Installing and using Ubuntu Feisty Fawn Herd 5

I installed Ubuntu Feisty Fawn Herd 5 yesterday morning on an IBM T43 laptop. As I understand it, Herd 5 is basically the last alpha before the Feisty Fawn beta freeze. I wouldn’t normally bother messing around with an alpha Linux distro, but I had two good reasons for trying it.

First of all, I needed to test something on Linux fast and my friend made off with my FC6 DVD last month. I could either spend half an hour downloading a Ubuntu distro or who knows how long downloading FC6 again.

Secondly, I only really need the distro to compile Firefox and run it so I can take patches for a spin. I don’t need it to work out as something for me to use on a daily basis. That lowers the risk factor significantly, since I can probably live with a fair number of bugs and failures. As I’m excited to see Ubuntu’s progress, I figured it was worth a shot.

I’m glad I tried it because Ubuntu Feisty Fawn Herd 5 is awesome! It installed in about half an hour, with me only having to spend about 30 seconds in the installer. Once I booted into the operating system, I did a system update and pulled down about 550 updated packages. That sounds bad, but it didn’t take long and the update went off without a hitch. Such a big update is to be expected when you’re using an alpha release that is under heavy development. ALL of my hardware worked perfectly without me having to do anything – wired and wireless networking, the display at full resolution, the trackpad, everything. The IBM T43 that I have has some weird hardware and no operating system has ever come close to this level of hardware support – not even a fully updated Windows XP SP2 or a fully updated FC6 (both have terrible hardware support for the T43).

Next task was to get it to build Firefox. Not being an experienced Ubuntu user, I didn’t realize at first that it lacks some basic developer tools by default. Within about 15 minutes I was able to track down all of the packages I needed, they installed without issues, and 30 minutes after that I had built Firefox. Fantastic!

There was one thing that bugged me for a while, until this afternoon. “vi” was behaving strangely, in particular the arrow keys in insert mode would insert characters. Very frustrating. This afternoon I googled around and found out that Ubuntu ships with a mini version of “vi”, and the solution was to install the package “vim-full”. With that solved my Ubuntu Feisty system is a dream all around.

Boot time is great, the interface is nice and refined, everything is snappy and stable, and hardware support is wonderful. In an alpha release! This is how Linux should be.