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MTAA-RR » news » twhid » ubuntu a linux noob s story:

Feb 12, 2006

Ubuntu: a Linux noob’s story

posted at 16:46 GMT by T.Whid in /news/twhid

What the hell is ‘Ubuntu’ you ask? According to Ubuntu Linux’s web site,
“Ubuntu” is an ancient African word, meaning “humanity to others”. Ubuntu also means “I am what I am because of who we all are”.
Very cool word.

I’ve decided to make Ubuntu Linux my gateway into the Linux world. It’s freshly installed on an old Dell Inspiron 8000 laptop of mine and I’m playing around with it. It’s been a medium-difficult (but fun) experience.

I decided to look into Linux for use in art installations. I figured build-your-own systems paired with Linux would be the cheapest way to go (this was before the introduction of the Mac mini). Plus, there is no way in hell I’m going to run my art work on top of Windows.

I’m coming from a Mac OS background.

Step 1: Distro delirium
The Linux live CDs are the easiest way to dip your toes into Linux and try different distros. The first one I successfully tested was Knoppix. Knoppix taught me that KDE is ugly as hell. I’ve since learned that you can make KDE look pretty cool. But the damage was done; I went in search of a live CD with Gnome as the default desktop environment which lead me to, what else? Gnoppix of course.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Gnoppix, their live CD happens to be Ubuntu Linux! After trying it out I was sold: it’s clean, simple, worked well with my hardware, and used ‘sudo’ to do system level commands very similar to Mac OS X. (I forgot to mention that I attempted SUSE in the meantime, but it wouldn’t install on my low RAM system.)

Step 2: Install the damn thing
This should be simple enough. I downloaded the installer from a Ubuntu download site, did a MD5 checksum, burned a disk (using Mac OS X’s disk utility), popped it in my PC and booted from the installer disk. From there it was a simple install process.

Let me back up a second. My install process was probably a tad easier then other users’ experience. What I mean is, is that because I simply reformatted the entire disk and installed fresh, I didn’t need to worry about partitioning my disk for dual-booting. If you are partitioning your disk to dual boot Linux and Windows then this might be a tougher job.

Step 3: Boot up your new system!
This is the easy part, just hit the continue button at the end of the install process.

Step 4: Remove hair violently
As soon as I booted up the problem was obvious. The entire screen was being drawn very weirdly: fuzziness, noise, a weird mirroring affect — not good. I’ll skip the details, but I tried and tried to fix it to no avail. I decided to install Mandrake Linux instead.

Step 5: Install the damn thing (2)
Again with the whole download-ISO-check-MD5-burn-CD bit (but with three CDs this time). But now comes the interesting part. Mandrake’s installer is much more user-friendly and mature than Ubuntu’s, so when I got to the part where one chooses their monitor resolution and color depth, the installer had a fancy little utility to TEST one’s video settings.

The installer chose default settings for my laptop monitor (based on the video card I assume) and I clicked the test button.


Blurriness, weird mirroring affect, everything! After fiddling around with it a bit I finally realized that it was the color depth setting causing the problem; everything worked fine at 16-bit, but not at 24. This left me with a decision to make: stick with Mandrake or go back to Ubuntu. I was sure the problem with Ubuntu’s screen drawing was the same issue.

Step 6: Go to Step 2
After looking over the Mandrake and Ubuntu support and community sites I decided I liked Ubuntu. My impression was that the community is very helpful and friendly (reminds me of the Mac community), there are lots of Linux noobs like me (more experienced users are patient with them) and it just has a good vibe. Back to installing Ubuntu.

Step 7: Enjoy
So now I have a bare bones Ubuntu system running on my laptop (I did have to edit the X11 config file by hand to get the system to default to 16-bit color, but it wasn’t a problem).

I’m excited to start playing around with it and see what Linux can do in the studio. My plan is to create some dynamic run-time videos (similar to MTAA’s own 1YPV or Manovich’s Soft Cinema), use it in conjunction with touch-screens for more viscerally interactive pieces (gallery version of Five Small Videos…), and whatever else we’ll need cheap PCs for in the future.

Of course I’m a bit worried by this color depth issue, but it can probably be overcome. permanent link to this post

MTAA-RR » news » twhid » ubuntu a linux noob s story

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