For the last week or so, my computer has been suffering from some minor glitches. One was, I think, a hardware issue. My DVD drive stopped working, and wasn’t being recognized in Linux, Windows, or even by the BIOS (the system wouldn’t boot to a CD on startup, and I couldn’t even select the drive in the boot list). I also started having graphics issues and issues with my mail-notification applet at some point, probably related to either conflicting program updates due to the extensive tweaking I had done over the last couple of years, or a bad update related somehow to the fact that the kernel.org servers have been down for the last couple of weeks. I do filesystem backups roughly weekly, and had a backup dated only a couple of days before the problems started, but I wanted to try to avoid losing anything I had done over those couple of days, so, after cloning the whole partition that I run Linux off of (which, oddly enough, seems to have fixed the DVD drive, since it spontaneously recognized the Live CD in the middle of the cloning), I tried a regular upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu Linux, 10.10 (I had been on 10.04). Unfortunately, that actually made the problems worse.
I was faced with either a complete clean reinstall of 10.04, cloning the recent disk image back and then trying to overwrite that with the pre-glitch filesystem backup, or doing a clean install of the latest version (11.04) from a preview CD I had made. So Saturday, on a whim, I decided to try the 11.04 installation to see if it would a) run properly on my almost 5 year old computer, and b) give Ubuntu’s new Unity desktop environment a good try, despite my skepticism.
Well, it installed easily enough, and it does run. I had to fiddle a bit to take care of some graphics issues (Ubuntu give me two options for graphics drivers, and the one it recommends is not the one I need to use), but once I took care of that, and tweaked a few things to my liking, it seems to be running smoothly.
There were a couple of changes to Unity that I made right away. First, I uninstalled the OSX-like “application menu” packages, so my menus now stay on the window they belong with instead of up at the top of the screen even if the window itself is small and at the bottom (this is one ‘feature’ on Macs that I have always despised, and it was just poorly implemented in Unity). Second, I adjusted the size of the launcher icons, because the default is just too large for me. The rest was a simple matter of getting the non-GNU drivers and codecs installed, along with some of the non-default applications, and restoring my data from backups (simple, but annoying).
So far, everything seems to function as it’s supposed to. Last night, I set it to backup the file system, and this morning before leaving for work I started it cloning the partition again.
Now I can settle into getting used to Unity, which is a significantly different change from Gnome 2.6.2 (which is no longer being developed). I’m still somewhat skeptical, and I am irritated at a few changes, but it’s not quite as bad as I had initially thought, but I’m willing to give it a chance.