12 August 2005

Playing with Ubuntu Linux

I'm writing this from a shiny new install of Ubuntu 5.04 release "Hoary Hedgehog". Yes, I know that Hoary was released long time back in April, but this is the first time I got a chance to install Ubuntu. This machine is an IBM X30 Thinkpad which I have just for another couple of days so I thought why not give Ubuntu a chance.

I had ordered the free Ubuntu CDs a long while ago when they were shipping them with the Warty release. Being too lazy to download the Hoary CD, I just popped the Warty CD in and rebooted the machine. Walla, after reboot the installer started and just asked a few configuration questions and went ahead with the installation. I have to admit that the last time I installed Debian, which was just 6 weeks ago, the debian-installer didn't behave as nicely!

After installing the basic packages, the system rebooted and automatically checked for any security updates and there were many. Remember, it was a warty installation! After doing all the updates, GDM started with a very welcoming drum music. I want to have that for my Debian Unstable box too :). Logging in to Gnome had an equally pleasant. At this point, I realized that almost everything had been detected by the installer; the audio, video, and even the trackball mouse of the laptop. The Ubuntu guys have done a wonderful job to make Ubuntu an out-of-the-box operating system.

As everyone knows by now, Ubuntu comes with the GNOME desktop with the default "Human" theme. Overall I liked the artwork for the theme! I'm sure it is professional enough for OEM installs too. But in case you are a KDE person (like me), you can go to the Kubuntu website and try the KDE version of Ubuntu instead.

Ubuntu default install does not allow logging in as root but advises to use sudo command for administrative tasks. At first I was a little confused at the password to type-in for the sudo command, but when I tried my own it worked. Ubuntu gives the root rights to the user created first on the system to use the sudo command. You can also go in and set root password to su and do the admin tasks the normal way.

Now it was time for updates. I used sudo to apt-get update and then did a apt-get upgrade which had several new packages as updates. After that a apt-get dist-upgrade the Warty installation was up-to-date. Then it was time for the real upgrade, i.e. to the "Hoary". Changing all instances of warty to hoary, apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade and about an hour later I had another shiny release on the desktop: Hoary. The upgrade went without a hiccup unlike to what I had expected. Again, full marks to Ubuntu for inter-release upgrade compatibility.

The Hoary release after an upgrade has the latest versions of the commonly used softwares like Mozilla Firefox, Open Office, Gimp, Evolution email client, etc. The Synaptic package manager and Ubuntu's Update Manager are one of the most impressive administrative programs that are easy to understand. Even newbie users won't find it hard to learn how to run them to keep their systems up-to-date and install new programs or delete unwanted packages.

Problems: Firefox keeps on spitting out XML parsing error in the JavaScript console. I lost the wireless applet when I upgraded from warty to hoary. The Ubuntu About dialog comes out in the Yelp, the Gnome help browser. It would be much better if the about dialog was independent and looked more professional. Ubuntu only installs a set of basic packages for a very minimal desktop. Packages like mozilla, thunderbird, apache, mysql, php, etc need still to be installed manually. I haven't tried the server version install maybe that might address these requirements.

Even though Ubuntu seems to be so much easier to setup and maintain, I will still keep Debian GNU/Linux Unstable on my desktop PC. But testing out Ubuntu had definitely made it a highly probable Linux flavour for my laptop (when I buy it!). And the best thing is even if I use Ubuntu, I will still have all the advantages of Debian :)

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