Friday, July 22, 2005

Ubuntu Linux - Superb installation

Just as I promised myself in an earlier post I installed Ubuntu Linux over my Fedora Core 4 installation. When this weekend finally rolled around I saved what I cared to save on FC4 and installed Ubuntu 5.04 via the same DVD I'd burned earlier in the week.

I like this distribution very much. In fact this is the first Linux installation based on Gnome and Debian that I can actually say that I like as well as KDE. Working with Fedora (and earlier versions of Redhat for that matter) have given me a distorted view of both desktops. Ubuntu is outstanding in its completeness when compared with other distributions and everything Just Works. This is a far cry from Fedora Core 4 in particular in which it mostly works, with some noticeable lapses, especially with up2date.

Getting Ubuntu installed was extremely easy. All my system hardware was detected. One very nice touch was Ubuntu's ability to find both of my network interfaces. One is the nVidia (nForce2) built-in device. The other is an older PCI network card I've had for years now. Ubuntu found both and allowed me to determine which one would be eth0 and which one to enable at boot. FC4 just grabs both, and to add insult to injury, forces the plugin NIC to be eth0.

Another Ubuntu feature I've found quite useful is Synaptic Package Manager. You get this from Applications | System Tools | Add/Remove Programs in Advanced mode. From there I was able to add a reasonably current gcc/g++ as well as ruby. Applications I couldn't push up to more current releases were Open Office (at 1.1.3) and Firefox (at 1.0.2). Before I nuked FC4 I got FireFox 1.0.6 with the latest security fixes.

Surprises
  1. There is no explicit root account. During Ubuntu installation, the initial user account is given administrative rights. To reach rootly powers you use sudo from the command line, or give your own login password when running a root GUI tool (such as Add/Delete Programs). I've read the reasons given why this is so, and I agree with them. This is a well though-out way to allow regular users to handle updates, while allowing so-called power users to just sudo -s to create a root shell and have at it. But it keeps anyone from logging in as default root and opening the door for easy system exploits like Windows.
  2. The Ubuntu kernel supports NTFS out-of-the-box. This is a very pleasant surprise, especially given the policy with Fedora not to include support for NTFS. I think the Fedora policy is asinine, especially if you want to run a Linux system on a box that originally supported Windows NT to XP but still want access to files on NTFS volumes. Every time I've installed FC, I've had to pull down a kernel and rebuilt it with NTFS support enabled.
  3. KDE is completely available via Synaptic (and I'm sure via apt-get). But because Gnone is so well behaved under Ubuntu, I find I have no need to go and install KDE on top of Gnome so I can run the KDE apps. Gnone sucked so bad on FC4 that I was willing to live with FC4's somewhat buggy KDE packages. I also like the fact I have Open Office and Firefox. I would have installed Kubuntu but I discovered during the live run the unfortunate 'features' of using Konqueror for the browser and Koffice for the office package. I find both to be quite inferior to Firefox and OO, respectively.
  4. Better screen support. My system is now running at 1600 by 1200, which is better than the 1280 by 1024 I got out of FC4. The 2D acceleration is very smooth. What's more, Ubuntu has packages listed in Synaptic for 3D ATI driver support, something unheard of for FC4 out-of-the-box. Font clarity and overall readability are overwhelmingly better than Fedora, even at 1600 by 1200. And that's saying a lot when you're half blind like I am.
  5. Synaptic. I can't begin to tell you how much better Synaptic Package Manager is over up2date or yum. And up2date is broken on FC4; it's unable to automatically indicate when new updates are available like it did on earlier versions of Fedora. I have no idea if up2date is going away or not, but I have read enough messages telling everyone to use yum. Yum is indeed good, but no better than apt to my limited experience, and with Synaptic available, it's far easier to manage and install packages than it ever was with up2date.
  6. Nautilus. Nautilus is a mixed bag. Ubuntu did fix the default behavior where every time you clicked on a folder you got another window. With Ubuntu you keep the same window you started with. But I still had to go into System Tools | Configuration Editor, go hunt down nautilus, and turn on preferences | always_use_browser behavior. Once I did that then I had the old sidebar folder views. Sorry, but this is what folks coming from Windows and older Macintosh systems are used to, and this should be the default. I hate spatial view.
  7. ClearLooks. This new desktop theme is the best I've seen in a long time, from either Gnone or KDE. It's clean, minimalistic, and fast. It edges out KDE's Plastic in my mind, and beats the hell out of Fedora's theme.
Easy to install. Easy to configure. Easy to use. Full-featured. And fast. And it Just Works. These are attributes that Fedora, especially Fedora Core 4, no longer shares. I hung onto Fedora because it followed on from Redhat, and I had been, if nothing else, a loyal Redhat customer and user when Redhat sold its older distributions. I'm sure that over time I'll discover warts on Ubuntu that will appear as big and as ugly as those I've found on Fedora Core 4. But I rather doubt it.

The only flaw in an otherwise excellent experience is the odd issue of being unable to fully automount an ext3 partition when Ubuntu boots. The partition was full of data I wanted to keep and was not reformated. It was created under Fedora Core 4. But after Ubuntu boots the partition is there and available. That's the only odd problem that seems to stick out, and it's interesting enough that I find it more a challenge than a problem. Overall Ubuntu is one of the best, if not the best, Linux distributions I've ever run, and for a free-as-in-beer distribution it just can't be beat.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJuly 23, 2005

    Thanks for the nice blog entry. I've been playing with Ubuntu since it came out. I'm a fairly unsophisticated Linux user and find this distro to be very "clean" and easy to use. It works right away without much tweaking on the couple of older PIII and Celeron boxes that I've installed it on. I've tried several other ones including knoppix, both live cd and installed on the HD, Xandros, Lindows/Linspire, Red Hat up to 9.0, Mandrake and SuSE. They all seem to have their strong points, but if I had to chose just one, I'd be hard pressed to not pick Ubuntu, although SuSE 9.2 has been excellent as well.

    Anyway, I do appreciate your tips in this entry. I reconfigured Nautilus as you mentioned.

    So many distros, so little time.

    ReplyDelete

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