Getting started with Kubuntu

The Ultra 40 that I won arrived on Wednesday, but I've been too busy since then to do much with it until now.

I have spent a little bit of time carrying out some research. My initial plan was to triple boot this server. First as a FreeBSD machine -- it's my preferred Unix flavour, my other Unix boxes run FreeBSD, and it gives me the opportunity to carry out FreeBSD testing on a 64 bit platform.

Then with Solaris 10. I want to carry on the work that I've already started with DTrace, and get some more experience with other Solaris technologies.

Finally, as a Windows XP box. Two reasons for this. First, Photoshop. I take quite a lot of pictures, and, not currently having a Dual Core Mac to hand, Photoshop on XP is my preferred image editing system. I also have something of a workflow built around it. The other reason is games. I don't get much opportunity, but when it arises I can quite happily while away the time playing Half Life 2.

That's not quite what happened.

I was happy with the triple boot idea as I already have a primary desktop (a somewhat venerable 2x1GHz PIII), so the hassle of triple booting wasn't going to be too much of a problem. Unfortunately, about 2 weeks ago this desktop decided to give up the ghost, with three hard disks in it failing in fairly short order.

A colleague at work has been talking about VMWare for some time, and has it running on his (Linux) laptop. I'd seen it in action a few times, so a new plan started to form.

Specifically, I'm going to run Linux as the primary OS on this machine. I've heard good things about Ubuntu (in terms of being relatively easy to install and get going -- I've reached an age where dicking about with system installers is no longer considered a productive use of my time). I'm going to use the Kubuntu distribution, because, as I've mentioned previously, I don't get on with GNOME, preferring KDE if I've got the choice.

On top of that Linux distribution I'm going to install the free VMWare Server. And in to that I'm going to install FreeBSD, Solaris, and Windows distributions. This will be something of a learning experience, as I last used Linux over a decade ago. I imagine a few things have changed. I'm also interested to see just how much of a performance hit VMWare imposes (especially with my gaming head on).

Hopefully this will make it easy for me to try out other things that have been happening in the FreeBSD space (like PC-BSD).

So I'm sat here writing away with a Kubuntu 6.10 CD prepared and ready to go. I'm just going to boot for first time, see what happens, verify that everything comes up as it should, and then get on with the Kubuntu install.

13.58: Plug everything in and turn it on. The fans make a God-awful noise when they start up, which subsides after 30 seconds or so.

The boot process seems stuck acquiring DHCP lease, which is odd, as everything else on this network has no problems with DHCP. Network cable firmly plugged in to socket marked "0", perhaps it should be in "1".

14.04: Possibly not DHCP, as the error messages that have now come up talk about PXE booting, and it shows "Operating System not found". Why is it PXE booting, instead of booting off the hard disk? Solaris is supposed to be pre-installed.

14.06: Try swapping the network cable to port 1 and reboot. That has some effect -- the boot now fails much faster, and displays the "Operating System not found" message again. I wonder if the hard disk is not properly seated.

14.08: Try swapping network cable back. The side of the box has quick release catches, which means that opening it up, pulling out the hot-swappable disk, and reinserting it takes seconds. Try rebooting again.

14.14: Same PXE problems. Time to reboot and check the BIOS. This is interesting, the BIOS boot menu shows that the SATA drive is excluded from the boot order for some reason, with the PXE boot first on the list. So I've shuffled that around and now the DVD is checked first, followed by the hard disk, with no PXE boot. Saved and rebooted...

14.16: That's better. The GRUB boot menu comes up, and Solaris starts. "SunOS Release 5.10 Version Generic_118855-15 64-bit" according to the start up splash screen. That's enough of that, time to start with Kubuntu.

14.17: I reboot with the Kubuntu CD in the drive.

That's nice -- I can select the keymap straight away. Last time I did this with Solaris that setting wasn't carried through to the final X configuration, I'm interested in seeing if it works with Kubuntu. I choose the "United Kingdom" mapping.

I choose the "Install" option, and a progress dialog comes up. The text is "Loading Linux Kernel". This rapidly gets to 95% and then halts.

14.25: Been stuck at 95% for 7 minutes now. That's a bit excessive. I'm going to reboot and try again. It's just possible that the CD is damaged in some way. In which case I'll try once more, and if it fails again, boot in to Solaris and burn the Kubuntu ISO image from there.

14.27: Noted a "Check CD for defects" option on the Kubuntu boot menu, which is a nice touch. I'm running that now. There's a very dark blue note at the bottom of the screen that this "may take some time".

14.34: Progress meter on the CD check is now at just over 75%.

14.36: The check has now completed. Took me a moment to realise, as the "Check has now completed, no defects found" message is displayed in that very dark blue text on a black background, which is not very legible.

This time around the kernel loads successfully. CD grinds away for a bit. Ah ha, a blue desktop with a mouse pointer has appeared, shortly followed by a list of items that are being ticked off one by one. This looks a lot like a normal KDE startup to me, albeit in 800x600. I double click the installer application, and walk through the installation wizard.

Bonus points for carrying over my keyboard layout preferences. £, ", and @ are all exactly where I expect to find them.

Disk partitioning is pretty simple. At the moment I'm going for one big partition (with separate swap).

14.54: I appear to be doomed to face progress meters that get stuck. The "Creating ext3 file system for / in partition #1 of SCSI1..." progress bar hasn't moved for the last 15 minutes, which is unnerving. Is this expected with ext3? I know that FreeBSD's newfs() would complete on this in a matter of seconds.

What's especially galling is that although I appear to be in KDE and the mouse moves, none of the menus are currently responding. So I can't, for example, fire up an xterm and do some digging in to exactly what's going on at the moment. I shall leave this for another five minutes and then if there's no progress reboot and try again...

15.06: Rebooted, and gone through the installation process again. Looks as though the earlier install might not have hung, as the partition editor is now showing some of the disk as occupied. I guess the lesson here is to leave it running. So that's what I'm going to do now.

15.20: Progress dialog has now sprung in to life again. Partitioning/formatting appears to have completed and files are now being installed.

15.40: Everything appears to be installed, so, as prompted, I reboot.

The first problem is that the display is 1024x768. That's all very well, but the LCD monitor is capable of 1600x1200, so I'm peering at a very small display surrounded by lots of black pixels. I've not had this problem with this monitor in X on FreeBSD before.

Adept has popped up and told me that there are 99 packages that need updating, so I've let it go off and update those. While that's happening I'm going to poke around and see what's wrong with the screen.

KDE / Kubuntu / X doesn't appear to have anything special for the graphics card and monitor. The monitor, an Iiyama AU4831D isn't listed in the monitor database, and had to go grovelling through /var/log/Xorg.0.log to determine that it was a Quadro FX 1500.

I'll try and update to the newest Nvidia drivers and see if that has any effect...

... nope, nothing.

Ah ha. Some judicious searching has turned up this post on the OpenSolaris forums.

To save you the trouble, or should it disappear, if you have an Iiyama AU4831D and you want to get the full resolution you need to add:

    Option "ModeValidation" "NoDFPNativeResolutionCheck"

to /etc/X11/xorg.conf, otherwise the driver gets the wrong idea about the maximum resolution supported by the monitor. Adding that and restarting the X server gets everything going in glorious 1600x1200 again.

What with the updating, configuring KDE to behave the way I like, and futzing around trying to sort out the monitor it's now 17.00 and I've got a few errands to run. So that will probably be all I'll have time to write today. More updates tomorrow.


  1. Let us know what happens with gaming in VMware Server. I've only used Workstation, but my experience has been that the virtual video drivers just don't handle most games. They want low-level access to the hardware that the emulator can't give them.

    I wish you luck, but I think you're going to end up dual-booting XP. Everything else you mentioned should have no problems with VMware.

  2. Quote NC :

    " I’ve reached an age where dicking about with system installers is no longer considered a productive use of my time). "

    LOL Glad to hear it Nik - I'm too in the same boat and switched to Kubuntu/fluxbox. Ubuntus vast repositories also coaxed me further into the switch.

    Why not try synergy between windows and linux ?

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