Monday, March 17, 2008

Kubuntu Mini Install Fest

MrCopilot was asked to assist in a Linux deployment for a home over the weekend. I usually jump at the chance to help bring new users to the fold. This particular request though, came from a person with a Masters Degree in Computer Science. Installation of most distributions is now so easy that surely my learned colleague could handle this task on his own, I encouraged him to do so, and I would help with any problems he encountered.

Well I was wrong. Linux is not Windows. Those of us who use it regularly tend to forget how difficult the learning curve can be. I must give him and Kubuntu credit. He managed to get both machines up and running, wifi working and even a seamless virtual Windows installed with Virtual Box. Using the almighty Google to handle any questions. Unfortunately, adept was hopelessly broken and frustration started to set in. I was called on site.

1 Kubuntu disc, 8 Hours, and 4 PCs later. I offer this Post Mortem.

The clients were 2 wonderful pre-Tween sisters, who up until now had shared a room and a single Windows PC in the "play room." Now they have their own rooms equipped with fairly beefy PCs. Their usage habits include surfing the web, playing online games (Club Penguin and Gaia Online) and a few anime MMOs.

Kubuntu 7.10 was chosen for a couple of reasons, ease of use, maturity, and stability. We have a few Kubuntu machines here and they have posed no major support problems.

The first PC, (with the virtualized Windows) would not boot. Grub showed up but reported error 15 file not found. I briefly looked over the machine and having only the Kubuntu disc on hand, the decision was to start from scratch. All that was lost was the Virtual Windows install, which he has a ton of experience installing, and can do himself.

Not so Adept
Installation was (as usual) flawless, painless and quick, about 15 minutes.
Enable all repositories and Security updates, added another 10 minutes to get the 163 packages with updates, all handled (sort of) by adept.

Something broke during the security update. If you weren't paying close attention, you wouldn't have even noticed it. I was though, and after I explained that adept is a (couple of) graphical frontend(s) to apt-get and it is itself a frontend for dpkg, the problem was easily fixed.

Open a terminal.

sudo apt-get install
It reports "some packages were left unconfigured and installation cannot continue. Please run dpkg --configure -a"

sudo dpkg --configure -a
sudo apt-get install
to finish installation of updates. Viola, adept now works again.

Installing Proprietary nvidia-glx-new driver was also handled by adept. Unfortunately it was unable to update the xorg.conf file automagically. Why, I have no clue. Manually fixed with:
sudo nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf
change from Driver="nv" to Driver = "nvidia" and Save (ctrl-X, Yes)
Restart X (Ctrl-Alt-Backspace) and tada Nvidia logo.

For reasons I do not understand Kubuntu chooses not to put Firefox in the default install, even though Ubuntu does. I love Konqueror but not for browsing. Back to adept, via add remove programs from the menu, to install Firefox with no problems. Flash and friends, using a handy Kubuntu package that includes Flash, Java and a few other proprietary things. No problems, after installation, Youtube, Google Video and Club Penguin and Gaia worked perfectly, and there was much rejoicing. We sat our new Linux user down for some extended Penguin Play.

Meanwhile the other machine was already installed but no updates had been applied for fear of breaking adept again. Now that the solution had been shown, we applied it identically and quickly brought it up to par.

This little one is a bit of a tom boy, she like Trucks, Cars, Tools and camouflage. I installed Trigger, SuperTuxKart, Torcs, TuxPaint and a few other Open Source games for her using adept through the add remove programs menu, and again much rejoicing.

Wait, didn't it say 4 PCs? Yes, it did, glad you are paying attention. Off in the corner was another broken Kubuntu, courtesy of a house guest. He, of course, has a totally different set of needs, Dual Booting. Sharing folders, Best of Both Worlds type. He too was stumped by the adept update bug and had been unsuccessfully banging away at trying to solve it. I showed him the problem, installed nVidia drivers and he was off and running in no time. Happily playing an MP3 in Amarok and rocking away with StreamTuner. Somewhere along the way he lost the ability to see his windows partition from inside Linux and I offered no help other to install ntfs-write in case he finds it again.

Wifi Easy?
While bouncing back and forth between these three machines something strange happened. All are on wifi, and it was reported that one of the Belkin adapters was not working. I moved it over to the guest's machine and tada no problems. He stated "great mine wasn't working anyway" An off brand dongle. I took his over to another machine, tada no problems. Here is the strange part. Kubuntu uses Knetworkmanager to handle configuring, notification and what not. The Belkin wifi adapter would not work on one of the three machines, but fine on the other 2. KNetworkManager, has a menu item marked configure, It consists of 2 radio buttons DHCP, and Manual Configure. On a working Belkin adapter, neither is ticked. If you click either DHCP or Manually Configure, you have now broken that adapter for that machine. Why? I still don't know. Nor do I know where it stores this information to remove it. We had to open a brand new one due to me checking it on 2 of them. I counseled him that thankfully we did not have to go through that whole ndiswrapper install and that is definitely a very good thing. I highly recommend the adapter pictured above for Kubuntu, provided you don't try to manually configure it. ($30 @ Walmart)

Where we failed
Unfortunately, Kubuntu could not do everything. One of the games the kids play is a nogo under Linux. Fly for Fun which uses GameGuard. GameGaurd games do not (and probably will not) run under wine or cedega. His only option (besides dual booting) is running it in Windows with VMware Workstation, which includes 3d acceleration, but at $189 per seat that solution is prohibitively expensive for a single game. Instead I pointed him to a few OpenSource MMOs, the girls chose PlaneShift and we'll see how that goes.

The fourth PC? That is his main machine. We put it off until later, he is working with mission critical apps until next week, at such a time I shall regale you with stories of a Monstrosity of a PC (Brand New AMD proc, Ridiculous Nvidia) running Windows Vista with a virtual Linux, Dual Booting with Linux running a Virtual Windows XP.

I really wanted this install to go super smooth. Quoth the Stones, "You can't always get what you want"

Still, installation was far less painful than the typical Windows install. I left only after setting up new (nonAdmin) user accounts for the girls and pointing him to a few invaluable resources for administering Linux installs.

Overall, he got what he needs.

A Video Tour of Kubuntu Installation Courtesy of



Kory said...

Well as far as the wireless goes, the config that Knetworkmanager uses is probably /etc/network/interfaces.
In there just put:
"auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wireless_mode managed
wireless_essid your_essid"

replace wlan0 with whatever the wireless interfaces come across as. us "iwconfig" to list all the wireless interfaces.
I hope this helps.
Oh and once you edit the config file make sure to
"/etc/init.d/networking restart"

Hope this helps...
You can also try kwifimanager which is a little more specific about wireless stuff.. it's in the package manager.

MrCopilot said...


Thanks Kory.

Super Jamie said...

vmware workstation is not your only answer

you could create a vm in vmware server (free), then play it in vmware player (also free), though both can't be installed at the same time. don't use vmware server for stuff that requires fast response like games, it pipes all its' input thru a network layer (even on localhost) which slows things down a tad

you could have also used virtualbox, which has both an open source edition in the ubuntu repos, and a version on the website which has usb support via closed libraries. virtualbox has a "seamless" mode which can make it appear like you're running a program almost natively

i also hope you filed a bug report about the broken update package. problems can't be fixed if nobody makes them known!

Tech Articles