Adventures with Natty
Since switching to Linux, I have played around with a few distributions.
Using my Virtual Box I have installed and run various flavours including Suse and Ubuntu. I wasn’t that happy with Suse at it came across (to me) as being rather clunky. Ubunto was much better but was so similar to Mint that it wouldn’t be worth changing over. Better the devil you know, and all that.
Earlier this wee I heard of a new flavour that promised to be a tad different – Ubuntu Natty Narwhal. I thought I would give it a try.
I had been warned that Natty doesn’t install very well under Virtual Box, so I decided to add it straight to hard disk. I shrunk one of my partitions to create some space and fired off Natty. Here I found a strange quirk – everything went very well up to the very last stage of the install. It had cycled through all the various splash screens and was on the last one that thanked me for installing it. The progress bar had done all its copying, clearing, installing of Grub and the rest and then came to a halt about three quarters way across the screen. I waited for about fifteen minutes and decided there was something wrong. During that fifteen minutes the DVD hadn’t spun up, and the hard disk seemed to pretty quiet as well. I rebooted the machine and tried again, with the same result. This time I left it at its three quarters mark and sat back and waited. This time it installed perfectly but be warned – that ‘sticking’ at three quarters is a false error – it is in fact still installing even though it appears to have stalled.
Natty is different from any other flavour of Linux I have tried before. I will be honest and say that it is not for the beginner as it functions very differently from either KDE or Gnome.
It’s emphasis is very much on using as much of the screen as possible, and therefore there are no such things as menu or status bars, apart from one narrow one at the top of the screen. Whenever an application is opened, its menu automatically appears in the top bar which is a little disconcerting at first. The main menu is also nicely concealed and is activated by shoving the cursor to the top left of the screen.
This is only a Beta release of Natty and I appreciate that it will lack some functions. What I did find very strange was that the Software Centre was quite generous with games, but lacked such items as Skype or VirtualBox. By adding the standard repositories, I was however able to download all the usual suspects.
I have been playing around with it for a couple of days now, and I am impressed. It took a while to get used to the repositioning of a lot of items, but practice makes perfect.
I possibly will transfer my allegiance to Natty once the final release is out. What is even better is the fact that Mint is based on Ubuntu so the two are virtually interchangeable. Therefore when I am finally setting up Natty, I will specify its current partition as Root, but will specify my Mint Home partition as the new Natty Home partition, remembering to specify the old format (Ext4) and NOT formatting it. That way, all my documents and other work don’t have to be transferred as they will already be there in the new Natty Home. I tried this, and it works perfectly, though I have since given Natty its own small Home partition for test purposes.
The only real problem that I have encountered with this new install is that my Grub menu is getting damned cluttered!
Oh you brave geek you. I’m duly impressed. A couple things though. The first being that keeping your existing Mint partition as home will probably cause problems since many of the OS’s configuration files are located in the “Home” directory. That plus you’ll be attempting to use a Linux Mint Home directory based on Ubuntu Maverick while installing a whole new version of Ubuntu which will write it’s own configuration files to the same Home directory–it might complain a bit but you’ll be able to talk it into it I’m sure (use a hammer, it works well in such cases). It will probably work after a fashion but you’ll have to do a lot of tweaking and weeding out.
The second thing is if you decide to go with Natty once it’s released I’d wait on the install until Linux Mint 11 is released (early May) and then add the LM 11 repos and keyring to Natty after installation so you can get all the Mint goodies like Skype, Google Earth, sun-java (instead of that horrid open-jdk), etc. All the stuff that Ubuntu doesn’t have. One thing to keep in mind though is LM 11 will be using Gnome 3 without gnome-shell installed (uses the classic Gnome desktop) while Natty still uses Gnome 2.32 with the Unity desktop shell (a Compiz plugin believe it or not) but since LM 11 will be based on Natty there really shouldn’t be a problem. Just watch closely when you update.
Too much info? 😀
I would imagine that presented with an existing Home partition, Natty would only overwrite those settings folders that it needed to. Most of the settings are for software that isn’t part of the OS. For example, my mail, my Firefox files and my other application files would remain intact.
I did actually try this out and it worked very well. I have run Mint since, and none of the settings directories seems to have been affected.
Copying the software sources into the repository also seems to have worked well, as i now have the full rnage of software available, as far as I can see, For example, I knstalled Skype and Google Earth and the latter was the only package out of the lot to give any problems – it’s fonts are all wrong and virtually unreadable. I’m sure that could be fixed though in the settings. I haven’t tried yet.