My take on Ubuntu

Vincent Danen

November 29, 2005

Everytime I turn around I'm hearing someone say how good Ubuntu is. I've never tried it before today so I figured I'd give it a go and check it out. My first comment: not a big fan of brown. I'm not an "earthy" kinda guy (nevermind that my first character in any MMoRPG is a druid).

Configuration was straightforward. Couldn't configure the wireless card during install, but no big deal. Text-based installers I'm cool with... after all, this one is easier than the Annvix installer. =) People who say the Ubuntu installer is faster are smoking crack... it's just as slow as everything else (or as fast, depending on your hardware I guess).

Keep in mind that I've not really looked at any Linux distros in a few years... I upgrade every Mandriva release on my laptop and desktop machines, but otherwise I'm using OS X for my desktop so I'm not so "bleeding edge" or even really up to speed with a lot of the new stuff that comes out for desktop Linux... I more concentrate on the server stuff where Linux is concerned. I played with SUSE 9.3 on this libretto after Mandriva LE2005 seemed less than satisfying, but it was worse so I only really looked at it for an hour or two before going back to Mandriva. This is the first Linux distro other than Mandriva that I've actually spent some time poking around with.

One thing I like is synaptic. I like this much better than rpmdrake. It's crisp, clean, easy to understand, and very professional looking. I like it a lot. rpmdrake should either be remodelled to look/feel more like this; I think it's stellar. Not sure how well it works with urpmi or even rpm, but I understand it's in Mandriva somewhere (never used it before today).

The other thing I like is the online update notifier thing. I realize mdkonline is similar, but I think Mandriva could learn from this... not only was it easy and painfree, but a little bulb pops up on the menu bar that indicates there is a task to be done (once the updates were installed). Then you get a popup window saying the linux kernel had been updated and the user is recommended to reboot immediately. That's actually kinda freaky... other than Windows and OS X, I've never been told to reboot after an update... but for a kernel, it makes sense. A little touch, but I thought it kinda neat.

The thing that really made me want to look at Ubuntu was the fact that it's GNOME-based, and that it comes with version 2.12.1 rather than 2.10 which Mandriva comes with. I'm not keen on waiting a year to get to play with 2.12, and I don't have time to muck with cooker. I also like the fact that it comes without KDE... yippee! That's a load of crap I don't need (sorry to all the KDE folk out there, but I haven't liked KDE since 1.x and I still don't like it). GNOME is much more refined.

I also like the fact that everything runs through sudo. I love sudo. I think sudo is the best thing since sliced bread, aside from openssh. I love that I only have to type my password to get into administrative stuff rather than the root password... my root passwords are so long and cryptic that I usually don't use them... unless I need to administrate something on a Mandriva box with the Mandriva tools.

One thing I also noticed which was kinda neat is that Ubuntu properly shows the CPU frequency of this machine. On Mandriva, it was always showing 1GHz, but with Ubuntu, I can see it scale between 598MHz (seems to be the default) up to 1GHz (rarely). Not a major thing, but kinda neat. The one thing that concerns me is that the gkrellm temperature sensor says this little guy is running at 72C. Ouch.

Whoah. One of the problems I had with Mandriva 2006 (and LE2005 before it) on this machine was that I was unable to suspend the laptop. When I did, it would suspend ok, but crap out on startup or just boot the machine like normal. In fact, I don't recall ever having a suspend work on anything other than a mac. Maybe just my luck, but half the time it wouldn't even work properly with Windows. Well, blow me over, but my first attempt at suspending Ubuntu worked. I'll be danged. Even the networking came back properly. Now I'm going to try hibernating (hmm... can you tell that I'm writing as I fiddle with this thing?). Hibernating worked good too... came up ok, networking came back too.

I never could tell the difference between suspend and hibernate before (likely because neither ever worked for me), but I can see it now... suspend brings you back quicker to the OS (probably stored in memory or something) whereas hibernate seems to write to the disk because when I turned the machine back on, it booted up; I selected the kernel I was using from grub and up she went. Good, perhaps, if you need to boot into Windows or something.

Well, this is extremely irritating. Now the fricking machine is making this continous beep and won't shut up. Holy crap that's annoying. Dunno why it did that.. maybe due to the hibernate? It started about 3 minutes after resuming from the hibernation. Whatever it was, I had to power down to make it stop. Bad bad bad. I'd rather have it not work than do that.

Need to play with it some more to see if it was actually the hibernation that caused that beep or something else (the rest of the desktop felt sluggish too, so maybe hibernating isn't quite there yet although it's further here than it is in Mandriva (at least on this machine)).

I think I'll keep Ubuntu on this machine for a bit... seems like a cute little distro although the first thing I changed was the "Human" theme... ick. Not my style. Also, installing the other repositories (multiverse and something else... machine is off now so I can't check... universe maybe?) are a good idea to add. That's the only way I could get gkrellm on there, although I miss the gkrellm-themes package from Mandriva... what's wrong with these people? How hard is it to package a few wee themes for gkrellm?!? The stock skin is so... ugh.

Anyways, it's not bad. I don't think it's the most user-friendly distro out there... I think Mandriva has it beat hands-down on user-friendliness, but I do think it has a few things that deserve some prodding... things that could make Mandriva better. I'll be the first to admit that 2006 is probably one of the most professional looking/feeling versions we've put out in a while... the cracked out Tux in LE2005 was a serious disappointment. But it could certainly do with more refining... and Ubuntu looks like they've done a bit to make it feel refined. Of course, that could be the fact that it's GNOME and GNOME is just so much more polished than KDE (which we put too much focus on and, I think, doesn't work half as good as GNOME).

If I stumble across anything else of interest, I'll post it. For what it's worth, as far as the hardware support goes, Ubuntu is just as good as Mandriva... better when it came to configuring X... it got the resolution and everything correct without me having to do a thing, which is cool. Otherwise, I'm still waiting for someone to support this SD card reader built into this thing.

Leave a Comment

Comments use MarkDown. Need help? MarkDown Cheatsheet