rethinking the use of ubuntu 20.10 on a raspberry pi 4

Yesterday I wrote about how I was staying with Raspbian/Raspberry Pi OS 64-bit because it was, essentially, “smoother” to work with. Then I pulled out my 2GB and 4GB Raspberry Pi 4 little systems and attempted to start an update of the Raspbian OS 32-bit. It’s been a good six months since I worked with those little boxes, and I felt it was time to bring them up to date. I powered up the 4GB system and attempted a standard update (as full root) with apt update && apt upgrade -y. And it failed. For whatever reason apt couldn’t reach the Raspbian servers. After several more attempts and subsequent failures I shut it down. Since I’d already gone to the trouble to populate and initialize another µSDXC card with Ubuntu 20.10, I quickly swapped it onto the 4GB system and powered it back up again. It booted without issue, and to see if I could reach Ubuntu’s update servers, went through the same apt dance. It succeeded, updating Firefox in the process.

I know that getting the software ready for the Raspberry Pi is a huge volunteer effort. I get that, and I certainly appreciate that. But when the servers are unavailable for whatever reason, it tends to cast a pall over the OS. I checked to see if there were any messages about the Raspbian infrastructure being down or just having problems, and found nothing on the usual web sites and forums.

It’s at this point I have to ask myself if I should move on. I left Arch Linux precisely because it would not remain sane if left alone for long periods of time between updates. When my Arch installs essentially committed suicide when attempting an update, I made the decision to move to Raspbian, and never looked back. I might complain about the ages of some of the tools on an Raspbian OS, but I’ll take old and reliably working over new and busted ever single time. Now it’s reliably working Ubuntu updating over hit-or-miss working Raspbian. This is the older 32-bit version, not the 64-bit version that’s still in beta.

One strong point in Ubuntu’s favor is that it’s supported by a business, Canonical, that is totally devoted to OS development and support. The Raspberry Pi Organization is trying to support hardware and the surrounding ecosystem as well as its own OS. Now that Canonical has demonstrated their ability to support the Raspberry Pi, and now that the Pi is using hardware that can in turn support contemporary Ubuntu on ARM64, it might be a good time for the Raspberry Pi Organization to strike a formal deal with Canonical and let Canonical supply the ARM64 OS. This would allow the Raspberry Pi Organization to better concentrate their resources instead of spreading everything and everyone so thin. Ubuntu 20.10 still has some performance issues on the desktop, but at this point I’ll accept that because of the reliability of the operating system and its update servers.

If you think I’m being to harsh with Raspbian, here’s another interesting data point to consider. My most popular blog post for 2020 is “disable chromium update dialog on raspbian buster” ( https://arcanesciencelab.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/disable-chromium-update-dialog-on-raspbian-buster/ ), a problem with Chomium that I wrote about back in April of this year, complete with work arounds.The ultimate fix is to recompile Chromium and rebuild its package, followed by a push out to the update servers. But it would appear that hasn’t happened, not if the continuing interest I keep getting on that article is any indication. And there are other little annoyances that would benefit from a similar refresh as well.

The only problem with switching to Ubuntu is support for older 32-bit hardware. There’s an awful lot of that out in the Real World, embedded in many commercial products as well as personal projects. Those will still need OS support that Ubuntu won’t be able to provide. Perhaps the practical solution is for the Raspberry Pi Organization to hand off 64-bit support to Canonical, while they go back and support just the older 32-bit hardware.

I will admit that my use of this hardware is not quite the norm for others. To me this is a hobby, so I tend to try and keep up with software updates, though not on the absolute bleeding edge. As a hobbyist I can afford to live with the kinks that new features can introduce, as long as I can get some reasonable feature. As of this point in time, I’ve been incentivized as it were to migrate to Ubuntu, at least for the latest Raspberry Pi hardware. Another adventure; we’ll see how that works out for me.

it’s still hard

Pandemic Teddie

It’s still hard to shelter in place. It’s still hard to remember to take your mask with you when you get out and go into a store. It’s getting harder to remember that back in January I had just retired and I’d made all these plans to just toodle around Florida with my wife and look at what we’d never seemed to have time to see before I retired.

On a broader scale, it’s hard to forget that once upon a time we had multiple book stores (Bookstop, Borders, Waldenbooks, and Barnes & Noble) that were filled to the brim with so many titles. Around 2000 every store had multiple shelves packed with technical books on computers, computer languages, and operating systems. They even carried one to two shelves just for Linux. O’Reilly’s books dominated, and there were many different publishers. Now there’s only a shadow of Barnes & Noble, and I have to hunt for what’s called the Technical section, buried off to one side. There’s hardly anything of note any longer. Even the ubiquitous Windows books (the OS, Office, etc) are almost gone. The problem there is the fluidity of the subject matter. By the time a book is published it’s already obsolete, as the subject, especially if it’s a language, has advanced with major new features that either aren’t documented, changed what’s been documented, or made documented features in the print version obsolete. And of course when you get into the book, you’re going to find errata, which means time to find and fix and publish, always to some obscure web page managed by the author(s).

Even my alternate favorite, science fiction, ain’t what it used to be. I’m 66, soon to be 67, and I’ve been reading science fiction since I was old enough to read. My first book was Isaac Asimov’s “Pebble in the Sky”, first published in 1950, a copy of which my dad gave me ten years later when I was seven. That started a life-long reading habit, especially in science fiction, and which still carries me today. Except I’m a lot more picky these days. I surely haven’t read everything, but I’ve read enough, and I’ve seen nearly all characters, tropes, and plots in many variations over the decades. For me, nothing will ever come close to the original Foundation Trilogy in scope or excitement, but hey, that’s me I guess.

And I certainly don’t need dystopian reading. All I have to do is look at the world-wide coronavirus pandemic, especially our handling of it, or the sadistic racism of many police departments around the US, and now it seems, around the world. But for sheer horror all I have to do is look at this year burning on the west coast of the US. I thought what Australia when through last year was horrific enough. But global warming has pushed the west into a fire season the likes it’s never seen before, complete with hell-red skies.

It’s still hard, but I will get through this, and when we come out the other side in January, Trump will be gone. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we’re going to have to really get busy and repair the tremendous damage done over the last four years by the Trump Administration. There’s the old saying “You can’t fix stupid”, but we’re going to have to fix what stupid has royally fucked up. We have no choice.