Time for my yearly experiment running Linux as a Desktop OS. I installed Ubuntu 11.04 beta1 (“Natty Narwhal”). And immediately hit graphics corruption and system crashes. To be fair I have a weird graphics card that Windows hates too, a Radeon HD 2400 PRO AGP.
So first order of business was switching from the ATI binary driver to the open source VESA driver. There are no docs on this I could find anywhere; there’s no longer an xorg.conf to edit. I finally just used apt-get to uninstall xserver-xorg-video-ati; happily, Ubuntu is smart enough to drop back to the VESA driver if the ATI driver is not around.
The second problem is Unity, the fancy new GUI, doesn’t run on the VESA driver. Too much GL or something. The old UI is there but if you want Unity the solution for that is to install unity-2d, a simpler UI.
With that all done, things sorta work. As with every time I try to use Linux as a desktop, it was a disaster. I can’t really blame Ubuntu for not handling my weird graphics card well, but I can blame it for there being no clear path to diagnose and fix the mistake. Also I’d say unity-2d ought to be a default option, not some weird thing to install.