ubuntu – the story continues

If you’ve been following my ubuntu rants (one, two, three + latest comment), you’ll know that so far the experience has been not as FUCKING advertised (excuse the explicitive). Well, here’s another rant:

After tracking down the kernel driver issue (mind you all my notes on installer usability still apply) that prevented my network from working, I had a way to get a working install. Since I no longer trust gparted to resize my ntfs partition (see post three) I opted for Wubi. Wubi is a great idea, just install everything in a disk image file on your windows C:\ and add a item to the default windows xp bootloader to boot ubuntu. Brilliant. The installer works as advertised:

  • You fill in some details
  • It downloads a custom ubuntu iso image for you (would be better if I wasn’t forced to download it with the installer)
  • it adds an item to the bootloader
  • it reboots
  • it boots into a loopback filesystem on the disk image on your windows drive

Here Wubi’s job ends and Ubuntus text installer takes over (so bye bye usability, welcome to the wonderful world of text based installers). Unlike the normal installation you have 0 control so naturally all the same things go wrong. I.e. it got stuck at “scanning the mirrors” again. This time I unplugged the network cable and killed a few processes in one of the other terminals (ctrl+alt+f2, nice trick I remember from slackware days) hoping the installer would pick up the hint. Surprisingly it did, although it did mess up the apt sources.list in the process. Anyway, the installer completed, I rebooted and configured the WLAN, which does work, unlike on many other people’s hardware. One reboot later (sounds like windows doesn’t it :-). I was looking at the ubuntu desktop.

Fixing what’s wrong.

As I know from previous times, ubuntu does not do a good job of installing my video card + monitor and my sound card. The video+monitor card took a few tries and obscure commands to get right. Apparently the x.org 7.3 in the next release of Ubuntu will do a better job, The sound card issue is due to the fact that I have a modern PC with multiple sound devices. Since Ubuntu likes to guess when it should ask me, I end up with all the sound going to my USB headset instead of the soundblaster and no obvious way of fixing it. The problem is that the tools to fix this are not installed. That’s right, it is assumed that Ubuntu is always right and if not you are on your own. This is true for network; this is true for video; this is true for sound.

It gets worse.

Then (after fixing sources.list which curiously had all entries twice?!) I did an update with synaptic: 260 MB. And promptly ran into this bug. Oops broken pipe bla bla bla, upgrade failed: here’s a bunch of really obscure errors, isn’t synaptic great? Pasting the first line of where things went wrong into google brought me straight to this bug (lucky me). This was another of those opportunities where maybe ordinary users would give up. A rather obscure fix in the bug report helped (basically touch all the failed files and re-run apt-get upgrade). For the record, I did not install anything before running into this bug. Just install ubuntu in Finland + upgrade is enough to trigger this bug. Known since April apparently and related to timezones.

More later. The good news is that I have a bootable system and can probably resolve most remaining issues. The bad news is that so far the experience has been really, really, really bad. I’ve been struggling with things that should just work or fail more gracefully.

websites and stupid assumptions

I just went to a blog and wanted to leave a comment. So the site redirects to blogger.com where I can leave a comment. The site correctly detects I am located in Finland. Very good! That’s so clever! Amazing what you can do these days!

The only problem is that like most of this world (barring around 4-5 million native speakers) I don’t speak Finnish. Not a word. Really, I have a coffee mug that lists pretty much all knowledge I have of this beautiful but incomprehensible language. I haven’t even managed to memorize most of that. And somehow I don’t believe “maksa makkara” (pay the sausage?) is going to help me here.

So, no problem, lots of sites make this mistake. Just click the little “gimme the english version” link that surely must be hidden somewhere …. missing in action. So I check the url …. no obvious way to change fi to en there either. Maybe on the frontpage …. nope, www.blogger.com insists on Finnish as well. So www.blogger.com is unusable for me. Lets just hope it doesn’t spread to the rest of the world. That would be really annoying.

Anyway, this assumption of setting the language based on IP address is just stupid and wrong. First of all, the site should respect my browser settings: doesn’t list Finnish, at all. Neither does my OS. And the browser sends this information as part of the http headers so you can know that my preferred language is US-en. Secondly, Finland is bilingual and for some 500.000 people the right language would have been Swedish. I happen to speak some Swedish at least. And finally any modern country like Finland has a large number of travelers, tourists and migrant workers like me. So not offering a way out is just stupid. Confronting hundreds of thousands of users (just in Finland) with the wrong language when each of them is providing you with their preferred language is even more stupid. Additionally, not offering a link for English is just retarded.

Husky Rescue

I should listen stuff I don’t know more often than I do. Husky Rescue is a cool Helsinki based band with a nice new album called “Ghost is not real”. Well recommended.

Winter has come

I thought it was a bit chilly this morning while walking to work. I just checked with forecastfox: -18, five degrees colder than was predicted yesterday evening for last night :-).

Finally, winter has come.

Musa sapientum fixa est in aure

A long time ago, I learned Latin in school. Latin is a dead language, and other than appreciating sites like this, it is of little use to me. In fact, I’ve forgotten most of what I learned.

But today I discovered a nice web site, kindly provided by the Finnish broadcasting company, that might be useful to me. My Finnish is still maginitudes worse than my skill in many other languages, including swedish, greek, portughese, spanish, french, italian, latin and rivalled only by my ignorance of e.g. japanese and chinese. So reading the news in Latin might actually work for me :-).

Sola lingua bona est lingua mortua

I love this country

An event I’ve ignored for years and tactically zapped around on the TV is the eurovision song festival. When I was in Sweden, Sweden happened to win it (1999?). I heard about this while partying in BÃ¥gen, a very lousy night club in Ronneby. This year, I might keep an eye on the TV because this guy and his friends are going to represent Finland at this years edition. Wow ….! I hope they win :-).

Supermarket beers in Finland

One of the things that take some getting used to when moving to Finland is the beer. Quality and price are, well, different. I don’t really care about the price but quality is something different. You have to lower you expectations and standards in this country when drinking beer.

A big problem here is the notion of supermarket beer. Similar to Sweden, Finland has an alcohol percentage limit on what is legally allowed to be sold in the supermarket. For the real stuff you need to go to the pub or to the state owned liquor stores. Both of which will charge you steep prices. Somewhat to my delight the alcohol percentage limit is at least higher than the limit in Sweden where it is an unworkable 3.5%. At 3.5% most beers taste like shit, and that includes the full range of Swedish brands I can think of (Spendrups, Pripps). Swedish beers taste like shit even with the legally required bit of water removed anyway.

Finland on the other hand maintains an almost workable 4.7%. 4.7% is quite close to the percentage of most Dutch lagers which hover around 5 -5.5%. Real beer of course wants to be 5% (or above). You have to do some dirty tricks to get normal beer below 5%. And that is exactly what the Finns do, dirty tricks. Not only do they do it with the local beers, but they also do it to the imports :-(. You can actually buy a 4.7% Heineken in this country (Heineken can of course be expected to add as much water as is legally required, they have no shame). Of course Heineken is watery to begin with. Adding water does not improve it, I can assure you. Other brands that shamelessly add water to their beer products include Stella, Becks and an odd beer called Hollandia which i’ve never heard off. Probably even the Dutch homeless would frown upon this particular lager.

Some Finnish ‘specialties’ I’ve sampled over the last few months include Olvi, Koff, Lapin Kulta, Karhu and some others not worth remembering. I’ve listed them in the order I like them best. Olvi and Koff are quite tolerable though both a bit lacking in taste. Lapin Kulta and Karhu are definately worse. Both come with a strong taste, but quite unlike beer. Lapin means rabbit in French and I suppose kulta could very well mean piss in the beautiful but difficult finnish language. Nevertheless it seems to be quite popular here. All of these ‘beers’ exist in ‘normal’ variations as well. Koff in the pub is quite allright, actually. However, drinking any of the Finnish beers in large quantities is not recommended. At 4.7% they will have almost the same effect as normal beers. However, the taste (or lack theroff) makes the whole experience not quite as enjoyable as it would normally be.

Luckily there is another option for the thirsty supermarket shopper: British & Irish stouts and ales. These are very popular in the supermarkets here. And for very good reason. With an alcohol percentage typically below 4.7% no dirty tricks need to be performed on these fine beers to make it legal to sell them. Currently I am enjoying a nice can of Boddingtons (an ale from Manchester), conveniently containing only 4.7% of alcohol. Other beers I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks are Guinness, Caffrey’s and Murphy’s. There’s quite a few more brands I can try. I’ve even sampled a few tschechian beers which are quite enjoyable as well.

sauna

With living in Finland comes the inevitable sauna experience (apparently, Finland has an estimated 2 million saunas, one for every three persons). Today I had some work related meeting which finished with sauna and dinner. That was quite an experience. The facilities at BÃ¥tvik included a pool, electric sauna and  most importantly a old fashioned smoke sauna. Very nice! I’m sold. I had no idea what I had been missing out on. The concept of getting naked with your (male) colleagues and sitting together in a dark, hot room full of smoke may seem unappealing but it’s really nice. I had the complete experience, including whipping myself with berch leaves. Standing naked outside afterwards is surreal. Strangely enough it takes several minutes before your body notices that is actually pretty cold outside. Sadly, while the facilities were on the seaside, the sea was frozen solid so we couldn’t skinny dip but I’m sure that would have added to the experience.

Sadly my apartment has no sauna (as is common for newer apartments here), nor does the building have shared facilities but we do have a sauna at work that I might try. Though going outside naked is probably not really socially acceptable in the middle of Helsinki.