15 June 2012

A little Linux advice, if you please!

Update: See bottom.

Yeah, so it's been quiet from my little corner for a while now. Many reasons, most of them falling into "busy life" category, but one in particular is the topic of this post.

A few weeks back I was noticing a few hickups in my Ubuntu 10.10 install, nothing major but little things here and there. So, I thought the latest Ubuntu 11.04 upgrade was in order. And it was; it even fixed my Bluetooth stack, the sound was better, even the graphics were a bit more stable.

But then all of a sudden I couldn't even boot the kernel properly. Even rescue mode never quite reached a terminal, so I used a Knoppix CD to dig through the logs in trying to find out what the problem might be. However, there wasn't too much to find, no serious errors, except for a segfault in the CUPS (printing) service. After fixing that, then a segfault in something else. And then something else.

So out of the blue I thought of doing an extra 'fsck' after the one I did before the upgrade. Lots of files had various problems with them, and lost+found filled up with a couple of hundred files. So, some file pointer had run amok (perhaps while hovering over a bad sector?), and important kernel files had been corrupted.

After a few rounds and screaming, I've managed to put Knoppix on a 8Gb USB stick, installed a USB bootloader in my GRUB (my BIOS can't do USB booting), and I now boot into that USB stick for a semblance of normal life. I've installed NetBeans, MySQL, PHP and most tools I need, so I'm at least operational.

The question becomes: what now?

1. Try to fix the current Ubuntu install? (I've searched around for some tool that could re-install and re-download kernel and system essentials without any luck)

2. Re-format and install a fresh Ubuntu 11.04 LTS?

3. Buy a new 2.5" HDD, and go back to 2?

3. Buy a HDD + SDD hybrid (like the Seagate Momentus XT which got good reviews)?

4. Buy a SSD, and sacrifice internal storage space for that speedy goodness? (I've got several LAN disks for media stuff, so my space requirements are modest)

5. Change my distro? What are the sexy contenders these days? (I'm a developer by trade, so stability over candy)

6. Generic partitioning tricks, since I think I'll start a blank slate. I've got two SATA ports, so maybe a small SSD for cache and system, and mount a 7200 rpm with nice cache as a secondary? Or?


Ok, so I got myself a 120Gb SSD (a Kingston SSDNow V200 2.5" 128GB SATA III), and set it up as primary drive with a Ext4 partition (115Gb) and a 5Gb swap partition, and filled it up with a new install of Ubuntu 12.04. Just installed Java, NetBeans, MySQL, PHP5, Apache2 all without a hitch, so at least I'm productive again. And the systems is really fast and responsive, too. Love that SSD feelin'

A few negatives, though, and the foremost is - still! - friggin Unity; it annoys me to no end! I tried it first in beta, then in 10.10, again in 11.04 and I've whinced and whined about it before, how it takes the few things I truly hate about the Mac, and merges that hate with the bad bits from classic Xwindows. I can't stand it, but I thought to myself, surely after over two years in the making have they at least fixed the worst, or at least made a lot of it customizable and tweakable - you know, the very essence of why we even run Linux in the first place. But no, Unity is still crap, and I don't know how long I'll last. I'll give it a go for sure, I'll try my hardest to work with it, but its fundamental design just goes against everything I'd like to do, it isn't very intuitive or easy to use either, nor does it make me more efficient. What's more, NetBeans seems incompatible with the bloody task bar thingy, so if I accidentally minimize the application the only way to get it back is to open a task manager, kill the app, and start it again, because, Unity in its infinite wisdom, have removed the app switching (although I've seen some tweaks to get it back, but why, oh why remove the usable parts of it?! The insanity is driving me nuts, and it is damaging to the reputation of an otherwise brilliant operating system. I understand why a lot of geeks are fleeing to other Debian based distros, and I might just go that way myself (any opinions on that?). When my patience with Unity dries up I'll pop the machine into Gnome Classic to at least regain my sanity, but I heard somewhere they're fazing that out as well. For Pete's sake! Talk about building your system up to great heights and then let it fall to ground in your ignorant arrogance. *sigh*

Apart from that; I'm up and running again. Yay.