Thursday, 19 October, 2006

I'm a glutton for punishment

I want to like Linux.  Really.  But every single time I start working with it I end up so frustrated I wonder why I don't just give up.  We're going to need server support for our new project and, all things considered, Linux looks like the way to go.  I've been hearing such good things about Ubuntu over the past year that I thought I'd start there.  Following is the result of two days' fiddling.

Download Ubuntu Desktop first, because we wanted to test something.  Download went okay.  Then I had a heck of a time burning the CD.  First my relatively new DVD/CD burner checked out, and then the built-in on my laptop wouldn't work at high speed.  I made a half dozen coasters before I got a good burn.

Ubuntuu booted okay from the live CD, but it wouldn't get past the "select language" on the install.  It'd just hang.

I spent a couple of hours searching for the reason, and stumbled across a few others who were having similar problems.  The solution was to download the alternate install CD and do the install from there.  I got the image last night and burned it to CD at home.  (Another story I'll relate in a different post.)

This morning the Ubuntu install went fine.  I was impressed with the clean desktop.  The default GNOME GUI looks very nice.  The software update process went without a hitch--very nice.  I was able to download the Flash 9 update for Linux.  We confirmed that worked, and I also got the Flex SDK running on the machine.

The machine was pretty sluggish with only 128 MB  of RAM, so I made a trip to Fry's for a gigabyte.  Came back, installed the RAM, checked to see that the machine still worked.

With that out of the way, it was time to install the server.

Moved computer back to my office, hooked everything up, and started server install in text mode.  It'd get to a point and then ... blank screen.  Why?  Sure, I'd hooked up a different monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but that shouldn't affect anything.  Right?

After fiddling around and trying different things, I carted the other monitor back into my office and hooked it up.  Works fine.  I can't figure this one out.  Why does the old Planar LCD panel work and my Viewsonic VP151 not work?  Imagine if I didn't have another monitor and tried to install Ubuntu.  I'd just give up and throw the CD in the trash.

With that problem solved, I got the server installed.  "apt-get update" worked nicely to get all the latest updates.

Now to copy a few things from the network.  How?  No Samba support in the default install.  Okay, so I install that (apt-get install samba, as pointed out in the Ubuntu documentation) and try to mount the network drive.  No dice.  Create a mount point and try again.  Still no dice and I get a nice informative error message:  "mount_data version 1919251317 is not supported."  WTF?  A few Google searches and I found that all I needed was to install smbfs.  "apt-get install smbfs".  Would have been nice if the Ubuntu documentation that talks about installing Samba had mentioned that.

The Flex SDK comes in a zip file.  No, not a gzip, but a PKZIP format.  Fortunately, I was able to install unzip:  "apt-get install unzip"

The first thing to try when you install the Flex SDK is building the examples.  But now I'm getting error messages saying that the "java" command is not found.  Great.  "apt-get install java" didn't do it, so back to the Web to figure out what package I need.  Finally find "sun-java5-jdk".  But that package isn't found.  More searching and I find that I need to update my /etc/apt/sources.list file as described here (

And that's where I left it until tomorrow morning.

Frustration.  Take a step, get stumped.  Find something.  Take another step.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I figure at this pace I'll have a reasonable server install sometime around Christmas.