It’s been nearly a year since I took a look an Ubuntu Linux – and I have to say they are on track with a great distribution of Linux. In the past we’ve looked for software to uproot Windows, and replace aging systems with something more modern. Now with Microsoft Windows Vista to be launched next month to the public – we take a look at, in my mind, the most viable desktop workstation to move to available.
I want to stress in this review – Linux is not a single
application, it is a whole system of applications. As Mac OSX is to Windows XP
- it’s that different.
In the past my biggest qualm with Linux is how it is build
for the terminal users, the ubergeek, if you will. But with each release of
Ubuntu this becomes less and less of a reality. The Ubuntu team has taken
amazing strides to make the OS look and feel friendly out of the box. In
researching this review – I didn’t want to rush to get it out the door, rather
I wanted some real work testing. I even loaded a version of 6 on a computer we
took to a trade show to show off one of our web applications.
So let’s talk about how easy the new system is to use. I’ve
tested it on both an older 900 MHz Celeron Optiplex Dell PC and on my new Intel
Core Duo 2 – both systems ran smoothly without any problems. To install Ubuntu
all you need to do is download a CD image and burn that to a CD to get started.
Just by booting the computer off of the CD, rather than running through a bunch
of text screens, each with overly complex settings, Ubuntu boots up to the
Ubuntu desktop. The install CD is a LIVE CD! What a great idea.
From the desktop of the live CD I can surf the web, write a
paper, or play a game – each without even installing Ubuntu or touching the
installed operating system. To install the system, one only needs to double
click on the Install Ubuntu icon on the desktop.
The installer is really straight forward, fill in your
personal information, answer a few questions like you time zone and it will
take care of the rest. Once it has completed copying all of the files the
system reboots into your new Ubuntu desktop – and what is that in the corner?
Why it is an updates button telling me that there are updates to my system
available. Click the icon and the system asks for the admin password (a simple
easy way to ensure that you know what you are doing) then connects online to
retrieve a list of files needed. "Click update my system" … and within a few
minutes you are all set.
The experience of the desktop is top notch. The newer Tango
theme is extremely consistent, making you definitely feel like a polished
product. The user interface is clean and the rendering is just as good as
Windows XP with Clear type turned on, or OSX. The fonts and clean, and the
icons are very nice.
The reorganization of the menu system makes using Ubuntu
even easier than Windows XP. I love that they broke it out into 3 areas into
just one. I want Applications? Just click on the Applications menu. I want to
browse the network or my Home folder (like My Documents on Windows), click on
the Places menu. Then you have the system menu if you want to tweak things
By default Ubuntu comes installed with a number of excellent
applications. My only hang up being the need to hunt around to get MP3s to play
correctly – but we’ll get to that in a minute. Applications include:
- Evolution – Evolution provides integrated mail,
address book and calendaring. This is the best information managing system
since Outlook – and it even connects to Exchange servers if you need it!
- FireFox -
Mozilla’s (the guys who made Netscape) next generation browser. The best IMHO.
- Gaim – Gaim is an instant messenger that
connects to every network, including MSN, Yahoo, AOL, GTalk, ICQ and more! I’ve
been using this for years on my Windows machine.
- Open Office 2 – again another alternative to
Microsoft Office. While it does not compare to Microsoft Office 2007, OO does
compare point for point with Office 97-2003. OO includes Writer (like Word),
Calc (like Excel), Impress (like Powerpoint) – each of these will read and
write to Microsoft formats. I am actually writing this review from Writer.
- Totem Movie/Music player – this is like a
stripped down version of WinAMP or Windows Media Player. Either way it plays
movies and CDs just fine! I did have to update the system to get it to play
MP3s. More on the in a sec.
- F-Spot – this is a great application for editing
and managing photos. Take red out, crop, rotate. Its in there. You can even
export to Flickr or Picasaweb if you want. If you want to get more crazy with
graphics – the GIMP is included as well.
- CD/DVD Creator – drag and drop to create data
- Calculator – necessary but boring
- Dictionary – another on that is nice to have.
Although I think the Internet has killed the stand alone dictionary.
- Lots of simple games (Blackjack anyone?). There
are about 10-20 games installed by default.
Now what if you want to expand your applications – do
something like, oh I don’t know, maybe add MP3 support? Just go to the
Applications menu and click Add/Remove. This launches an easy to use wizard.
Let me tell you, from the wizard there are literally hundreds of applications
you can choose from. I did a quick search for MP3, selected the Gstreamer media
plug-ins and then Apply. Same goes with installing a CD authoring tool.
With in 10 minutes I was listening to my music collection
off of my Windows XP share or even burn a CD for my car.
Again the updated SAMBA subsystem "just works". I was able
to search and connect to Windows computers without any hassle. This used to be
one of my largest complaints with Linux in general.
The wrap up…
I can go on and on about the things that are included in
Ubuntu. But the bottom line is that Ubuntu 6.10 the Edgy Eft is a professional
grade, easy to use, and first class desktop operating system. If I had to start
a network of users over, or update older Windows 2000 – or even had to migrate
off of XP (for say, an invalid Windows install) – Ubuntu is the way to go.
What about cost? At a price tag of $0.00 and a very easy learning curve. The upgrade process should be painless!Â
it compare to Vista or OSX? I think on many levels it does. While it is missing
the eye candy of Vista or OSX, the functionality is right on the money. I would
go as far as to say it overtakes Windows XP. Ubuntu labels itself as Linux for
human beings, and they are definitely on the right track!
Personally, I can’t wait to see what is next from the Ubuntu
team with version 7 and beyond!
Ubuntu’s homepage: http://www.ubuntu.com/
Thanks to Source Web Site: synergymx.com