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The life history of Ubuntu Linux 10.10 netbook edition on my Dell Mini 10v netbook was short.

I like Linux (a lot), but I hit a major snag and the most unusual problem I’ve ever seen: when I tried to use LyX, a genial front-end program to LaTeX, it had no top menu. No File, Edit, Help, etc. De nada. The lower menus were in place and I could open existing documents or start a new one, but missing were all the critical Import/Export features from the File tab, because there was no File tab.

Every other program on my system was normal, indicating a one-off anomaly. I did the usual: I removed LyX and re-fetched and installed it. It still came up without the top menu.

Well, thought I, I’ll simply download the source code and compile it. When I ran ./configure one of the error messages I received was to the effect that it couldn’t find an X Window system. I could have dogged it out, trying to feed in new parameters to the config script, or I could have contacted the packagers for LyX, asking what gives, but I knew that in one hour’s time I could reinstall Mac OS X.

So, that’s what I did. I needed LyX for a project and knew it ran perfectly on Mac OS X so I proceeded with the reinstall. Because I’d done it before I still had all the install files on USB drives. Within an hour I was once again running Snow Leopard.

I fetched MacTex then LyX (as well as installing X) and all was well. The top menu is there and I’m once again ready to proceed to package my year’s journals into a beautifully typeset PDF file.

The only reason I left the Mac OS X install behind was that it doesn’t take well to updates. As in, I can’t boot afterward and I’m not dedicated enough to dig out the why and fix it.

So, I use it without updates. Not a problem really because the machine’s only on when I’m writing.

Still, LyX without a top menu tops my list of strange problems and I enjoyed seeing it for myself. I wouldn’t have credited it if someone had told me this had happened to them. Now I’ll keep an open mind.