Friday, December 25, 2009

Ubuntu's backward step

I have a laptop that runs Ubuntu Karmic (and OpenSolaris in multi-boot), and I recommend Ubuntu for all my friends who want to give Linux a shot. The most important reason is Ubuntu's ease of use. For the past several months, many people are shifting from Windows to open source OS because unlike past, Linux is as easy to use as Windows. I still remember those days of 9 CD Debian installation and now anyone can install Ubuntu with some basic knowledge of computers. Also there is a huge online help for Ubuntu.

One of my friends, who installed Ubuntu going by my advice, called me yesterday to tell that it gives an error about low graphics, wherein she has a NVIDIA GeForce in her laptop. Ah, that's easy, you just need to shutdown your GNOME, update /etc/X11/xorg.conf, download the driver and install, invoke runlevel 6. Simple! This is the typical problem of being a computer engineer - making assumption that the person at the other end understands the lingo of computers. Not surprisingly, my friend could not make a head or tail out of it.

Then I got this idea. xorg.conf is a part of debconf. Ubuntu is built on Debian. Therefore she should be able to run dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg. Even then she may need to shutdown GNOME, but that's OK. She hit back telling dpkg-reconfigure is not found. I was startled. I went back to my laptop and tried dpkg-reconfigure and it was not there.

Does anyone have any clue why it was removed, without providing an alternate option? Ubuntu was making everyone's life easy with using Linux. In that journey, suddenly a step backward. How many people who have a graphics card would know anything about xorg.conf and its significance? Let's hope Ubuntu does provide an alternative in its next release.


  1. Maybe try:


    Looks like you have a spelling error. :)

  2. dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg would be easier.

    Also boot in safe mode and try the Fix X option.

  3. I'm assuming it's just a typo, but it should be dpkg not dbkg. If you run it it won't actually change anything though, the new xorg is supposed to auto-configure everything. You should have them try running nvidia-xconfig. It's a tool that comes with the nvidia drivers that builds a xorg.conf that usualy works well.

  4. Well I can tell you this, Karmic is not the issue. I have a PC running Xubuntu desktop as a server on LTS 8.04.1. That's almost a 2yo code base now. running 'aptitude search' the package is not in the repository.

    If this was ever in the code base, then it happened some time ago. Its not a recent event.

  5. Tell people to use Debian instead of Ubuntu. Today, Debian is simple to install, it's much more stable, well-documented, and yes, polished than Ubuntu. Ubuntu is simply Debian-unstable with some poorly documented, poorly tested, and feature incomplete Canonical hacks (such as Upstart) hacked into Debian. These hacks break a lot of packages in the Debian repository, and Canonical doesn't have the dev support to test all of those packages with the Ubuntu hacks. Canonical simply assumes the packages won't be broken, without actually testing them all. Ubuntu is the distro to use only if you love regressions. Most newbies don't.

  6. very possibly because it should be 'dpkg-reconfigure'. But I also think it may be gone due to changes in XOrg being auto-configured these days. If your friend has an xorg.conf file, try renaming it so that its not found and have X auto-configure itself. Or, just use Debian. I think Ubuntu makes a joke of the stability of Debian.

  7. That was removed a long time you've just found out.:)

  8. @Anonymous
    Thanks for the spelling correction. I fixed it in the blogpost. But in my system, I actually tried with the correct spelling. It just does not exist in Karmic.

  9. @Tux De Luxe
    You are right. I personally would not face any problem with dpkg-reconfigure's disappearance act. I know other ways around. But newbies certainly would have a tough time, since GPUs are slowly becoming part of laptops

  10. Karmic removed dpkg-reconfigure as part of the xserver update. Quote-You are not supposed to need xorg.conf anymore.-Unquote.

    I have been using a custom xorg.conf file since Gutsy because my monitor doesn't report it's configuration properly, and have had to update it, but I still use it in Karmic, so a custom xorg.conf file is still supported. They just won't help you much if their automatic configuration doesn't work.

  11. @Carl
    "...Quote-You are not supposed to need xorg.conf anymore.-Unquote... I still use it in Karmic, so a custom xorg.conf file is still supported..."

    Where did you get this quote from?! I am also using custom xorg.conf for my NVIDIA drivers. In fact, I was using xorg.conf for different purposes even in Debian. If I am not mistaken, it was introduced in Debian 4 and Ubuntu got it from Debian.

    The point is not that you cannot create a custom xorg.conf. You very well can and that's the way I prefer doing stuff. But dpkg-reconfigure was helping non-computer-engineers configure their xserver in Ubuntu. So it's absence is significant, because if you want the operating system to be successful, it must be easy to configure for every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

    We still don't know why dpkg-reconfigure is removed from Ubuntu. What is the compelling reason?

  12. @Anonymous (one of the many)
    "That was removed a long time you've just found out..."
    Not surprising. I did not try typing dpkg-reconfigure anytime in the past few years. The question is: Why was it removed whenever it was removed? Do you know the reason?

    Very good point. Probably Ubuntu removed dpkg-reconfigure, because they auto-configure the XOrg.

    @Anonymous (another)
    "Tell people to use Debian instead of Ubuntu..."
    May be I should.

    Thank y'all for suggesting several workaround to cope with the absence of dpkg-reconfigure. But I already know how to configure my x-windows without dpkg-reconfigure. This post is not for seeking help/advice. Instead I want to know the reason for removing dpkg-reconfigure.