Since its release in April 2011, I have not had the opportunity to review the latest Ubuntu iteration, Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal -Narwhal is the name of a medium sized toothed whale). However, lately,most of my computing needs has been largely web based with minimal reliance on any particular software for an OS platform. I decided that this may be the best time to give the new Ubuntu 11.04 a test drive to see how well it can be used to substitute for my more regular use of the Windows OS.
One word that can describe the graphics of the new Unity desktop of this latest Ubuntu is “Pretty”, with its blend of purple and its unique layout. The installation process is quite simple, especially if you are installing on the whole hard drive. For me, i made use of a partition boot manager, so i can still keep my windows installation. The use of a partition boot manager makes the process of dual booting different OSes much easier, giving one the oppurtunity to install as many as 256 diferent OSes on a single laptop, a must-have for those that like testing out new OS releases, especially Linux distributions.
After installing Ubuntu, the first thing i did was to hook up my Starcomms to my laptop. I must confess that this would be the make or break step in my using Ubuntu 11.04 as a regular OS. I really am not keen about having to type some code for the system to recognize this device. On a Windows PC, it was to a large extent, plug and play as the drivers needed to to install the device in Windows is loaded immediately the modem is inserted. So i connected the modem to my Ubuntu installation, NO RESPONSE. No sound of recognition of an inserted device at all. So i waited…and waited…nothing! Out of curiosity, i clicked on the network icon on the task bar (The task bar is on top of the screen) and surprisingly, i saw a modem device listed as “Verizon CDMA”. It was obvious that this is my Nigerian Starcomms CDMA modem and i was particularly surprised that Ubuntu has added the drivers for USB modem straight out of the box. However, before i could start browsing, i had to fill in my login details and this was quite easy to do. The sequence is as follows;
– Click the network icon on the taskbar
– Click on the last entry on the drop down menu, “Edit Connection”
– Click on the “Mobile Broadband” tab
– Input the admin password you used in installing your Ubuntu
– Click on the “Mobile Broadband” tab again
– Type in #777 in the space for number
– Under Username, type in firstname.lastname@example.org, where xxxxxxxx is your starcomms number. Do not input the leading “0”.
– Under password, type in your starcomms number, again without the leading “0”
– Close all tabs.
Launch Firefox and you are browsing. That was quite easy.
The next step was, however, not as easy. Synching my iPad.
To make the download of the Ubuntu OS easy, quite a number of softwares or drivers were stripped from it. What that means is that, for you to use Ubuntu at all, you need to have access to the internet as you would need to download a lot of important softwares.
For those who have had to jailbreak their ipad, you may have come across the words “repositories” and “source”. Basically, a repository is just a web space where softwares needed for your device are stored. There are quite a number of different repositories for Ubuntu, however one needs to know the address of some of these repositories so you can add it to the “source”, which is the default locations your OS would search for softwares. Think of this in relation to “Windows Update”.
The repository address that contains the driver needed to sync my ipad to Ubuntu is ppa:pmcenery/ppa. To add this source to your Ubuntu 11.04 installation, take the following steps;
– On your desktop, hover your mouse over the icons on the left sidebar.
– Identify and click on “Ubuntu Software Center”
– Click “Edit” and select “Software Sources”
– Click on “Other Software” tab
– Click “Add”
– Input ppa:pmcenery/ppa into the textbox labelled “APT Line”
– Click on “Add Source”
– Close the window and click “reload” on the top menu bar.
– Use the “Quick Filter” text box to search for the driver “libimobiledevice”
I downloaded all the drivers I saw with that name, about four of them. Not sure If all were necessary.
With this, I was able to sync the audio, video and picture files on my iPad using media players like Banshee and Rhythm Box. Decided to play one of the MP3 tracks that I just synced to Ubuntu in Banshee media player but, alas, Ubuntu does not come, by default, with drivers to play MP3 files. Luckily, a window popped up and asked to search for the necessary plugins over the internet. Yes, of course! Four “gstreamer” plugins with a combined size of 54.8MB were installed and I have been blasting my MP3s ever since.
However, I believe you would still need a windows installation with iTunes to install and synchronize your apps. For this purpose, and to save myself the stress of having to boot into windows, I decided to install Windows 7 OS within my Ubuntu Installation, using the process called Virtualization. One virtualization software that readily comes to mind is VirtualBox. Following the same sequence above, add the following address to your source to install this software;
deb http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian natty contrib