Things in my personal world of Ubuntu Lucid 10.04 are starting to work themselves out, but it hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride on my main laptop.

If you read to the bottom, you’ll find that the hacky-as-hell solution to a bug that has plagued my own desktop is followed by my thoughts (not all good) on what exactly Canonical was thinking about when deciding what goes into a long-term-support release.

Let’s start with my latest amateur bug fix:

I think I’ve solved the social-bar-doesn’t-appear-in-the-me-menu situation. First of all it’s only in my main user account. New accounts work fine with the social bar once Gwibber is set up.

So it’s something I did in the early days of this Ubuntu installation, which occurred during the beta phase.

The fix I tried today appears to be working:

First I went into Applications – Accessories – Passwords and Encryption Keys and deleted all password that had to do with Gwibber. I’m not sure whether or not this step is actually necessary, but it couldn’t hurt — and that’s why I did it.

Then I followed this advice from a Gwibber bug report in Launchpad:

If you are facing this please Quit(not close) gwibber and delete ~/.cache/desktop-couch ~/.config/desktop-couch and ~/.local/desktop-couch and start gwibber and try to add twitter account

In case you’re not quite hard-core enough, ~ means your home directory, which in my case is /home/steven …

I deleted all three desktop-couch folders and then restarted the system, added my Twitter and accounts and then rebooted again. I still didn’t have the social bar, so I did one other thing:

In my earlier testing, under System – Preferences – Startup Applications, I added one for gwibber-service. It previously only worked intermittently so I had it turned off.

I turned back on the gwibber-service startup application that I had previously created, then rebooted.

Once again I have the social bar in the Me Menu.

I’ll keep an eye on this over the next few days.

I had hoped that the “simple” act of removing the desktop-couch folders and re-entering my Twitter and account information in Gwibber was itself enough to make everything work like it’s supposed to.

Creating the gwibber-service startup application is more hacky than I’d like, but for now it appears to be working. And remember, subsequent accounts I’ve created in this particular installation have no trouble with the social bar in the Me Menu, so it appears that something somewhere in my main account’s startup scripts is not properly starting gwibber-service.

Analysis: Things started to go wrong with the social bar when I decided to change my main user account’s password. Once I did that the GNOME keyring kept asking me for the old password every time I did something that required that keyring.

Following the not-always-reliable advice I found in the Ubuntu Forums, I deleted the keyring in my user account. After that the keyring worked fine (with the same password as my user account) but the social bar didn’t appear except during the same session in which I actively added a social-networking account to Gwibber.

Whether or not these two things are related (deleting GNOME keyring and losing social bar) is still an open question.

What it points to is the alpha nature of the social desktop in Ubuntu Lucid. Not the greatest thing for what is supposed to be a long-term support release. Will they finally figure this thing out in 10.10 or 11.04? I hope so.

Just this kind of problem, in my opinion, is a very good reason why the 10.04 LTS should have been more like a refined, bug-fixed Ubuntu Karmic (9.10) rather than an alpha for what might get fixed in Ubuntu 10.10 or 11.04.

My sense of the whole release philosophy is that Canonical/Ubuntu wanted to make a whole lot of noise with a release packed with a mix of real and imagined innovation (Ubuntu One everywhere! MP3s for sale! Social all over! Mac-like buttons! Purple!) and really forgot what an LTS release is all about: stability out of the box.

My worry (which I hope does not come to pass) is that due to the nature of Linux releases there will be no major bug-fixing in Ubuntu 10.04, and any refinement/stability for the new features will not reach the end user until subsequent releases, making this LTS more of a “lame duck” than it deserved to be.

Here’s something that puzzles me: In the final days, Ubuntu decided to pull gThumb 2.11 and replace it with 2.10 because they were worried that the newer version (a major upgrade despite the incremental version number) was too unstable — either potentially or in reality.

But things like this social desktop with tight Gwibber, Empathy and Evolution integration (and between less and no integration with other client software such as Pidgin and Thunderbird), the merits and speed of Ubuntu One and the constantly moving window buttons, seem way more dodgy and unstable.

But I guess that gThumb is GNOME’s project, and the social desktop and Ubuntu One are Canonicals, so there are different sets of rules depending on where the code comes from.

Fedora doesn’t always make its release date. Neither does FreeBSD (though OpenBSD seems to hit it pretty well regardless). Debian won’t even set one. Slackware releases only when ready. Maybe Ubuntu can take a hint here and apply the brakes once in awhile — or at least not get so ambitious and run the risk of severely hobbling a very important long-term-support release.

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