Monday, October 8, 2007

Mind the Gap

I was recently fortunate enough to actually be offered a choice for my hardware and operating system at my current job. It's unfortunate that such choices aren't more common for engineering-types these days. I'm a big believer in the best tool for the job mentality and for me that's clearly some derivative of Linux on the desktop (and likely x86 Solaris on the server, depending on what I'm doing with it).

Faced with said choice, I went with Linux/x86 over Mac (that's another post all together). Having had good success in the past with Ubuntu, I decided to go with Gutsy Gibbon beta. Unfortunately, it was more beta than I would have liked.

First attempt at installation laid down the OS as normal. Being a sucker for eye candy, I wanted to get Compiz working ASAP in hopes of making the Windows users around me think twice. This turned out to be a big mistake. I ended up installing the binary ATI drivers and patching all in the same shot, and from there Gusty went into some sort of video card config hell. Despite my best attempts to hack /etc/X11/xorg.conf, I couldn't rescue my UI and had to start all over from scratch. Thankfully, I had a second hard drive available and copied all my userland tweaks there before rebuilding the whole rig.

This time around, I did a normal install. After making sure that was stable, I went after the binary drivers and got them working. Then, I allowed my updates to run, first system packages, then X11/Xde packages and binary drivers, backing-up my xorg.conf after each step so I could revert.

At the end of the day, the whole thing still isn't all that stable. I could bail on the eye candy, but that would be to admit defeat and that's not how I roll. Still though, I expected more. This experience was not all that much better from my previous Gentoo encounters with multiple reboots to the live CD to bail myself out. I was hoping for more, and didn't get it.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that Java UIs seem to struggle somewhat under my config with Compiz. IntelliJ's menus often don't show up and other Java-based UIs are also lacking.

Speaking of IntelliJ on Linux, it could really use some work. Their reliance on Java's fonts is plain painful, especially with so many nice anti-aliased fonts out there in Linux land. It's a pity that what is generally such a mature product couldn't keep-up with Eclipse and at least match SWT's handling of fonts.

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