Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A Natty Present for Karmic Odyssey's Birthday

The DELL Inspiron 1501 got to test drive the latest Ubuntu release from Canonical - Natty Narwhal. After a rocky start, I think that I'm quite pleased with the new operating system which, in look and feel, is reminiscent of Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

In order to expedite the upgrade I decided on a clean installation. This is faster than an incremental upgrade and means that I'm not troubleshooting plugins and applications no longer supported by the latest operating system. Therein was my first problem: following the installation, I couldn't start my wireless card (again). This problem is not unusual with Broadcom NICs and Ubuntu distros, and I confess that my check to ensure that the appropriate wireless diver had been installed was, at best, cursory! Actually, the wrong driver (the Broadcom STA driver) had been installed during the post-installation update rather than the Broadcom B43 driver and it took me some time to figure out what had gone wrong. Even when I had realized my error, the fix wasn't as straight forward as is usually the case.

In 11.04, you don't install the b43-fwcutter directly, you install 'firmware-b43-installer' package:
"Note: On Ubuntu 11.04 installing the 'firmware-b43-installer' package takes care of the downloading and installation of the b43 driver." Source: Ubuntu Documentation
The easiest way to install the firmware is from Synaptic.

Now that the correct driver is installed, I can connect to my network wirelessly: however, WiFi is no longer enabled automatically during the boot sequence even though the card is enabled in the bios settings and I have to toggle the card on manually (Fn + F2).

There are a number of other differences to get used to in this latest incarnation of Ubuntu:
  • Banshee Media Player has replaced Rhythmbox as the default music player. Whilst Rhythmbox can be installed and set as the default player, some of the plugins (notably, rhythmarty) no longer seem to work and that is a deal-breaker. However, the promised support for Zen media players makes the switch a little less painful for me!
  • Gnome-panel has been replaced with Unity panel. The new panel has indicators rather than applets and (wholesale) customization is a thing of the past.
  • Unity (a task launcher) and Dash (a Menu replacement) complete the visual changes and navigation takes a while to master efficiently. However, they both add nice touches to the user experience.

Some more thoughts and discoveries will follow in due course.

Sources & References:
Ubuntu Wiki Natty Narwhal
Ubuntu Documentation WifiDocsDriverbcm43xx

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