User friendly Linux requires no cash advance
I had heard and read a lot about Ubuntu linux. Ubuntu - an ancient african word meaning "Humanity to Others" promises to be the first real desktop option for Corporates / Home users
"Humanity to Others" or "I am who I am becauase who we all are" or "Linux for human beings". All of these catch phrases, mottos sound as if these are for some NGO who are working for a social causes and upliftment of underdeveloped people / communities. Believe me, it is doing exactly that. These are the catch phrases for Ubuntu Linux which has had some good reviews over the past 1 year or so and is believed to have capabilities to make headway in the desktop market, both enterprise and home users. This probably should gain more speed and credibility given Vista's new hardware requirements and anti-piracy initiative. These concerns are particularly relevant to EPOS systems and other high performance application oriented operating systems.
After observing and closely following Ubuntu Linux for more than a year, I decided to test out the Ubuntu Linux at my home at the expense of Windows Vista that I have been running (RC1) for close to 2 months. The great thing about Linux is it's open source, meaning small business don't have to run and get a merchant cash advance to upgrade software, like some other programs. Ubuntu starts up nicely from the LiveCD has most of the application an office user would require. Office productivity, email, internet, etc. It provides a short cut on the desktop to install the OS if you decide to keep it.
The Installation process: I had written with great enthusiasm about the ease of installation process of Windows Vista some time back. Ubuntu's installation process is nothing if not very easy. It has only 6 steps during which it collects all information that it needs to install the OS. One of the things I noticed (but didn't pay great attention to) is that it also has a capability to re-partition the existing hard drive and use up free space to install Ubuntu and leave the other OS intact if it exists. I may be wrong on this as I didn't really pay attention and deleted all partitions as it is. I probably will take another look at that later. It collects information about:
- User name
- System Name
- Time zone
- Network settings
Once it has all the information, it goes ahead with the installation without any further interaction and completes the installation in around 15 minutes. It even somehow recognised that I was using a laptop and suggested a decent enough name (mukul-laptop) for it. I admit I used a fast computer with memory to throw away (1.5 Gb), but still the installation was very fast.
After the installation: Ubuntu, depending on what network settings you gave, connects to the network automatically as long as you are connected through ethernet. It has a very clean desktop look and is clutter free. Ubuntu has also moved away the Recycle bin / Trash off the desktop and now it is on the lower task bar in the right most corner. It also has a conveniently located Power button off any menus on the upper task bar in the right most corner. If anything, the colour scheme could probably stand some improvement. The colours used are mostly dull colours which did not make me feel excited. Both Windows and Fedora Linux has a vibrant colour scheme and they are very I feel fresh using it, though Fedora is still somewhat on the darker side.
Ubuntu installs most of the applications required for office use and a normal home user would need and organizes them neatly into a logically grouped menu. It's nothing great, but just gives a good clean feeling. It contains the cool and very powerful Gimp graphics tool, and the entire OpenOffice.org office suite right out of the box. It comes with Firefox browser and evolution email and personal organiser tool (although I personally prefer Thunderbird).
Ubuntu has also organised its help and system management menu. It is neatly stacked and all administration tasks are logical grouped under Administration. There is nothing much to talk about here because as a user, there is not too much you can or have to do as much of the stuff comes pre-configured and has limited scope of modification.
One thing I found odd about the entire thing was that nowhere did Ubuntu ask me for root password while installing. When I tried to modify some things, it warned me that it requires administrative privileges and prompted me with a password window. I entered my own password and surprisingly it worked and I was able to modify settings as I wanted. Same story with command line. If I run any command with sudo, I am able to do it as it is without modifying the sudoers file.
I actually had planned to replace my current Fedora installation for my webserver with Ubuntu. But using Ubuntu Desktop, I felt quite powerless. There were no servers, httpd, dns, etc or any means to install it. One fact would probably be that Ubuntu is based on Debian Distribution and I have never worked on it. I have been working with Red hat all the time. So that may be one of the things that may be hindering me. Other thing I realised this morning, is that Ubuntu has separated different editions of the OS unlike Fedora. Fedora has everything bundled into one CD set, whether you want server, desktop, workstation or want to customize it. I guess I worked with the Desktop edition of the software and hence I was not able to tweak it. I will probably try with server edition and see if it works for me.
Issues: As with other Linux distributions, Ubuntu will also be hampered by lack of applications and drivers. I couldn't get on the internet over wireless. It is not Linux or Ubuntu problem really, but I guess the community can resolve it. I have Dell Latitude D400 laptop with Broadcom BCM5705 ethernet adapter and Broadcom BCM4306 wireless adapter. Unfortunately, at this time broadcom has not released the specifications for the card and they have not developed drivers for Linux, so it probably will take some time to be developed.
Having said that, would it be possible for the community to develop a base (generic) driver that probably would work with most of the adapters? It's a long shot, but worth trying. I am not into development, so I can't possibly do it, but I will be willing to lend support to whoever would be ready to do it. I have not really tried out Ubuntu and so it is really very early for me to say how it is going to turn out.