So a wee while ago I decided I wanted to get a decent *nix operating system running at home again, because (let’s face it) running Windows all the time is enough to drive anyone crazy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ditching Windows all together. I still need to keep it around for some apps, wether I like it or not.
After a bit of googling and with no small part played by reviews from Nixie Pixel (she’s got some great stuff on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube!) I settled on Ubuntu. It is similar to Debian in its terminal commands and it has a pretty good reputation as a nice stable desktop OS. Raring Ringtail (the codename for the latest version 13.04) was hot off the press too, so after a quick download and burning the ISO to disk I made space on one of my drives and booted ready to install.
It wasn’t without hiccups. My computer is self-built and Linux compatibility wasn’t a consideration at the time I got all the parts. The first issue I ran into was installing GRUB to the wrong drive… after several revisions of harddrive config in the machine, I managed to lose track of where the current boot loader was living. That fixed though, I got the install completed and booted Ubuntu!
Or at least tried to. For some unknown reason it just booted to black screens. No small amount of time buried in Google came up with various similar reports and a myriad of proposed fixes. I came to the assumption that it was all due to the graphics cards I was running (dual Nvidia GT250s), but after playing with config options in GRUB I managed to get limited access, and while snooping around I found an entry in fstab for the floppy drive.
Now I have no idea if this was actually related or not but I removed the entry as I have no floppy drive in my machine, and things suddenly started to play ball. This got me a clean boot with one screen working. I have four screens on my machine so this was the obvious next battle.
I thought this one should be simpler, given the Nvidia config app, but several aborted attempts to configure them this way got me two screens at best!
I resorted to writing the config file (xorg.conf) manually. I’ve never really played with any GUI on Linux before so this was new ground for me. Another dive into Google got me a bunch of samples and after more reboots than I can count I managed to get all four screens to show, and actually in the right arrangement as they sat on the desk!
But (there’s always a but) there was no menu bar, no dock or control options to be seen. And that’s where I’m currently at. Experimenting with finer changes to the xorg.conf file, trying Gnome, more Google madness, etc. It’s quite frustrating to have four screens working but unusable, or one (or two) screens working perfectly.
I don’t know if it’s a display manger issue, a config issue, a driver issue, or the little gremlin in the computer having a laugh, but I’m still working on it and determined to figure it out. When I do, I’ll post more…
In the mean time, have any of you had a similar battle? Any hints/tips/pointers for a guy who’s usually ssh’d into 5 different servers but basically a newbie when it comes to using nix as a desktop OS?