Monday, October 26, 2009

Karmic Koala first look

I've been having some glitches on my main laptop--Video downloads refusing to play in either Totem or VLC (even files that used to work), and Skype had quit. It turned out that the Skype problem was a dead mic in my headset, but in trying to figure it out I messed up the input settings. I had other alternatives, and wasn't very motivated to fix these, especially with the imminent release of Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala).

9.10 Release Candiate 1 is out, and I decided to try a fresh install. After backing up my home folder, I downloaded the ISO, burned it to a disk and rebooted.

Dual monitors did not work at first--I would either get a blank screen with nothing but a mouse cursor that I could move, or the same with a non-moving cursor. The moving cursor problem would revert after 30 seconds, the stuck pointer was stuck until cycling the power. After a bit of Google, I turned Visual Effects off, and that allowed dual monitors.

The microphone was turned off by default. As soon as I turned it on, Skype worked. Video was still broken, but in a different way--Totem, VLC and Mplayer would play the audio but show a blank screen rather than just shutting down. I did not turn up a fix for Totem, (although that has never worked well for me) (one of my gripes is that naming is not consistent--Totem is called Movie Player in menus) but I was able to fix VLC--Tools, Preferences, Video and changing the output from Default to X11. I was also able to fix Mplayer, by editing the config file for X11 output. Odd that it isn't set by default.

The default IM program has switched from Pidgin to Empathy. I have noticed some annoyances in the user interface. The biggest annoyance so far is that if someone sends you a message when the conversations window is not open, it does not open by default--you have to open it yourself before you can answer. It appears that I can change that in settings, and in some circumstances clicking on the notification icon will open it. Haven't found anything that leads me to believe I'll like it better, so I've installed Pidgin.

One of the nice things about Linux is that most settings are stored in .config files and .folders in the user's home directory--The program Xchat will have a folder called .Xchat (The beginning dot makes it hidden by default) with the settings in a plain text file. If you copy your old .Xchat folder when you reinstall, anything you customized before will be brought to the new system.

So far, with about a day of use, everything else seems to be fairly smooth. Nothing amazing, nothing particularly bad.

And as always, much faster and easier than a Windows install.

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