Ubuntu 6.10 is totally messed up

(October 26, 2006)

Today’s long-awaited release of Ubuntu 6.10 »Edgy Eft« was a good opportunity for me to restore the inactive Linux installation on my main workstation. This computer mainly runs Windows and since the installation of Vista RC1, the experimental Linux installation there was inaccessible. In my distribution tests carried out for the LinuxTag, Ubuntu always was among the top three distros, so installing the newest and coolest fresh release seemed like the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the installer is so severely broken that I didn’t even manage to get the thing on my hard disk …

The install CD directly boots into a live system, but a hardly usable one: Video output is managed by the framebuffer driver which is quite a lot slower than GEOS was on my 286 machine twelve years ago. Also, none of my NTFS or FAT volumes were automatically mounted or otherwise accessible – if I wanted to use them, I guess I’d have to type the sudo mkdir /media/hdb5 ; sudo mount -o umask=000 /dev/hdb5 /media/hdb5 commands into the console.

But OK, Ubuntu isn’t Knoppix after all, the CD’s main purpose is installation. But that’s also where the problems started. The installer offers automatic partitioning of the hard drives or a manual mode. Since there was no »use existing Linux partition« option, I chose the manual (gparted-based) setup. Strangely enough, the partitioning tool recognized my second hard drive as being empty, but since I didn’t want to change partitions anyway, I just skipped over this step. The next screen asked for the mount points of each partition. This time the hdb partitions were present, so I set up everything as I wanted.

The real trouble started when I wanted to confirm my settings: The installer didn’t let me do that! It complained that I didn’t specify a root partition, which I cleary did do. After some browsing in the internet, I found out that a bug in the Edgy RC1 installer prevented users from re-using existing partitions for installation. This is what I’d call a technical knock-out. Ubuntu is targeted at not-so-savvy users, and this is a clearly an insurmountable obstacle for this kind of people. But not for me – at least, so I thought …

I read that formatting the partition prior to installation would help – so I did a sudo mkfs.ext3 /dev/hdb2 and tried again. This time I could confirm my partitioning scheme without problems, and installation was right about to begin, as another dialog popped up, stating again that no root partition has been specified. That’s the point where I stopped further investigation. I’m not willing to browse through the installer’s source code just to find out where exactly the Canonical guys f*cked the whole thing up, so I just let it be and booted my usual Windows installation again.

The main question for me is now: What to install instead? As this is only my secondary/testing installation, I want a quick installation, which basically rules out my Debian. I use Debian all the time on my notebook, but a quick and hassle-free installation is not among the strengths of this distribution :)
But, what are the alternatives?
Fedora Core? I absolutely don’t like Fedora.
SuSE? They lost my respect with that disastrous 10.1 release.
Mandriva? I don’t know … in my tests, it was always unstable.
Gentoo? No, thanks. It killed by partition table once, that’s more than enough.
One of the minors? These often lack a Automatix/PackMan/livna alternative, so installation of extra stuff isn’t going to be easy, I think.
Kanotix? I used it for quite a while, and to me it somehow seems »old-fashioned« by now. But this is maybe the best alternative of all.

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