Guy Fawkes and Ubuntu

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night, the day in which we, the citizens of the UK, celebrate the life and death of the only man in history to enter Parliament with completely honest intentions. Guy Fawkes: tried to blow up the House of Commons. Now, that sort of thing is, admittedly, Not Cricket, but you’ve gotta admire the largeness of the bloke’s thoughts. > “This thrice-damnéd Government perpetuates itself at the expense of > the people! What say you, Alcazar?” > “Verily, I cannot but agree, Tobias. How shall we, as True Catholic > Men of England, put an end to their villany?” > “Mayhaps we should rouse the common Man to our cause? With silvered > words might we not educate those beneath us to a more depthful > understanding of their lot? How say you, Guy?” > “No.” > “But Guy! What manner of persuasion propose you to use to shew the > men of Parliament their errors?” > “Gunpowder. A shitload of it, too; I’ve got 36 barrels lying around > here someplace. Incidentally, don’t tell King James that I said that.” >

…and the rest, as the man said, is history. I wonder what dear old perfidious Albion would be like if he’d succeeded? The view from Westminster Bridge would be quite a bit crapper, I expect, as would the opening credits of News at Ten. Still, we can’t have everything. Can’t even have anything, some days.
Which is a neat segue away from the topic of politics (of which everyone is bored anyway) and into Ubuntu Linux, which has also been failing me recently (much as did Fawkes 399 years ago: big celebrations next year!). In particular, while I’ve been impressed with Ubuntu’s looks and easy installation and basic stuff, I recently actually tried to do something with it. Two things, in fact: plug in a USB pen drive, and browse to a Windows share. Neither worked. Plugging in teh pen drive did, apparently, nothing. Reading @/var/log/[email protected] made it clear that the kernel had recognised it and identified it as @/dev/[email protected], but Ubuntu utterly failed to then mount this device. The “Removable Storage” applet (which is actually gnome-volume-manager, as far as I’m aware) has “mount removable media when inserted” and so on, and it didn’t happen. What I’d expect to happen is for a mount point to be created for the drive and the drive to be mounted on that mount point, and then (at base) for a new drive to appear in “Drives“, or (better) that and an icon appear on the desktop, and (best of all) the drive to be called “USB Pen Drive” or the name of the manufacturer or something rather than “sda” or “hal-disk-3-1” or something equally meaningless. In fact, none of these things happened. That’s not very good, and it’s obviously not a fault with the kernel setup because that worked. Yes, it might be a fault with hotplug or something, but Ubuntu and Gnome 2.8 are meant to make this sort of thing Just Work, and they failed dismally. In the end I had to create a mount point and mount it myself from the command line, which is pretty alarmingly arse. Perhaps I didn’t have something installed, but I can’t see why this shouldn’t work as part of the install, especially since I was upgraded to the Warty release.
Secondly, browsing to Windows shares in Nautilus doesn’t work. Not even a little bit. It doesn’t even seem to understand smb:// URLs, let alone show anything under “Windows Network” in “Network“. This is also very pants indeed. PLus it means that I can’t print anything from my laptop, because I can’t find the printer (which is connected to a Windows box). Again, maybe I’ve not installed something (smbfs wasn’t installed, and I wondered if installing that would fix it, but it didn’t) but I shouldn’t have to; isn’t this sort of thing pretty basic functionality?
So, Ubuntu fails on the “actually do something” test rather than the “start it up and browse the web a bit” test, which isn’t good. Plus, there seems to be something wrong with the applet that lets me configure my network cards; half the time it locks up, and it refused to configure the wireless card to come up at boot, so I had to edit @/etc/network/[email protected] Now, I’m aware that warty is an early release, and I have no major problem with stuff not working; it just means that (and the Ubuntu team might well entirely agree here) that it’s perhaps not as ready for prime-time just yet as I have been thinking it was.

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