Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04, has Linux's time come?

As I've ranted on my blog in the past, I'd love to use Linux, but I still find the user experience, especially the look and feel, to be a long way from cleanliness and professionalism of Windows XP. And from I've seen of Vista, it's nowhere even close.

But I have a buddy, Rodney, at work who swears by Linux, especially Ubuntu. So much so, he has it installed on his laptop as his main work environment. Of course, I keep bugging him about how ugly I think it all looks, and he fires back with the cool 3D/alpha blending environment of the latest experimental extensions to X and Gnome. It's all good fun, but at the end of the day I'm happy to walk back to my desk and sit at my Windows machine.

I've been playing with the beta release of VMware Workstation 6. I'm a big fan of vmware from way back and every new major release seems to bring something new that makes me like it even more. This release brings a new UI that makes running vmware full screen a lot easier to use and more Windows friendly. The performance seems to be a bit better too, but then lately it's been pretty good anyway. I use vmware to run the x86 target of our Neutrino RTOS for testing with a target. And, of course, I use it to experiment and test with a Linux host.

So to get up and running on the vmware beta, I downloaded the latest Ubuntu 7.04 release. Rodney's been raving about it so I had to give it a try. The Ubuntu install experience is the best I've seen with any Linux distro. You boot up into a full Linux/Gnome environment off the CD, and then double click the Install icon to launch the installer. Just coming up cleanly off the Install CD gives you confidence the real thing is going to work. After that, it's just a matter if making sure all the packages you need are there. This is still a pretty harsh task that's not intended for the weak. But the package manager helps install those things quickly (once you properly guess at the names of the packages you need, like sun-java6-bin ?).

The look is still not up to Windows standards, but it seems to get better every time I try a new distro. Maybe I'm just getting more open to the idea of using Linux. Certainly if you're an engineer who knows a lot about *nix already, like taking advantage of Linux's features for embedded development such as mounting files as disks, then I think you'd be happy with the latest Ubuntu. But if you're my Mom, sorry Mom, stay on Windows. At least for now...


  1. I've got Ubuntu installed in a VMWare image and Debian (the distro that Ubuntu is based on) installed on a desktop. I'm in the process of seeing if I can ween myself off Windows.

    The Ubuntu installation experience is great, and adding features after the fact is pretty straightforward. I'm not sure how I feel about all users effectively having root access though (all applications that require root access are invoked via sudo).

  2. On the contrary, I think Ubuntu is perfect for moms. At least my mom has been using it for about a year or so. She mainly surfs the web, plays casual games, listens to music and watches TV on it. And sometimes uses Writer for work. For that kind of use, I think Ubuntu is actually better than Windows -- less risk for viruses or otherwise making the system unstable. But of course, habits favor Windows.

  3. Ubuntu is really user-friendly! I've seen many of my non-techie rocking friends using it for music related stuff. As long as you use standard (popular) hardware, any linux is good to use.

    VMWare Virtual appliance for Ubuntu (and other distros) has made it very good alternative without money and risks :).

  4. "the look is still not up to Windows standards"... haha that's very funny. Linux has thousands of skins for 3 main graphical environments (GNOME, KDE, XFCE) and unlimited number of custom configurations using niche window/file/desktop managers. You can change icons set, window decoration and widgets' look and feel with few mouse clicks. How you can say that Linux doesn't look good? You can say that you don't like default Ubuntu skin for GNOME at the most.

  5. If you don't like the looks of Ubuntu, you might want to try this:

  6. Doug and I have had this conversation about the look and feel of a Linux distro compared to Windows. I have to agree with him that the fonts aren't as sharp as the are on Windows, and thye probably won't be any time soon. However, for me personally, the benefits of Ubuntu far out weigh the fact the fonts aren't as sharp, which is what I try to drive home to Doug.

  7. Probably in the next release there will be an easier way to install a lot of the more common packages. There is a way, currently, to do this, but it's not quite automatically there.

    For the more simple things, you can use the Add/Remove tool at the bottom of the Applications menu. For the more complex things, you can install Automatix2, which includes various things like Sun Java 6 and Mozilla Flash plugins in an easy-to-use format. But this is where "not automatic" comes in - you have to add to your repository list, download a GnuPG key, and then install the thing before it appears in your menu.

    But, all in all, it looks like Ubuntu and its derivatives are paving the way for Linux mainstream use.