Early adventures with Ubuntu

I’ve been thinking about switching from Fedora to Ubuntu. I downloaded the latest Ubuntu version a few weeks ago. Today I took the plunge and booted it up.

First thing I noticed, no wireless networks. It detected my card and it seemed to work, but no networks were listed by NetworkManager. I unplugged the power and went through to the living room to plug in with a good old fashioned ethernet cable. Fairly quickly I found a solution. So back to my desk on wireless.

Appearance

At first glance, Ubuntu is just not as pretty as Fedora. The graphics seemed a bit too Windows 3.1 for me. I switched to one of the other included themes. It was a bit better. I think I’d have to hunt around for a nicer Ubuntu theme. Personally, I think this is a big failure for Ubuntu. In aiming to bring free software to everyone, appearance matters.

For a Windows user, comparing Windows Vista with Ubuntu 8.04, I think Vista wins on appearance. For many users, that’s an important factor. Personally, it’s not a deal breaker, but I will do something about it.

Installing software

The package manager in Ubuntu is streets ahead of Fedora. Straight away it just works. It feels nice and clean. It tells you the expected download time until all your packages have downloaded. It strikes a great balance between the fine grained control I get with yumex and the simple interface of the default Fedora package manager. Thumbs up for Ubuntu.

Proprietary formats

Playing MP3 files, avi files, or any other non-free format is a little tricky on Linux. You need to install software which can be “questionable” in terms of it’s copyright position. Fedora gets round this problem by not shipping any of that software. Instead you grab that stuff from livna. However, livna is not installed by default. You have to manually add it yourself.

In Ubuntu, I tried to play an MP3 file. It asked if I’d like to search for the codecs. Then it warned me that I was installing software from the Ubuntu community. A minute or so later, the song started playing. Whatever magic happens behind the scenes in Ubuntu happens automatically. A big plus for Ubuntu, particularly for new users.

Installation

By default, Ubuntu boots in Live CD mode. So no changes are made to your hard drive. It’s a great option for new users. You can test the operating system. Check all your hardware works. Then choose to install if you want to. It was at this point that Ubuntu crashed. I’m not sure what went wrong. I could move the mouse, and the clock was ticking, but nothing else. I tried a ctrl-alt-backspace to restart X, no luck.

Ironically, I was proceeding with the install when it crashed. Now I’ve booted back to Fedora. I’m still swaying on whether to try Fedora 9 or not. If I do go with Fedora 9, I almost certainly won’t switch to Ubuntu. In Ubuntu’s favour, I already have the CD. I’ll have to go to the local library to download Fedora 9. That might end up being the deciding factor! 🙂

Conclusion

I recommend Ubuntu to anyone interested in trying Linux. I think they work really hard to make it easy to use, and largely succeed. Personally, being fairly experienced with Linux, I don’t think there will be much difference. Package managing is better in Ubuntu. TrueCrypt ships .debs and not .rpms, so that’s a bonus. I’m just not sure if it will be worth the effort of switching.

For new users, Ubuntu is great. Personally, time will tell.

4 thoughts on “Early adventures with Ubuntu”

  1. Hi Callum

    Its your Bros mate here, regular reader of your fine blog.

    Yeah, about Ubuntu. I just had it installed over 3 weeks ago on amd64 (finally had enough of windows!), no major comlpaints apart from that I found it difficult to view flash video online.

    Luckily however my cousin is a bit of a bright spark at these things and got it sorted for me!

    Apart from that it seems very stable, I know what you mean about the appearance but thats easily changable.

    All in all im pleased with it so far.

    http://spacehaggis.com/

  2. I’ve had a few issues with flash videos on Fedora also. Flash is easier to install on Ubuntu though, it’s available in the repos.

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