Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ubuntu Linux First Impressions

I've been using Ubuntu Linux for a couple of weeks now and it is still installed. That is saying something! Compared to other Linuxii I've used over the last several years, this version is quite solid. My hardware is a few years old, so the device drivers were all fairly easy to find.

The only thing I can't use is an old ScanPort scanner. Well, technically I can if I want to debug and compile programs for a few days and endlessly fuss with it until I have enough knowledge to design my own scanner. I don't, so I won't worry about the scanner.

The interface is clean and nice, though a bit dependent on the burnt orange default color scheme favored by Ubuntu. Firefox, OpenOffice (an MS Office Clone), and the Evolution mail client are installed by default. I downloaded and installed Mozilla Thunderbird for e-mail and was able to bring my Windows Thunderbird mail in with no problems. OpenOffice has come a long way and I've had no problems so far trading files with Microsoft Office.

My biggest beef so far with general web surfing is that Firefox can be slow to respond to various page switching activities. I think I have narrowed it down to the Adobe Flash Player. Adobe needs a faster and less invasive plugin for Firefox on Linux so embedded videos and advertising don't slow the rest of the browser to a crawl. All of this is offset by not having to worry about some script virus jumping through my browser security and attacking the rest of the system.

Bruce Schneier's blog has an interesting quote on malware distribution to illuminate my point.

The MusicBox player plays MP3 streams nicely and without a giant footprint. The Totem video player is pretty good as well and it can play most stuff pretty well. Ubuntu recognized my digital camera and had facilities to create photo albums, etc. (which I ignored because I make my own folders).

The included games are good. AisleRiot Klondike solitaire, Sudoku, and Mahjongg are my most frequently played games. There are other neat little games as well.

The VNC remote control client for Linux is MUCH faster and more responsive for Windows, even on Windows hosts so I am actually able to get server work done faster from home. That is a big deal because I work with servers a great deal. Score one for Linux there over Microsoft and Apple.

The software development tools are a vast improvement over older versions of Linux, but even aging concepts such as RAD (rapid application development) and syntax completion seem to have eluded the language designers, many of whom seem to be living in a DOS-like command line world forever endlessly fiddling with settings and writing single-use applications. There seems to be no decent C++ equivalent to the young and immature RealBASIC and Borland Kylix environments unless you want to piece together separate frameworks (which you compile, tweak, and debug yourself for days). When you want to concentrate on things like business rules and actually getting tasks complete, the inclination is to chuck Linux and go back to Windows. If I were a couple decades younger, I wouldn't mind wading through the esoterica to set something going, but I am not looking to reinvent myself in computer science, just get stuff done. So for now, I will limp along with what Linux offers me.

Overall, I am happy with Ubuntu Linux and I will keep on using it. Hopefully I can figure out a way to keep my programming muse happy. It is the first Linux ever that I would recommend to non-Geeks. It actually works without tweaking. In fact, you can boot into it from a CD without hurting your Windows install on your hard drive and just play around with it. That is COOL beans right there.

12 comments:

ladybug said...

So does that mean it's ready for ME?!

(Tee Hee)

Um, what did you write about...my non-tech mind can't remember already...

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

I like Linux. And Charlie Brown and Snoopy too. wag wag wag

Dave said...

Windows Security Flaws VS Linux Versatility Flaws

If Linux truly supported everything that windows supported, and if AutoDesk, makers of AutoCAD and other important software supported Linux, I too would switch. If Linux remained open source and was supported by a decent vendor, that could happen.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Ubuntu and Linspire are the only versions of LINUX I've spent any real time on. Mr. O at Ye Olde Academy had a dubious flirtation with LINUX when he was really big on the English department's IT project. We had four student-use laptops running Linspire (supposedly) connected to a server running Red Hat LINUX. I really got to know and like Linspire just for everyday tasks and net surfing, but then Mr. O suddenly flipped (yet again) and replaced it with WinXP on all the laptops for some reason (apparently on the advice of some consultant). Then, when I discovered the Red Hat "server" had been a hoax all along, he immediately ditched Red Hat and installed WinXP on that machine, too.

Now my new American coworker, a computer science major, has put an Ubuntu partition on that machine and set it up to run as a sort of multirole client server allowing access to the English classroom's wireless network and internet link (i.e. the one used by the laptops) or connection to the office workstations to allow either remote monitoring or access to the school LAN. Since it's an educational version of Ubuntu, it includes all kinds of resources and handy widgets.

Geeks really can come in handy, can't they? Anyway, Ubuntu definitely seems like a good system, and I hope to get to know it better.

Arkonbey said...

Thanks for the blogroll addition.

Why have I never come here before, what with reading your comments on AR?

Answer me that! Well?

(I can't comment on this post because I'm a Mac guy)

Dean Wormer said...

Linuxii?

Linuxes.

Oh, and "Ubuntu" sounds like the punchline to a Groucho Marx joke.

Swinebread said...

Good to know it's easy to use.

How does it interface with OS10+?

Pa've said...

Oh, and how well does linx interface with DOS 1.2?

Ndau said...

NDOS??!?

Don Snabulus said...

LB,

You are my favorite beta tester ;)

Momo,

Chuxie and Snooxy

MM,

I would like to install Edubuntu somewhere some day

Ark,

Any time. Your drawings are great and I appreciate getting an "inside look" at how it is done.

DW,

Linuces? Lunacy? Ba-bum-bum Linux...I've heard of it.

SB,

We have Linux and Leopard lithely linking languages.

Dave,

CAD on Linux info

Pa've,

Have not tried it although there are some DOS emulators in Linux, so an interface may not be necessary.

Ndau,

Ngark!!!!

catpsi said...

Ubuntu is pretty cool, I've given it a whirl a few times, most recently to set up server for an online library (needed Tomcat engine). Swinebread, on OS X you can use it on an Intel Mac with Parallels or VMWare's Fusion (I use it with the latter).

Overall, my biggest problems with Ubuntu were getting it to recognize a PCI wireless card (although I understand this can often be quite daunting in linux), and repeated hassles with it recognized a widescreen Viewsonic monitor. I have also installed it on G3 iMacs before (though support for PPC processors has officially ended) and videocard support was a bear with those.

Still, I'd encourage anyone who's concerned about the DRM restrictions and hardware support of Vista to really investigate Ubuntu - as Don said, you can run a live disc version of it to check it out a little with no fear of hurting your current install. If you've got some guts, you can re-partition your current XP install with a live rescue Linux CD of some sort, and then have a dual boot XP/Linux system (do your homework before attempting, although it's really not that hard!)...

Don Snabulus said...

Catpsi,

I love dual booting. I remember when I had a Windows/Linux/OS2 machine. I felt like the king of the world!

You are right about wireless cards, I've had zero luck with several distros of Linux. I guess I buy the wrong wireless cards/sticks. I had some video/monitor problems with SUSE, but Ubuntu has been pretty good although I think there is a startup logo that I never see because my monitor spends a few seconds with an "out of range" signal before the GUI comes up.

Good comments!