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Developing some grudges with Ubuntu

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libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04

Since recently I am being more and more pushed towards looking for an alternative to Ubuntu. I don't know what's with this thing sometimes, performance wise. These days firefox is hanging on moments even after running it for some time in the lightest WM, openbox and the whole system tends to get too slow for my taste. These hangs are so bad you can't even scroll when it happens, it just freezes everything in the browser except the mouse.

Then there is the ongoing problem with swapon which wont run on boot, and I'm annoyed by the very fact I need to fix that on a distro that's supposed to be way beyond such technical pettiness already. No, that one is unforgivable. Swap should be up and running at every boot even if I hit it with a lightning bolt, it's just that rudimentary.

Also, what's with this silly dependency on login screens? I notice that when I run GNOME only by using "startx" with it commented out in my .xinitrc file it looks worse and even partly dis-functional than when I run it with GDM. Same story goes for Xfce and KDE (on kdm). Wtf is that necessary? Why would proper functioning of a desktop be dependent on a login screen? Why would a GDM process even be active in the background once you're logged in?!? When I kill gdm I kill my desktop. Well despite me not being a big expert GNU/Linux coder, IMHO that seems quite nonsensical. Desktop login screens are supposed to provide a graphical way of logging in to a desktop environment, no more no less. Once you're in, the login programs should drop dead (off my processes list).

I'm missing Arch, but I am however NOT missing the fact that I have to spend basically a whole freaking day just configuring it to run like I want it. I also still can't grasp why can't default fonts in Arch just look normal. Even Slackware and gentoo can have decent looking fonts, but in Arch ugly fonts seem to be a damn trademark.

So I guess I'm looking forward to a yet another distro shuffle. :\ It's just that I probably wont have much time with all the stuff waiting for me for the next month... We'll see..

If you have any advices please tell! Thanks. Smiling

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17
Say it ain't so,

Say it ain't so, Dan!

Suggestions:

* Don't go with Feisty Fawn release of Ubuntu just yet.
* Switch from Firefox to Swiftfox on your Ubuntu --> getswiftfox.com
* Install the kernel-686 stuff if you have a P3 or higher processor.
* Consider OpenBox or IceWM as your window manager.
* Consider Thunar or some X-based file manager (XFiler?).
* One of your plugins or extensions may be buggy and may need to be rolled back.
* GDM sucks ram and I guess they stay memory resident to be there for the next guy who connects to your machine remotely or perhaps to be there when you logout? Anyway, if you don't want it, you can find the files where it's loading and edit them so that it doesn't load. That leaves you with the text login. Then, with your .bash_profile, you can add in a prompt with a timer that says something like, "Press CTRL+C to get to command line or wait 30 seconds to load your GUI..." Then, I have it do startx.
* Are you using a swapfile or swap partition? A swap partition runs faster. I do realize, however, that previous versions of Ubuntu, if you choose to install a custom /HOME partition, will not prompt you to install a /swap -- you'll need to remember to do that on the install.
* Use a runlevel editor for Debian (forgot the name of it) that lets you thin down some of the services that autoload. You don't need a few of those services in some cases.
* If you're running the wrong type of RAM, your system might run slow.
* If you're using an older EIDE drive, it will eventually slow to a crawl. SCSI and the newer EIDE drives seem to run better.
* I think I heard of people switching from EXT3 to EXT2 with some success -- it can speed a system up because you eliminate journaling. However, it has its disadvantages too, though.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Thanks for those

Thanks for those suggestions. I'm not sure I'll stick with Ubuntu at all though I usually have this urge to try the latest of what is being offered to the GNU/Linux newcomers and the mainstream just to experience what they are experiencing and also know enough about it to be able to advocate it properly as such to newbies or have the right concept of the current status of desktop GNU/Linux in my head...

But for me personally I obviously know enough about GNU/Linux to know that beneath the surface Ubuntu may not be the most optimal system. I wonder how is Mac OS X in that regard.

Anyway, about your suggestions..

supermike wrote:

Don't go with Feisty Fawn release of Ubuntu just yet.

It's not even out yet, but when it does I'll probably just try it for the reasons stated above. It is also possible I'll be enchanted by it enough to use it for some time (which is my weakness actually) and then get frustrated like I am getting now with edgy. Hmm.. I have to fight that! :hammer:

supermike wrote:

Switch from Firefox to Swiftfox on your Ubuntu --> getswiftfox.com

Well, that's a good suggestion and one which I usually fail at since I like to "go with the flow" of the distro and install an official supported package instead of a third party one directly from a website.. But that may be a stupid reason. I'll probably download any run it anyway if I don't have time to switch to something else and current Firefox continues to be bad. I can't do work without frustrating myself if FF continues with these stupif hangs.

supermike wrote:

Install the kernel-686 stuff if you have a P3 or higher processor.

Hmm I didn't think of that much. Good advice. If I continue with Ubuntu I'll look for those in repos..

supermike wrote:

Consider OpenBox or IceWM as your window manager.

Running OpenBox increases overall performance, but after a while Firefox and then the rest of the system still starts crawling.. not to mention that I need panels which in Ubuntu have some issues when not run within a stock gdm+xfce combination..

supermike wrote:

Consider Thunar or some X-based file manager (XFiler?).

I'm using Thunar mostly these days. It's great. Maybe I should try XFiler too...

supermike wrote:

One of your plugins or extensions may be buggy and may need to be rolled back.

Hmm, good idea.. I did install FireBug recently.. Maybe performance issues have something to do with it.. maybe..

supermike wrote:

GDM sucks ram and I guess they stay memory resident to be there for the next guy who connects to your machine remotely or perhaps to be there when you logout? Anyway, if you don't want it, you can find the files where it's loading and edit them so that it doesn't load. That leaves you with the text login. Then, with your .bash_profile, you can add in a prompt with a timer that says something like, "Press CTRL+C to get to command line or wait 30 seconds to load your GUI..." Then, I have it do startx.

I usually just go out, kill gdm and startx which calls whatever is in .xinitrc of my user directory.. Another way for gdm not to load automatically is to disable it in "service". IIRC that also disables it on boot. The problem though is in that after disabling gdm, desktop environments act differently (and worse) because Ubuntu apparently intermingles them in some mean ways. :\

supermike wrote:

Are you using a swapfile or swap partition? A swap partition runs faster. I do realize, however, that previous versions of Ubuntu, if you choose to install a custom /HOME partition, will not prompt you to install a /swap -- you'll need to remember to do that on the install.

Using a swap partition of course. As far as I remember I've enabled swap when I was installing this.

supermike wrote:

Use a runlevel editor for Debian (forgot the name of it) that lets you thin down some of the services that autoload. You don't need a few of those services in some cases.

Yeah, I did disable some with GNOME services editor.. Still, htop is much better at showing and terminating processes as it disaplays all of them, not just some which fit whatever vague definition of a "service" there is..

supermike wrote:

If you're running the wrong type of RAM, your system might run slow.

Been running this RAM for years now. It's ordinary SDRAM though, and my computer apparently doesn't support the newer types of DDR while the older ones can't even be bought. Even older types of DDR2 are deliberately overpriced to push them out of the market. RAM-wise, I'm basically stuck on this box until I get a new one. And I don't intend to pay a premium for old SDRAM, even if I manage to find it!

supermike wrote:

If you're using an older EIDE drive, it will eventually slow to a crawl. SCSI and the newer EIDE drives seem to run better.

I have a fairly new IDE hard drive by Seagate (Barracuda). It's not that.

supermike wrote:

I think I heard of people switching from EXT3 to EXT2 with some success -- it can speed a system up because you eliminate journaling. However, it has its disadvantages too, though.

I'm not willing to risk those disadvantages. It's not *that* old this computer to go so far to replace the file system with older and less advanced ones.

Thanks

klhrevolutionist
I suggest you break away

I suggest you break away from the bigger distros and give those from scratch a try. PuppyLinux of course comes to mind but you probably already knew that coming from me.

Of course a person who is used to the pretty screen you might want to check out grafpup a puppy derivative.

PuppyOS.com & GrafPup.com

supermike's picture
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I'm not a fan of any distro

I'm not a fan of any distro where I have to compile everything from scratch and hunt down dependencies on my own. I prefer 'apt' or 'yum'. But for purists, hardcore security guys, and/or hardcore speed demons -- all with plenty of time -- such distros are preferable to them. Thank goodness that's not me. I have too much other work to do in a day.

supermike's picture
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BTW, there's a hardcore way

BTW, there's a hardcore way to install an extremely thin version of Ubuntu. You basically install Ubuntu Server, then use 'apt-get --purge remove' to yank off whatever you don't need (carefully), and use 'apt-get install' to put on the kernel 686 stuff and the IceWM stuff. Then, stop any unessential services with a debian console-based runlevel editor (a few exist). From there, add Thunar, Mousepad, Swiftfox, and any other packages you need. You can even put it all in a 2GB or 3GB memory stick, although 4GB is better.

By doing this, you get a snappy Linux and can stay with apt to do your application shopping.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Well since it's so small to

Well since it's so small to start with (and download) maybe I actually try the little puppy and see how it goes. Smiling

Btw, I took a second look on services settings in GNOME now and turned some more of the stuff off which isn't needed right now. I also disabled a few non-essential Firefox plug ins. Things seem to be a bit better for now. It's actually quite calm so far.

a thing's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20
Debian

Why not just install Debian then?

libervisco's picture
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Oh, didn't see your new

Oh, didn't see your new replies supermike. Yeah I am also not that hardcore actually and strive for a system that just works, but I do wish to do things sometimes my way, play and tinker with stuff to customize the way I want it. I also like it when the system works in a clean way without unnecessary complexity. My dream system probably doesn't exist yet though. It'd be a combination of ease of Ubuntu and the inner simplicity of Arch or Slackware, something some people don't even believe to be possible. Laughing out loud

libervisco's picture
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Because it is traditionally
a_thing wrote:

Why not just install Debian then?

Because it is traditionally old software (though very stable). Smiling

I like shiny and new.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
I just tried Swiftfox again

I just tried Swiftfox again and noticed that while it is faster it doesn't render fonts the same way (rather in an uglier way). Searching around I found a thread on Ubuntu Forums which says this is because Swiftfox disables pango which is used for text rendering. If I enable pango the speed difference between Firefox and Swiftfox is almost none.

And on top of that, Swiftfox is non-free software. I didn't check myself before installing, but it was mentioned in that thread and then I checked and found this: http://getswiftfox.com/source.htm

Indeed, no-one is allowed to distribute binaries of swiftfox.

Well, thank you very much, but that pretty much rips all that is of value from this project (no pango, no free software, bye bye). Sticking out tongue

I don't get the purpose behind such a restrictive license for something that can pretty much be done by numerous people already on their own computers. I can get the source of Firefox myself, compile it without pango and voila, I've pretty much got what Swiftfox is.

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Joined: 2005-12-18
Try Debian Testing?
libervisco wrote:

Because it is traditionally old software (though very stable). Smiling

I like shiny and new.

I also like shiny and new, that's why I'm running Debian Testing Smiling. It is very stable, my uptime is 13 days at the moment and it is fast like I just booted into it, and most of the new stuff is included (even Firefox 2 got in a couple days ago). It isn't bleeding edge (GNOME 2.14 instead of 2.16 for example), but it's pretty close, and apt makes sure it stays pretty close Smiling.

tbuitenh's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-21
Yes, killing gdm will kill

Yes, killing gdm will kill your X session, that's because gdm started X. That's the way it is, nothing you can do about it except not using a graphical login screen.

libervisco's picture
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not that new
stojic wrote:

I also like shiny and new, that's why I'm running Debian Testing Smiling. It is very stable, my uptime is 13 days at the moment and it is fast like I just booted into it, and most of the new stuff is included (even Firefox 2 got in a couple days ago). It isn't bleeding edge (GNOME 2.14 instead of 2.16 for example), but it's pretty close, and apt makes sure it stays pretty close Smiling.

Still not so new to me. Ubuntu isn't so bleeding edge as some distros and it has Firefox 2 for months already. I can't stand waiting that long for new releases to come to my distro, even as "long" as it takes in Debian testing. Sticking out tongue

libervisco's picture
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ubuntu and gdm
tbuitenh wrote:

Yes, killing gdm will kill your X session, that's because gdm started X. That's the way it is, nothing you can do about it except not using a graphical login screen.

Yes, and I'm actually perfectly fine with starting a GUI without GDM. The problem is that on Ubuntu some of the functionality of a desktop environment actually seems to depend on GDM which basically forces you to run GDM if you want things to look and act good.

AndrewB's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-18
Hmm a way to make Ubuntu

Hmm a way to make Ubuntu faster..or that I have gound is to..
Get the alternative install, and do an 'install to command line'. It drops you ina system with a fair amount of tools, then you just apt-get from there what you need. That way you don't get crappy utils like 'gnome-blutooth' when you don't have bluetooth.

Roll your own kernel too. With as few modules as you can think. Modules and extra things compiled in make a heavy kernel. As was already said.

rcconf I think is the name of a useful app. either that or look up runlevel. There are so many un-needed processes. Process speedup that should help too. Ask yourself..do you use cron? atd? etc...

Remember that all GNU/Linux are the same, they just need optomized and configured by you.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Thanks Andrew. What you say

Thanks Andrew. What you say makes sense actually. Every distro is consisted of much the same GNU/Linux system beneath the surface and everyone is free to change it as we wish so it's theoretically possible to turn underlying Ubuntu system into anything. Practically it is probably easier said than done though if components are put together in a certain way which wouldn't be advised to break.. but about editing processes and runlevels and stuff like that, I guess that should work.

Hmm, come to think of it, even Windows users have some tricks for making it boot and run faster, and it is proprietary and completely closed. If it can be done with Windows it sure can be done with Ubuntu (and other distros).

libervisco's picture
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Ok, I made some tweaks and

Ok, I made some tweaks and things seem to be faster and calmer now. Smiling I actually managed to run GNOME without GDM. The issue I was talking about was that GDM was launching dbus-launch properly while I didn't with startx (and GNOME needs dbus to work properly).

Ironically, ArchWiki helped me with this: http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Gnome

I just had to add this to .startx

exec dbus-launch --exit-with-session gnome-session and not just gnome-session. Smiling

I also followed some other speed-up tutorials:

Speed up boot (although I don't boot much, and didn't notice big improvements on this reboot, but I guess less stuff is being loaded up anyway, so it's good)

Speed up Internet & Google Earth (though I don't use Google Earth much, I *think* I notice some speed improvements in sites loading. Smiling )

Local DNS Cache for Faster Browsing (another boost for browsing)

I also disabled some other stuff directly from GNOME services control. I even disabled cupsys and hplip even though I do have a printer. I don't print that often for it to be on all the time though and when I'll need to print it's so easy to just start these two services and I'm up and running. Smiling

So I guess these tweaks will keep me on Ubuntu for now. At least I don't have to go through another distro shuffle (which is time consuming).

Thanks all

AndrewB's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-18
I am about to do an Ubuntu

I am about to do an Ubuntu install on my iBook. These should come in handy. Thanks for sharing.

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