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Windows Guy Takes Ubuntu Gutsy To Work….

I’ve been experimenting with Ubuntu (Feisty) for about the last two months. In previous posts, I’ve written how pleased I was with the easy of installation, the overall stability and the improved hardware support. It was a nice improvement over past versions of Ubuntu which always left me a bit disappointed when something we take for granted in the Windows world just flat out didn’t work.

BeforeI go on, let me say that I’m a Windows network admin. My comfort zone falls squarely in the Windows camp. I make my living off of Microsoft products and think that by and large they work well. We can debate security all day long, but we use MS products for a reason at work, and the reason is productivity. Even so, the geek in me started to wonder just if I could do my job using Ubuntu instead of Vista. I made up my mind to try that today. Here are my honest observations about my day with Ubuntu at work.

9/16/07: I decide to install the latest release of Gutsy given the impending release of the beta (and I just wanted to play with it, let’s be honest). I know that it is still alpha, but I want how well some of the new features like the improved graphics system work. The install as went smoothly as I assumed it would. The look is a bit different than Feisty, but not radically so at first blush. Other than logging on and doing one last update, I don’t actually do anything. I want to wait until I get into the office tomorrow.

9/17/07 8:12: I arrive at work and plug my Dell 620 into the docking station. I have a 20 inch monitor on the desk that I would like to use in dual monitor mode. Gutsy starts to boot on my laptop screen. After a few minutes I’m able to log in. (Note - that’s an improvement over Feisty that always booted to the monitor even if I didn’t want it to).

8:15: The OS detected that I have a wide-screen monitor on my laptop and need to run at 1400×900. Now I just need to get the other monitor working. My one attempt to do this under Feisty ended with frustration and lots of swear words. It sucked. Oh, please spare me the bit about just “going in and editing your X config.” That’s like me saying just run into the registry and edit a few keys. Sure it may work, but it’s not a viable answer for the masses.

8:16 I see the new Screens and Graphics tool under the System\Administration menu. I see that I have an option to enable a second monitor and choose it’s resolution. I set the second monitor as the secondary screen and tell it to extend to the LEFT (the big monitor is directly in front of me, the laptop in the right so I can access the DVD drive). I set the resolutions and save the configuration.

screenshot-screen-and-graphics-preferences.png

8:20 Hit CTRL+ALT+Backspace to restart X.

8:22 Oh no, that didn’t work well at all. I’m now getting a message saying the configuration was no good. I do have the option of going in and resetting the configuration insread of just a black unusable screen. The no-fail X config that I’ve heard about in Gutsy seems to work (I’m not sure if that is the proper name, but you know what I mean). That’s a huge plus from past versions. I hosed my X config more than once trying to get the dual screen to work in the past.

8:30 I try the dual screen again. I fail again. It doesn’t seem very smart about which monitor is really monitor one or two. Also, as soon as I tried to change the monitor, I lost my 1400×900 setting for the laptop screen. I can’t seem to find it. I see 1400×1050, but that will look like crap if it works at all.

9:00 OK this is really starting to piss me off. It’s not like I’m asking for much. I just want my dual monitors to work. I know, I know - it’s probably very simple to do and I’m the idiot, but man I’ve had dual monitors working since Windows 98. Click 2 buttons and it should work in my mind. Pfftt. I had really hoped this was improved in Gutsy and maybe it has been\will be but my initial impression is a big fat failure. Maybe it works better for you. I need to table this for a bit and get stuff up and running or I’ll never get work done.

9:05 Setup Firefox to work with the companies proxy server. Also log into Exchange using OWA so that I can check my mail and make sure that an hour of dual monitor hell hasn’t screwed me. Since mail is so important, I guess that should be the next thing to tackle.

9:10 I fire up Evolution and configure it to connect to our Exchange server. Most of the setup is pretty straightforward. Enter my email address, Full Name, Reply To: etc.. I think it’s kind of interesting that Evolution uses the OWA URL to access Exchange. I guess that makes sense, a way around the whole MAPI client issue (at least that’s my guess). For username I enter domain\username. Authentication Type is Secure Password. I’m not sure if that is correct since the documentation is pretty vague (and the Grand Canyon is pretty big). I save all my settings and restart Evolution.

9:12 I’m asked to enter my password. I see email starting to populate the Personal Folders (just a copy of what’s on the server. Windows guys don’t freak - we aren’t going back 10 years to PST files.). I try to respond to an email message and am prompted to enter my password to access the Global Address List.

9:14 I can’t access the Global Address List. WTF! ???! I check my settings and they seem right, but it doesn’t work. For grins and giggles I set the Username to just my username, no domain. I also set the Authentication Type to Plaintext. After restarting I can get into Evolution straight away and my GAL works. I’ll have to play with it to see if I can get secured password to work. I don’t like plaintext for obvious reasons.

9:15 Evolution actually seems to work pretty well. It’s not Outlook, but it’s close. It isn’t nearly as pretty, but I’m doing everything I need. I can see all of my email, my contacts and my appointments. I’m even impressed that I can check Free\Busy time and schedule meetings. It’s not as easy as Outlook, but it’s very workable. Think of it as somewhere between OWA in IE and Outlook 2003.

9:30 Now that my email is functioning, I need to configure the rest of the system so that I can do my job. I know I can use Open Office for all of my applications, but that doesn’t make me jump up and down for joy exactly. They are OK, certainly for free they rock, but meh - I have Office 2003 and 2007 and I want to try to get them to work eventually. Still, for today I can live with Open Office. I open it up and make sure that it’s working OK. It is, so one less thing to worry about.

9:40 I need to figure out how to manage my network. Since I live in Active Directory, I need to be able to get into the AD tools. I don’t see any equivalent tools using the Synaptic Package Manager (question to the Linux heads out there, are there any Open Source tools that you can use to manage AD, Exchange etc? I seriously doubt it, but it’s worth asking). Now I have to choose between the only 2 ideas that I can come up with - try to configure the terminal service client that I see under the Applications\Accessories menu, or try to install Wine and the Adminpack.msi file from MS. Since I have NO IDEA if option 2 will work, I opt for option one. I really want to try option 2, but I don’t know enough about WINE to know exactly how to do it [Note: It seems that option 2 isn’t an option after all. According to the Wine Application Databse it isn’t installable. Oh well. Ideas anyone?]

9:45 I have the Terminal Service client set up. It isn’t as easy to use as the one in Vista or XP, but it works. I had problems with the default keyboard selection the first time for some reason. I also had to pick a decent screen resolution. The default screen was to small and full screen wasn’t great either. That’s a minor quibble since for the most part it worked the same as my Vista RDP client. The end result is that I can administer my network.

Now I know some people might say that’s cheating, and you are right it is. So what? It’s not much different than how I administer my network now. Even though I have all the tools installed on my laptop, it’s so much faster to hop on the local server and do the work via Terminal Service that I do that 90% of the time anyhow. I don’t like that now I have to do that, but it’s not a big deal.

One last thing about the Terminal Service client. When I log-off of a server I kept getting this stupid error message

screenshot-terminal-server-client-error.png

That wasn’t a big deal and easily fixed but in completely annoying fashion it tries to restart the RDP session. A few times I looked over to see the servers log-on screen staring at me. Once the errors are corrected this behaviour goes away, but it’s a nuisance.

10:30 It dawns on me that I have to have IE on my machine or this experiment is dead in the water. Like many companies, we have web based apps that require IE. One of which I have no choice but to use. Why in this day and age it doesn’t support Firefox or Opera I have no idea, but it doesn’t.

10:45 I find a useful article called How to Install IE6 on Ubunto 7.04 over at HowToAdvice.com. I installed WINE as the article suggested but ran into trouble installing Cabextract - I couldn’t find it in the repositories. I went to the home page and found a package for Ubuntu Feisty. It was then I realized that I wasn’t overly familiar with installing things myself in Linux (now there is a humbling feeling let me tell you). I did the unthinkable at that point. I read the Install file. Real men don’t need documentation, but I’ll gladly wear the dress on this one. There is no way I would have guessed how to do the whole ./configure and make thing.

11:00 I finally get Cabextract to work thanks to some advice on Dans Homepage (I love that name). I needed to install libc6-dev. Once I did that I was able to create the Cabextract package and get it to work. I really miss .exe and.msi files, but I guess it wasn’t that hard once I clued in on how to do it.

11:05 Finish installing IE using iesflinux. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes, IE6 was installed and open on my machine.

11:06 OK IE is installed, but I can’t seem to type in any URL’s. When I do I get a “page cannot be found”

screenshot-http-400-bad-request-microsoft-internet-explorer.png

Notice the “h” in the address bar. No matter what I type, I get this. I cannot enter an address in the address bar. I enter the address for the server I need to access via IE as the browsers Home Page. Oddly, that works just fine. I can surf to the site that way AND it works. This certainly is a problem that needs to be resolved, but at least I COULD do what needs to be done on the server. I have no idea why I can’t just type in the address, but if anyone else does, let me know.

12:00 The last task I need to tackle before getting down to work is setting up printers. Since I’m on a Windows network, I need to attach to various printers using SMB. I know the Samba client is installed by default, but I am confused on how to actually connect.

I start off opening the Printing Application under the Administration Menu. I click on New Printer and wait while Ubuntu compiles some sort of list. At first I am lost since I just see a whole slew of print drivers. I close the application and try browsing to my file server where the printers are shared. I can see all of the file shares with no problem, but not the printers. I figured that idea was too good to be true, but it was worth a try. Back to the Printing application.

Now I see the missing link to this puzzle. Under the list of print drivers, there is an option to install an Windows Printer via SAMBA. I had to dig up the exact name of the printer, but once I did I was able to install the printer.

screenshot-new-printer.png

While this is a pretty easy option, I can’t imagine setting up 600 machines with various printers this way. I also can’t imagine instructing a user who can barely click on the little printer icon in Windows to do this. I need to investigate a better way to install printers to the masses.

Oh one last, funny note about printing - the printer that I used for this example is one I CAN’T print to in Vista. Take that Redmond.

1:00 So now I have a machine that is configured to do most of the work I need to do on a daily basis. I’m not working the way I am used to, but I am working productively for the most part. I need to figure out the IE issue and if there are better management tools for Active Directory, but the end result is that I think I can do my job at work using Ubuntu Gutsy. Even for an Alpha, the product has done a remarkably good job. I’m not sure I would want to spend my day trying to work in Linux vs Vista given my job, but I’m impressed with all that i can do.

Still, I don’t see a huge roll in the organization at this point for Ubuntu. For all of it’s improvements, it’s still not quite as refined as either Windows or OSX. The lack of Active Directory integration is a major problem for my company, and many others I’m sure. Issues like dual monitor support need to be fixed and made stupid-simple. It’s better, but not there yet. I’m not discouraged by that. Given how far Linux in general has come in the last decade, I see the gap closing. That’s a good thing.

I’ll stick with Windows at work for now.

But maybe just for now.

Update: I finally, finally managed to get dual monitor support working. I could not get it to work with the Screen and Graphics tool, so I found Sysinfo 0.7 from Sysinfo.r8.org. After about 30 minutes of playing around, I was able to configure the desktop exactly the way I wanted (including 1400×900 support). The default Twinview option did not work for me since I have one 4.3 and one widescreen monitor. The panning was unbearable - but Xinerama did the trick. Amazingly, that’t the option I read everywhere would be the most troublesome. Goes to show you….


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27 Comments in 27 threads.»

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Pingback by Mighty Linuxz » Windows Guy Takes Ubuntu Gutsy To Work….
2007-11-09 10:49:26

[…] read more | digg story […]

 
Comment by Michael Subscribed to comments via email
2007-09-27 14:44:41

A combination of OpenLDAP+Samba+Kerberos should give you everything you use under ActiveDirectory. I rolled out an OpenLDAP+Samba combo to replace an NT4 domain, and the end-uses didn’t even notice. This included login scripts and configuring shared printers and network folders. I was even able to sync home folders between a Windows login and a Linux login, meaning all your files, even ones on your desktop, appear the same way in either OS.

As for .MSI, the equivelent in Debian/Ubuntu are .DEB files, and .RPM in RedHat/Suse distros. These are one-click installable packages, no ./configure &&make && make install, no command-line anything. In Ubuntu at least, it will even download and install any dependencies from Ubuntu’s repository, even if the .DEB file came from somewhere else.

 
Comment by verbalshadow
2007-09-22 18:15:35

http://phpldapadmin.sourceforge.net/

Is good interface to LDAP although it is not standalone. It also works with AD.

 
Comment by Jared
2007-09-19 18:28:14

Thanks for giving Linux a fair shake. I’ve reference your experience on my blog with comments. http://mostlycli.blogspot.com/

BTW, to fix the IE4linux adress bar issue, downgrade your wine version to 9.30 and you should be good.

 
Comment by Stormkrow
2007-09-19 16:48:42

Great write up. I recently made the switch at work to using only Ubuntu. I’m running Ubuntu Ultimate (Fiesty) and for regular day to day tasks I have few complaints. My only complaint is being unable to open AutoCad DWG files easily and the packages we use for programming MUST be run in Windows; no problems there though I just use VMWare with XP. In fact I like it so much that I’ve ordered a Dell preloaded with Ubuntu for my new home PC and switched my wife’s laptop this past weekend. She loves it. So far everything I’ve plugged into it via USB has been plug and play with absolutely no hassles.
Granted I’ve been playing with Linux for years so I’m not afraid of the command line and I can say after trying tons of distros I think Ubuntu finally got it right. Nothing compares to the power you have with Linux. Using RSYNC for backups scheduled with CRON flat out beats anything MS has to offer. My web servers all run LAMP and I never have to worry about hackers or virus problems; unlike IIS. I can stream music, VPN into the home network, use VoIP on my Asterisk box with a soft client on my laptop all for the low low cost of zero dollars.
As far as the whole AD thing, I feel you as does every sysadmin in the world. The whole LDAP vs AD vs Samba thing has been a thorn in the side of many a sysadmin for many years. Unfortunately MS doesn’t play nice when it comes to releasing code and the real truth of the matter is Active Directory was stolen from Novell eDirectory many many moons ago which is the REAL reason MS ponied up $500 million to Novell last year and the bigger reason to not release that code. If they hadn’t, well who knows for sure, but they sure did have MS between a rock and a hard place. But hopefully with the EU smacking MS around recently we may see some more interoperability soon enough.
My advice, keep using it, everyday and for those gotta have MS problems make a Virtual Machine with VMWare and run it in the second monitor, thats what I do. There will always be a community there to help. Don’t give up on learning something new and remember there’s a reason sysadmins make way more money than MCSE’s and MCSA’s. By the way, I have both and honestly they were a waste of money.

 
Comment by Jim March Subscribed to comments via email
2007-09-19 14:54:49

One more Virtualbox tip:

Once you have an XP VM working, there’s a pull-down menu above it that says “install guest additions” (the Windows code XP needs to be able to re-size the screen, work with Ethernet, sound, etc.).

It doesn’t work. Leastways, it didn’t for me.

What you CAN do is close the XP VM (give a Windows shutdown command) and in the VM manager screen, assign CD access to a “virtualbox guest additions.iso” file. I forget exactly what it’s called, but if you list available .iso files to link to CD access in the virtualbox manager, you’ll see it. Start the XP machine again, open My Computer and the CD drive and you’ll get the XP executables. That’ll give proper mouse control too - no more of that picking whether the mouse is XP or Linux with right-CTRL :).

It’s also what allows XP to see the Linux “share” created in the Virtualbox manager as a network drive.

 
Comment by admin
2007-09-19 14:44:05

Well there ya go. I’ve been burned by auto-updates in Windows, now I’ve been burned in Ubuntu :)

For what I need though, my cheesy workaround is fine. I may even put together a page of all the IE Only links I go to and make it my homepage. That way, I’ll only use it for crap that I have to use it on.

 
Comment by Jim March Subscribed to comments via email
2007-09-19 14:41:13

Finally found THIS at ubuntuforums:


Don’t allow update checker to install Wine 0.9.41 — the URL entry bar in IE6 will go dead, showing only an “h”. Wine version 0.9.40 works fine.
And the #1 reason to have ie4linux is that one can have ActiveX apps work. I have an HE-AAC streaming music player working just fine (though it complains of not finding DirectSound output).
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=500085&highlight=IEs4Linux+h&page=2

Well crapola…OK, now to go find the older version!

 
Comment by admin
2007-09-19 14:40:38

Excellent Jim. Thanks for that great write up. I’m going to give Virtualbox a try.

 
Comment by Jim March Subscribed to comments via email
2007-09-19 14:36:34

Several points:

The Gutsy video-setup thing was broke for me too last I checked. I’ll try Gutsy again as production code…if it’s still dual-screen brain dead, I’ll complain then :).

Somewhere along the line IEs4Linux “broke”. The “h only” thing on the browser URL line is something I’m seeing in Feisty too. The forums for the project are full of nothing but spam-scum so that’s no help. And I’ve seen the same issue crop up in IE installed from Wine-Doors so I think it’s possible M$ dicked with it to hose Linux people? (Note: Wine-Doors isn’t stable yet, in my opinion!) I’m considering trying: http://www.von-thadden.de/Joachim/WineTools/

There’s a Firefox extension out there that tells the world you’re running IE - unless ActiveX is needed that may do the trick:
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/59

I also found this from the official Wine FAQ:


How do I install Internet Explorer in Wine?
In short; you don’t. Trying to install IE in Wine will more than likely break things due to the components and registry entries that it installs. If you need to install applications in Wine that require Internet Explorer then you install Wine’s IE replacement which consists of two parts.

First you install the Gecko IE engine replacement by running the following in the terminal; wine iexplore http://www.winehq.org

The second part is installing the registry entries to fool programs; Go to http://wiki.winehq.org/UsefulRegistryKeys scroll down to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and then add the “Internet Explorer” keys using regedit.

The best answer for running Windows apps within Linux isn’t Wine, it’s VirtualBox by a mile. IF you can do without IE, what I do is turn off Internet access to the virtual machine. Then, in the virtualbox control panel I create a “share” available to the VM at /home/myusername and from within the XP (recommended) Virtual Machine do a “network drive letter” hooking “Z:” or whatever to my Linux home directory.

See, the Windows VM is running on a single file within the Linux directory structure. Linux itself can’t “look into” that file and grab pieces. But once the VM is up, Windows can see the Linux disk structure as a “network resource”.

This way I keep XP cut off completely from the outside world. But I can run real, complete copies of MS-Office or anything else in there with zero risk of infection. The bi-directional clipboard allows seamless integration with Linux-and-Internet-based stuff of any type.

One note: VirtualBox isn’t perfect. I ran into a “Vista Aero effects” add-on for WinXP that caused Virtualbox to create an invisible mouse pointer :). Don’t get too flashy in Windows. Another tip: if you use USB stuff in XP, be sure and set them in the “USB Filters” area of the VB controller setup area (the Linux util that maintains the virtual machines).

For network printing in XP…well…if you MUST print directly from in there, you’ll need networking turned on. My preference is to save documents to the Linux area via the “internal networking” and print from within Linux utils where possible. If necessary use a PDF creator utility within Windows and print PDF files that get processed in Linux.

 
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