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Ubuntu Review

When I was a teen, I messed around a little bit with Linux, and hated it.  I felt like I was learning a programming language, and the text based command line program installation just seemed too cumbersome, when Windows worked just fine for me.

Recently, with the problems I’ve had with Vista, general curiosity about what all the hubbub is about, and a friend that convinced me to give it a shot (thanks Matt!), I’ve decided to give Linux another chance.  So for the last few weeks, I’ve been messing around with Ubuntu, namely the Hardy Heron build.  I like it, but it isn’t without its problems.  I wasted a LOT of time trying to get it to play nicely with my laptop’s graphics card, and finally gave up.  This was frustrating, and not a good testament to Ubuntu’s ability to run on all recent hardware.  It runs like a champ on the laptop performance wise, but without the eye candy.  Ubuntu even installed the OS on a separate partition, and kept my Windows program intact.  I have the ability to dual boot operating systems, which is a must for me.  The only other major issue I had on the laptop was that the OS won’t put the hardware to sleep correctly.  Hibernation works, but not the sleep function.

Tonight, I got an old Desktop PC I built before college up and running with Linux.  I’m dual booting Windows and Ubuntu.  It has a cheap graphics card, an old 1.47 GHz processor, and only 600+ Mb of RAM, and it can run with all of the eye candy on.  It’s pretty sweet, and I am blown away by the visual effects.  It beats Vista’s Aero visuals, and even what I’ve seen of Mac’s OS X, and it’s running on OLD hardware.  I do need more RAM, becuase Compiz Fusion has a memory leak issue that doesn’t clear memory quickly enough, so I do hit my limit every once in awhile.

Is Ubuntu ready for primetime (ie my parents, wife, and the general public)?  Not in my opinion.  There are a few things I would change.  No more terminal commands to get programs tweaked to get them to run properly (Screenlets, I’m talking to you).  Better documentation for the newbies.  More Windows programs need to be ported to Linux (Rhapsody, Photoshop, Itunes, to name a few that I use).  Flash and Java need to be easier to find and install (i only want to see the version that works with my build of Ubuntu)  Make the file system a little more intuitive and easy to get around in.  I wanted to find the default background files, and they were buried in a /USR subfolder.  I am still forced into some terminal mumbo jumbo to get certain things working, and if it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t even know how to do half the things I need to in Linux.  The developers have done a bang up job in making installing apps more streamlined, but it’s still very different than in Windows, and I think a lot of the general public would be confused when talking about repositories, packages, third party apps, etc.

What do I like about Ubuntu that Windows doesn’t have?  Multiple desktops…awesome!   Ubuntu has a way to hide your widgets and expose them with a keystroke or mouse hover over a section of the screen, I like this as well.  Most importantly, the ability to get a great experience on older, cheaper hardware.

Will it replace my Windows machines?  Probably not yet.  It’s great to play with, learn, and use a bit here and there, but the overall usability of my Windows apps still beats the Linux apps.  I wish I could get the performance of Linux, the low-overhead eye candy of Linux, the stability of Linux, with the usuability and program library of Windows.

Tomorrow the newest build of Ubuntu will be released.  Called Intrepid Ibex, it has a few cool features I’m looking forward to.  They are USB stick installation of the OS, and Guest Sessions, which allows people to use your PC, without having access to your data.  I’ll upgrade both machines, and try to use Linux on them as much as possible, to see if I could make a permanent switch.

Call me impressed, Linux has come a long way.

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  1. November 4, 2008 at 11:34 am

    i want to see an update article on how awesome 8.10 is! 😉

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