Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 2 "Karmic Koala" on The Dell Mini 9

There are some exciting features planned for Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala. The biggest news is the work being done on the Intel video driver. Recently Canonical's Bryce Harrington reported on the improvement of the Intel graphic driver on the Ubuntu developer mailing list. The 2.6.30 kernel will ship with Kernel Mode Setting enabled for Intel graphics and the driver will more than likely switch from the current EXA acceleration method to the new UXA method. GRUB2 has been implemented and the goal is to work towards a 10 second boot. There is a new power management system,DeviceKit-power, that should help improve battery life. A new Fn key maphandler, udev-extras. ext4 has been selected as the default file system and should significantly increase disk performance.

I used a Crucial Gizmo! 4GB USB flash drive and Ubuntu 9.04's USB Startup Disk Creator to install Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 2. Using the default ext4 files system, I setup a 4.8GB partition for the / directory, 7.8 GB for /home directory and 1.9GB for swap. The installation process was smooth. The only issue, and it is a know bug, is that the system will fail to reboot cleanly after the install. You will have to manually power-cycle the system to finish the install reboot. The system will shutdown and reboot properly after this.

Grub 2 & Booting
GRUB 2 is the default boot loader for Karmic, replacing the previous GRUB "Legacy" boot loader. GRUB 2 is a complete rewrite whose goals include making GRUB cleaner, safer, more robust, more portable and more powerful. It does offer a graphical menu but for now it's just a blue screen. As you can see from the video, I toggled between the two kernel entries so you can see how Grub 2 looks at this point in development. So far the only difference is the boot menu is blue. Hopefully Ubuntu can put something together as nice as Debian's Grub 2 menu for Ubuntu 9.10 when it ships.

Booting the Mini in Ubuntu 9.10 is quick but nothing special. Average boot up time, from powering on to a usable desktop, was about 25 seconds. Work is being implemented towards a 10 second boot time but currently 9.10 Alpha 2's times are not much faster than Ubuntu 9.04.

The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950 driver has received some significant upgrades. The Intel driver switched the acceleration mode to uxa and have stripped out exa acceleration altogether. Karmic has enabled kernel mode setting for Intel graphic chips. I followed these instructions for setting up uxa acceleration. The uxa acceleration has not crashed or throw up any weird errors throughout my testing. Some have reported problem, developers are asking for testers to report bugs upstream using these guidelines.

Flash Video Playback
  • YouTube's windowed and fullscreen mode work great. No pausing in video or audio during fullscreen/windowed transition. HD video still doesn't work properly, it suffers from choppy audio/video playback and transition pauses. Turn off annotations for best results. Highly watchable.
  • Hulu.com's playback is much better than 8.04 and 8.10. Windowed and fullscreen videos work well. Transitioning from windowed to fullscreen is still is a problem. Highly watchable.
  • LiveLeak.com's video playback is smooth and fullscreen worked well. Highly watchable.
  • Gametrailers.com's windowed mode works well, fullscreen causes video to become choppy. Watchable.
  • TheOnion.com's video playback is smooth and fullscreen works well. Highly watchable.
  • CNN.com's video is choppy, audio works well. Live streams work very well. Watchable.
  • Break.com's video playback is slightly choppy. Drag to resize does not work. Watchable.
  • NFL.com's windowed mode is great, fullscreen causes audio to become choppy. Watchable.
  • Metacafe's video playback is smooth and fullscreen worked well. Highly watchable.
  • Blip.tv's video playback is smooth and fullscreen worked well. Don't be fooled, the home page video doesn't work but the videos contained in the site are good. Highly watchable.
  • Revver.com's video playback is smooth but no full screen. Highly watchable.
  • Vimeo's video and audio was extremely choppy, fullscreen does not work. Unwatchable
  • Spike.com's video playback is smooth and fullscreen works well. Highly watchable.

Compiz runs out of the box. It's snappier than Ubuntu 8.10 and 9.04. I'm throwing everything I can at it and I haven't had any tearing or stuttering, shadowing, ghosting or bleeding.

Wireless does not work out of the box like Ubuntu 8.04, 8.10 and 9.04. It does work once you install the Broadcom STA wireless driver. I was able to connect to both WEP and WPA networks without a problem. I am getting the same rock solid performance as in Ubuntu 9.04.

Worked out of the box. No problems or speed issues.

Unlike Intrepid and Jaunty, audio works without configuring or having to turn up the speaker volume. The internal mic, external mic and headphone all work.

Worked out of the box. To test the webcam, install Cheese.

Worked out of the box and includes the ability to enter the device PIN codes through the GUI.

Card Reader
Worked out of the box. Secure Digital (SD) & SDHC (High Capacity), MultiMediaCard (MMC) and Memory Stick all worked.

Fn Keys
The brightness, volume, suspend, fullscreen keyboard shortcuts all work with any extra configuration. The wifi on/off (Fn+2) does not.

Suspend & Hibernate
- Suspend works incredibly well. I suspended my computer over and over without a problem.
- Hibernate will not work if you do not have a swap partition. If you have a swap file, Hibernate does not work properly yet. It takes about 15-20 seconds for your machine to turn off and it will only wake up to a blank screen.

Aircraft Manager
Jitender's aircraft manager package for Jaunty works in Karmic Alpha 2 and turning wifi and bluetooth on and off worked flawlessly.

Download Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Alpha 2
Pre-releases of Karmic are *not* encouraged for anyone needing a stable
system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even
frequent breakage. They are, however, recommended for Ubuntu developers and
those who want to help in testing, reporting, and fixing bugs. The final, stable version will be released on October 29th, 2009.

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.


sk said...

I looked in Karmic's Hardware Drivers manager and could only find the Broadcom B43 wireless driver. How did you install the Broadcom STA driver?

redDEAD said...

I installed the b43 driver first, and it cut the firmware but wasn't able to get wifi working. And then for some strange reason I then was able to download the broadcom-sta package in synaptic and use it to get wifi working.

sk said...

Yeah, I didn't see the STA driver in Synaptic, so it took me a couple of minutes to realize that it could be named the bcmwl-kernel-source package instead. So I installed it, and lo and behold, the STA driver showed up in Hardware Drivers. Hallelujah, now I have wireless working in Karmic.

Andrew said...

I've just installed Alpha 2 (and updated from that) and everything is now working with one exception.

The touchpad isn't accepting a tap as a click like it had done before. I checked the settings and it is set to allow it. Ideas?

redDEAD said...


I just noticed that. Let me know if you figure it out.

If not looks like were typing out a bug report.

Andrew said...

I've also noticed that the scrolling via the touchpad stops working after a short bit.

I'll probably file a bug tomorrow morning if any updates between now and then don't fix either of these. (My guess is that they are related.)

redDEAD said...


I have also found that having the screen turn off after a certain amount of inactivity turns the screen off permanently until reboot.

Andrew said...

I don't think I've experienced that, but I did have trouble trying to switch to Guest Mode. (Ended up having to drop to a console and reboot.)

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that a swap file be used in 9.10 after redDEAD suggested not using one in 9.04? Thanks.

redDEAD said...

I decided to give it a try. I haven't used more than 3GB of storage on my ssd so I figured I could use some of the space for swap.

Its up to you and what you want to do with your mini 9.

Linux is about choice and their is no right or wrong way to setup your mini 9.

Anonymous said...

Red: Do you find that your Mini runs better/faster with a swap file? I'm happy with the performance without a swap file but I've ordered the 128-gig DW SSD so will soon have mucho space.

redDEAD said...


I honestly can't say I notice a huge difference. I'm running Conky and I never really see my swap file being used.

I also have 2GB of RAM.

I mainly set it up so i could hibernate, when it decides to finally work.

Anonymous said...

my mic doesn't works! Could you help me?

HackIranTelecom said...

I installed Karmic on a USB flash and it ran nice and fast. I did 3 hours of updates through Update Manager and now the system is very slow. It also got an extra Kernel (2.6.31-4-generi) which crashes.

Can I fix it or should I reinstall and not update?

Thank you

HackIranTelecom said...

I installed Karmic on a USB flash and it ran nice and fast. I did 3 hours of updates through Update Manager and now the system is very slow. It also got an extra Kernel (2.6.31-4-generi) which crashes.

Can I fix it or should I reinstall and not update?

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Andrew: "The touchpad isn't accepting a tap as a click like it had done before..."

Maybe the answer is late, but it's disabled by default, go to mouse configuration and you can enable it!



Anima Mia said...

The official release of Karmic still has these problems. Thanks for your help, I could fix my netbook according to the instructions.

Charlie said...

Hi experts,
i have serious trouble with suspending my mini under 9.10.
When i try to suspend the screen will fade, but the background light stays on. The mini freezes in this condition and i can only kill it by holding the power button several seconds.
After reboot i noticed that sound was completely turned down...
anyone had the same problems yet?


Steven said...

I'm seeing a hang on every suspend as well.

Anonymous said...

Same here!
Seriously annoying on the battery life to have to deactivate suspend.
And serious loss of productivity to have to switch it on and off all the time...

joe said...

i tried 9.10 live cd of kubuntu and it worked flawlessly (wireless i mean), i installed it and wireless was no longer even an option.

installing the broadcom sta driver didnt work either, when selecting it in hardware drivers it grays out after activation.

so im using 9.04 till i get the intel 3945 thingy wireless card, maybe that will work.

as far as i know nobody else has suffered this problem