to the System V as setting the standard of using /etc/init.d for init scripts as a way of managing run-levels, even Solaris have migrated away from init as a runlevel manager, but my gripe is – if you’re going to use SysV instead of BSD init scripts then why change it? why whinge? and why try and re-invent the wheel? SysV init works fine as it is ffs? don’t change it! and don’t nag me about knowing about it either!

So, after explaining why Ubuntu Studio + KDE is (IMHO) one of the best Linuxes, I finish on a note of annoyance as the system tries to tell me my standards compliant ways are not appreciated here.

I guess this is where Linux fails in the Enterprise – it’s willingness to re-invent the wheel (and the lack in thereof which makes me now prefer AIX and FreeBSD), I’m not too old to move with the times, but have matured enough individually to want some stability in things that work and are tried and tested.

Linux has deviated far too much fromt the core of what a UNIX system is, into some hybrid that is absolutely great for the desktop but still leaves a lot lacking for the Enterprise server estate. Red Hat has become a safe choice, but not because it is superior but in fact is because it is a Linux which *everyone* and *anyone* who has heard of Linux knows about Red Hat!

The problem with Ubuntu Studio is in fact the “Ubuntu” bit, the distro itself is an absolute merit to what a multimedia platform should be like, but alas, beyond the savvy collection of apps, is a nannying, almost patronising Ubuntu systems, goading me to adopt non-standard ways. Grrr. Give Me “Slackware Studio” – now that’s an idea

Now I have a primary Linux system, my next distro foray is going to be with Slackware (possibly on ARM – thanks Stuart! I owe you a biscuit or three when the talking clock strikes 😉


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