Xubuntu - The Mouse With Glitz


Thanks to the holidays this week, the half a dozen folk who went in today had the office pretty much to ourselves, and productivity skyrocketed (nothing like having few people in an open-space environment to get things done). I quickly polished off three of the main sores in my task list on steroids, zipped through a bunch of minor ones, and soon found myself tackling one of those tough problems that keep getting postponed for lack of patience (and focus).

As it turns out we need a mySQL box to run some queries on database snapshots, so at around six thirty I fired up my desktop (which is my prototyping box), slotted in the Xubuntu Live CD, and tried to install it.

Well, it seems that you can't even fiddle with the menus while it installs - the install failed (the app put up an error dialog with a stack trace), and I had to reboot and try again. Lovely.

A quarter of an hour later, I had Xfce staring me in the face, set up apt repositories, and apt-get updated everything I needed - including Firefox, which now managed to install the Flash plugin on its own (something my earlier installs had failed to achieve).

Most of the work done, I found myself stranded while St. Anthony madness started coursing through Lisbon and clogged the main thoroughfares, so I decided to kill some time and set up a different session profile to use Xgl.

No, there's no point in running Xgl on a mySQL development box, but this machine is supposed to be as close to the Apple Intel development kits as possible, and I've been wondering how it would fare - besides, the default session will always launch a plain X server. I might be curious, but I'm not insane.

While messing about with gdm (why, oh why does Ubuntu make such a mess with multiple links to configuration files? It took me three tries to find the real gdm.conf, as well as the proper xfce4-session.rc, etc.), I did two cardinal tests of ACPI support: I tried to suspend the machine (it never came back, requiring a power cycle) and tried to hibernate it (which worked - once - same as my home laptop).

Turns out swsusp complains about lack of swap space (weird on a 40GB disk...). Incidentally, Fedora not only did this trick right, but it also knew how to fetch, roll over, etc., etc.

Still, despite the weirdness, compiz turned out to be easy to set up under Xfce and works reasonably well on an Intel GMA 950, although I find most of the effects just plain ugly (especially wobbly windows, which are on the far side of hideously pointless).

I do like its Exposé-like functionality and the task switcher (although I'll have to change the key bindings a bit), but find it somewhat sad that Firefox is so slow under Xgl.

Still, when the mySQL stuff is done and I get drop shadows the way I like them (probably next year or so, considering the time I usually have for such things), I'll probably consider running Xgl as the main session. By then it's sure to have gotten past the "nice shiny toy" stage and actually enhance the desktop experience...

Citrix is sure to be a challenge, too (given its dependency on older Motif libraries), but for now, all I intend to do is fix the damn X server dpi settings and get VNC working on it for sharing the desktop with my database-crunching buddies.

We'll see how long it takes to go back to Fedora.