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May 28th, 2008:

Kubuntu on Painkillers

A quick update on my mouth rehab, though it borders on TMI: About two weeks ago I had 30 new crowns installed, after fussing with a mouthful of temps for most of a month, one of which had a bad habit of coming loose while I was doing something innocuous, like chewing a chicken leg. That operation was not bad, though my gums got a little beat up from the sterilizing agent and dental pick work to remove excess adhesive. So now I have 30 brilliant white porcelain crowns, and if all you look at are my teeth, well, I look like a TV anchorman.

But that leaves two to go. One of them was so badly damaged by six years under my previous horseshoe of connected crowns that it had to come out. The other is a healthy tooth but needed crown lengthening and a post in the middle of it, because it had gotten whittled down so far in 2001. Alas, a post requires a root canal, because the post has to go somewhere. Yesterday I went back and had the lower molar pulled, and crown lengthening (warning: NSFS) done on its opposing number in my upper jaw. That involved some bone scraping, which was one of the ugliest sounds I've ever heard, given that I could feel it in my…bones.

Everything becomes quiet for about six months now. My empty socket has to heal and fill in with bone, after which the surgeon will install an implant post to hold a porcelain molar. At about the same time, I'll have a root canal done on the upper and a post installed in the middle of that tooth to hold the opposing porcelain molar. And then—egad, I hope!—the whole thing will be finished.

On the other hand, I thought I was finished in 2001. Silly boy.

So I'm back on painkillers, though I don't need as many this time as when I had my gums reworked along the entire perimeter of my lower jaw back in January. And last night I did an interesting experiment: I installed Hardy Heron not once but twice, all while in a codeine fog.

Results: It went flawlessly. Linux has clearly arrived. A week or so back I downloaded and burned the ISOs for both Ubuntu and Kubuntu 8.04, the Kubuntu distro with KDE 4. I like KDE more than Gnome, because it reminds me more of Windows, and I've been looking forward to seeing V4 for several months. Both Ubuntu and Kubuntu installed without incident, each in its own 30 GB partition on my lab SX270 3.2 GHz box. I did not have the display glitches I had back in October, (even though the hardware has not changed at all) and both distros saw my network immediately.

I installed a bunch of things with the Adept installer, including some games, Boa Constructor (a vaguely Delphi-ish RAD environment for Python) and some office apps. No problems there, and Boa Constructor is worth a little experimenting and some description as time allows. My only complaint so far is a minor one: GRUB is ugly, and needlessly so. Suse and Fedora (I think) already have a graphical GRUB OS selection screen. Given the importance Ubuntu places on nontechnical users, I think it would be worthwhile to budget a little work for creating one and including it in the default distros.

The reasons are not entirely esthetic. Nontechnical people almost never see text screens anymore (except for a vanishingly quick appearance while BIOS POST does its thing) and when they do, it almost always means that something is wrong. Leaving a general good impression of desktop Linux is vital right now, as from what I can see, the OS itself is ready.

A quick skim of the Ubuntu forums online indicates that it's possible to install a graphical GRUB display in Ubuntu, and I'm going to give it a shot today or tomorrow, when the codeine is no longer necessary and I can run my brain on all cylinders. In the meantime, if any of you have any experiences (good or bad) with graphical GRUB displays, I'd appreciate hearing them.