Adventures with a Hardy Heron

While I was gone, I got up to many things, not least of which was upgrading my computer. As regular readers will know, I deleted Windows in the midst of a tantrum several months ago and defected to Ubuntu Linux. Up until this August, I was running Ubuntu 7.04, or Feisty Fawn. I briefly attempted to use the handy “upgrade your system” button on the updates window to convert to 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon), but the result of this was that Gutsy destroyed my CUPS drivers (meaning no printer would work) and disconnected me from the internet so I couldn’t even get help restoring my printing from the Ubuntu support forum. I went back to Feisty, grumbling about the amount of time wasted rebuilding my system from scratch.

So last month I upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). I know it was released back in April or May, but I use some third-party software that I wanted to be sure had caught up before i upgraded. I could have stayed with Feisty, because I had it working perfectly, but Ubuntu versions are released every six months and Feisty’s support days are numbered. Hardy, on the other hand, was announced along with a promise that it would be supported with updates for a lot longer than previous editions of Ubuntu – a matter of years, if I recall correctly. So I downloaded Hardy, burnt myself a disk, discovered the disk was corrupted, burnt myself a new disk, then backed up my files and began the install process.

I have to say, I like Hardy. It works relatively smoothly, it has some nice programmes, it’s a bit more amenable to third-party drivers than Feisty (which my graphics card is grateful for) and it has the latest versions of the standard open software. Actually, I’m running a second generation of Hardy: 8.04.1. I’m not sure what the difference is, but it has Firefox 3 (which was released a couple of months after Hardy’s original release) as standard.

However, there are problems. Hardy does not work as well as Feisty did for one simple reason: Flash. At the time of writing, the version of Adobe Flash most readily available is Flash Player 9, and it has a problem – you get no sound. Currently (September 2008, if you can’t be bothered to check the timestamp) there is no fix for this. I have done a lot of ferreting about on Google and the support forums and have discovered several options. Firstly, there is libflashsupport. I think you can install this through the Synaptic Package manager. The reason there is no sound on Flash videos is because of some sort of compatibility issue with PulseAudio, which is part of the sound programming with the latest versions of Ubuntu. The problem with libflashsupport is that, although it will fix the sound problem, it will cause your browser to crash when it comes into contact with the majority of Flash objects. This is the case with all browsers, not just Firefox 3. There is a workaround for this issue, contained in this set of instructions. What this does is install a plugin wrapper, meaning that if your browser is in danger of crashing, it will just display a blank grey box in place of the offending Flash object and keep Firefox running. I’m afraid this is the best you’re going to get right now. If you use a different browser to Firefox, I don’t know if this advice is relevant – but if you’re capable enough to use a browser other than the default one, you’re probably capable of doing further research on this yourself anyway. Good luck.

There is one other method of dealing with the situation. Rather than taking the quick download option for Flash, have a good dig on the Adobe website and get Flash Player 10. At the time of writing, the release candidate version is pretty new, but the sound mostly works without libflashsupport and Firefox 3 crashes less often. It still crashes from time to time and on some interactive objects you get bizarre, rectangular gaps, so I disable Flash unless I’m looking at something that particularly requires it. Then I cross my fingers and hope Firefox doesn’t crash. I think all of this mess is being caused by teething troubles on Adobe and Mozilla’s parts, so by the time Firefox 3 and Flash Player 10 are being updated in future months, these kinks will iron themselves out. (It has to be noted that Firefox 3 is not as stable as its predecessor and has a habit of greying-out and making a meal of displaying pages sometimes.)

I’m not having enough difficulty with my system to feel the need to back up my files and go back to Feisty again, but I will say caveat emptor with Ubuntu 8.04 for the moment. I believe very firmly that these problems will get fixed in the near future, but internet browsing is still going to be a source of frustration in the meantime.

~ by Scary Rob on 3 September, 2008.

2 Responses to “Adventures with a Hardy Heron”

  1. *nods* I think I’d stay where you are – there’s a big hole in the encryption keys for some of the releases before hardy (I don’t remember how far back – someone was trying to fix some code that didn’t need fixing, actually broke it, you know the drill).

  2. I played with Ubuntu for a while, not bad, but it was a real project to get everything up and running, but I eventually went back to ‘the dark side’ aka windows.

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