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Feisty Fawn, Sun's JDK and the latest Eclipse

Posted by kirillcool on April 22, 2007 at 5:07 PM PDT

The latest barrage of announcements from both Ubuntu and Sun's camp finally made me reconsider my position from two years back, and i decided to give Linux a chance. After downloading the ISO file for Feisty Fawn and burning it with Nero, i naively thought that i could just install it from within Windows. That is not so - the disk should be chosen at the boot sequence, and this is the first major obstacle for non-IT people (i'm not sure if this can be technically managed). I was quite scared to play with the boot BIOS settings, since i have quite a few important files on my XP box. So, i popped in a blank DVD, made a quick backup and asked my wife to not be too angry at me if the pictures of our baby daughter and her work-related files will no longer be there in a few hours (this didn't happen, so hooray for Ubuntu).

Next, hitting Delete key during the boot, fiddling with the CD / DVD and the main boot menus, restart and voila - i have the main Ubuntu menu. Select "Start from CD" and... Get greeted with the "Can't read CD" message. Wait - where did the Ubuntu menu come from? Restart a few times, get the same message. Revert back to trusty Windows XP, browse the net and discover that i should select slower speed for burning the CD. Say what? I've burned hundreds of CDs and DVDs on this box, and this is the first time i get such an advice. Oh, well, might as well try it. Switch back from 32x to 16x setting in Nero, burn another CD (which has effectively doubled the total cost of installing Ubuntu, not to mention that i had to go to the Fry's and buy a brand new pack of blank CDs - who's using CDs any more, and why can't you burn an ISO image to a DVD...)

Now Ubuntu was nice enough to start in the live mode which is oh so horribly slow. It took about 10 minutes to install (after downloading) the JDK (as compared to a few seconds on the installed Ubuntu), and this is with 512MB RAM. The screen is third of an inch off to the right, and there are quite a few visual artifacts during the boot (i'm on geforce 5500). But - it recognized my internet connection, so what are a few pixels when you don't need to configure the modem? After the above-mentioned 10 minutes of installing the JDK it eventually failed (i don't remember the message) and i finally mustered some courage to install Ubuntu.

Click on the Install icon, get greeted with a not-so-bad installer, up until it gets to the partition screen. What do we have there? A cryptic slider with a not-so-easy-to-understand purpose. Where is it going to create a partition? How do i say to it "take 8 GB from this drive"? It was hard for me to understand, and i'm sure it's way over the head of a non-IT person. Well, back to XP and trusted Partition Magic. Create a new drive with 8 GB and back to Ubuntu. Select manual mode, get a cryptic dialog to create partitions, try a few times, get stuck in the middle (somehow Ubuntu let me open two modal dialogs so had to reboot), try a few options, cross fingers, get a little help in selecting the partition type ("NTFS is not supported, select some other type such as ext2" for a list of about 12 options. Well, if you want ext2, why not select it yourself?) and finally the install starts.

Once Ubuntu starts, the installer (apt-get) is a god-sent gift. Sun's JDK and CVS were installed in a few minutes, and then i decided to install Eclipse. No biggie - "sudo apt-get install eclipse" and it goes and fetches the latest 3.2.2 release. But wait, it resets GCJ as the default Java binary. What's the solution? Apparently, all you need to do is fire up Synaptic and remove gcj. It would be nice, but unfortunately it also goes and removes Eclipse. Catch-22. Sigh. But wait, there's a solution!

Go to eclipse.org, click download (and it's nice enough to recognize that you're on Linux) and download the latest .tar.gz. Once it's on your machine, unzip it somewhere and now you're ready to run Eclipse. One catch is that if you type "eclipse" in the terminal, it says that it doesn't have it. So, you'll either have to add "." to the path, run "./eclipse" or create a shortcut in the top toolbar (or whatever it's called). Right-click, select "Add to panel", select "Custom application launcher", select eclipse (wherever you installed it) and you're done. Almost. What an ugly icon (or the lack of thereof). Right click on the shortcut, select "Properties", click on "No icon", browse to the eclipse install folder and select "eclipse.xpm". Now, you're done. When you launch Eclipse, it'll pick Sun JDK 6.0 by default (instead of GCJ).

Last thing - Ubuntu is nice enough to assume that it should be the default OS during the boot. If, like me, you currently see it as a minor OS to be used for debugging OS-specific issues, follow these instructions to reset your Windows as the default OS (to keep you and, most importantly, your wife, happy).

Disclaimer - this is my first day with Linux (but most certainly not my first with UNIX environment - that i had plenty, about 9 years). There might be easier ways to do what i did, there might be mistakes in my advice, but this is an honest recollection of the last 12 hours of my life (and i wonder if 150$ that i paid for the pre-installed Vista were spent wisely, considering the time spent on Ubuntu and the general hourly wages in the IT industry, not to mention that some laptop vendors void the warranty if the problems you're having are caused by installing an alternative OS)