Linux on Netbooks
Getting Linux setup on my Netbook has been so incredibly frustrating. I installed Ubuntu at least 4 times. Each time believing I had gotten the install correct, only to find that when I went roaming it would freeze.
A number of times I attempted to do a system update to make sure I had the latest kernel and software, only to brick my system because it locked the screen and refused to come out (probably suspended and froze).
Synaptic / apt do not like being interrupted and can cause serious issues if they are. This is understandable, you’re modifying a running system and if something is only partly completed, well, that is undefined.
The problem is there doesn’t seem to be any way to recover from an interrupted install. In one instance, Synaptic detected it and said to run an “upgrade” which it provided a button on its UI to do. On reboot after doing this however, the system failed to boot.
Journaled file systems can handle interruption during writes. But they aren’t intelligent enough to detect that a more complex operation is being performed (which they shouldn’t be, it’s not their job!). I think, either Synaptic / apt need to be smarter about applying patches and ensure they are atomic, or they need to do their best to disable power-saving functionality like screen-locks and suspend / hibernation. I shouldn’t have to sit next to my computer “wiggling the mouse” for an hour because I want to make sure my screen doesn’t lock (yes I could disable those features, but I shouldn’t have to). I’ve had Gnome updates on previous systems leave the screensaver / unlock appliaction in strange states.
(Update: Poking around some scripts, I noticed a power management configuration file that suggets that suspend / hibernate are disabled while apt is running. However, this seems to have not worked for me, possibly due to Ubuntu’s semi-working state at the time.)
Now that that is out of the way, I’ve got my system up and running and tested it in “in-the-field”. I’m very happy. Unity is a great interface for netbooks where you just want to run a few applications and do some work, but I don’t see it working on desktops where you’re performing complex interactions with your system. It would only work if the underlying operating system had smarter / automatic file system management, which won’t happen any time soon.
Hopefully my post on setting up Ubuntu 10.10 on the Samsung N145 will help someone else out, because seriously… it was rediculously stressful.