Ubuntu 13.04 install test: Uffda, not so good

by Peter

The introduction of UEFI and SecureBoot on new PCs has created enormous problems for people trying to install Linux on new PCs, laptops and ultrabooks with these new technologies installed. Perhaps, some say, as Microsoft intended. I don’t know.

I probably need to say that “Uffda” in Scandinavian for something sad, something like “of my, that was sad” or “.., that was bad”. So now you know: Bad and sad, Ubuntu!

UEFI and SecureBoot

Anyway, the argument from the Linux side seems to be more or less along the lines that many Linux distributions (“distros”, as they are usually called) have now developed to a point where they are as easy to use and as good as (if not better) than Windows and OS X. So that Microsoft now has introduced UEFI and SecureBoot to make it hard for Linux to compete.

I don’t know why Microsoft is pushing UEFI and SecureBoot. These are technologies that are indepedent of one another, and the arguments for and against each are different. Proponents argue that UEFI is overdue and needed to support bigger hard drives, while SecureBoot is needed to make OS booting secure by means of a trusted key. UEFI (Universal EFI) replaces BIOS as bootloader and supports a lot of new features, among them SecureBoot.

I am not able to say which side is right in the Microsoft/Linux controversy. I simply don’t know enough about the technologies involved.

Testing Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail

However, what I do know is that it really seems Linux may not be quite ready to compete with Microsoft and Apple. Today I have tried to install the long awaited Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail”. Raring Ringtail has been hailed as a distro that has solved the problems created by UEFI and SecureBoot, and overall is viewed as one of the most advanced Linux distros. However, I have to say that to me, it has so far been a major disappointment.

Test on a MacBook Pro Retina OS X mid 2012

Ubuntu 13.04 DisappointsFirst I booted the new Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail image on DVD in my 2012 MacBook Pro Retina running OS X 10.8.3. It booted fine, and I got into Ubuntu and chose to test it rather than install it directly. Which was good.

First of all, my mouse didn’t work. I am using the Mac MagicMouse. OK. So I tried the manual install via the Bluetooth preferences menu, as recommended. It found the mouse, said it installed it. Still not working. The next recommendation I found was to download and install a patch. When did you last have to install a mouse manually like this in Windows, by the way?

Anyway. Patch is not good news. To download you need a network. And Ubuntu doesn’t support the WiFi in the MBP Retina. So no network. And therefore no patch. That Ubuntu doesn’t support the Broadcomm wireless out of the box is just odd. The problem has been known for a long time, and some Ubuntu-related folks published the solution online a long time ago.

So that was that attempt. No mouse. No network. I just closed down. My conclusion is that Ubuntu doesn’t want Ubuntu on MBR Retina. But we knew that.

Testing Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail on VAIO S mid-2012 Windows 7 laptop

Ubuntu Frozen MenuSecond try. This time on my Sony VAIO S from Summer 2012 running Windows 7 using UEFI and possibly but most likely no SecureBoot (Sony’s documentation doesn’t say, the BIOS indicates not as there is no option for it). OK. Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail in the DVD, boot up. After a while a small text pops up in the upper left corner of the screen, saying “secureboot not enabled”. Then a menu (Gnu Grub version 2.00-13ubuntu3, the menu in the image), where I choose to test Ubuntu. Now “error reading sector” flashes in front of me briefly. Then a new message – now doom strikes in the form of a kernel panic:

“1.362350 Kernel Panic: not syncing: Unable to mount root fs on unknown-block (0,0).”

I didn’t want to take no (read:panic) for an answer, and tried again. Six times I tried. Twice I got to the kernel panic, four times I just got to the menu with a frozen image and not a key on the keyboard working. So that was it.

Only that wasn’t it. When I removed the DVD the VAIO still continued to boot into the same menu where it previously had frozen. Over and over. So having read reports of machines getting bricked by Linux (apparently not the case, but that’s what the headlines said), I got scared.

New try. Boot and press F2 frenetically. I get into the BIOS. I choose “Reset default values”, save and shut down. Press the “Power”-button again. It works. Now I was happy to see Windows 7 boot up. That’s rare!

Conclusion: Uff, uff Ubuntu!

And there it is. Using a highly regarded Linux distro I tested on 2 machines and failed twice. I could possibly have made it work on my Mac after a lot of effort, but that’s not how ordinary PC users should meet or expect to meet Ubuntu or Linux.

The VAIO experiment was even worse. Perhaps my machine doesn’t have secure boot: But that shouldn’t be a problem? That’s how it used to be. Or perhaps it has it? I don’t know. But the point is: I shouldn’t be required to know. The install procedure should sense the settings and adapt. And it shouldn’t freeze and it should not produce something that for a while looked a lot like a brick!

So, even though I am a great fan of open source and hate to bring bad news, my conclusion is clearly: Uffda Ubuntu. I don’t think you are ready for the consumer market quite yet! “Kernel panic” will not make people love Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail.

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