Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04 Alpha 3 - Installation

I finally broke down and installed Ubuntu (7.04 Alpha 3) over Fedora Core 6 this evening. I decided to do this after reading about Eric Raymond's rant against his installation of FC6. In the end he installed Ubuntu 6.10 over it. So I decided I'd give it a whirl as well.

I've always appreciated Ubuntu's live CDs, considering them to be some of the best, if not the best, I've ever worked with. But I never took that one final step and made a permanent installation, preferring instead to use Suse or Fedora Core. Now that I've finally installed Ubuntu, I have to wonder why I took so long. I mean, considering it's an alpha version, it has got to be the sweetest thing I've ever installed. To be fair to FC6 I've not had the problems that Eric documented. But I have to say that based on my limited exposure so far, Ubuntu 7.04 stands head and shoulders above FC6.

One of Ubuntu's many qualities I've noticed is the clarity of the screen. It is sharp and clean, and the font rendering is superb, better than any distribution I've seen to date, better even than Suse 10.2. In fact, better even than Windows XP. The font rendering equals every Apple display I've seen to date as well. I have bad eyesight, and I notice and appreciate quality text immediately.

Installation

By this time booting into Ubuntu is a no-brainer. Put in the CD, hit the reboot sequence for the computer, and follow the on-screen instructions. It Just Works. Once booted up there are two icons on the desktop, one of them for installing Ubuntu. Double click on that, and then follow seven simple steps to install Unbuntu.

The installer is the best I've worked with. Step six, which fires up the partitioner, is superb. It was clear and simple and did exactly what I wanted and expected. I chose to perform a manual partitioning, which allowed me to save and reformat only those partitions I wanted to. Once I'd made my selections, the installer went to work. In about 10 minutes the installation was finished, and the system rebooted.

First Run

Rhea is no longer considered a power machine. It's an AMD Athlon 2500+ XP (Barton core) with 512MB of DRAM. It's got an ATI 9600 budget video card. The display is an old Sony E400 Trinitron tube. And yet, in spite of those 'limitations', it comes up, looks good, and runs fast.

One feature that gave me a pleasant surprise: the sound system works on this system. The motherboard chip set is an nVidia NForce 2. Sound worked under Windows 2000, but not under FC6. When FC6 was first installed I was twiddling with the speaker volume, and left it turned up full. When Ubuntu fired up the first sounds nearly knocked me out of my chair. So I turned down the volume. And that's the second pleasant surprise. The volume under Ubuntu 7.04 is as loud as under Windows 2000. Other, older distributions were too quiet, or totally silent, with regards to sound. I'm looking forward to playing with the multimedia aspects of this distribution.

The first application I fired up after first boot was Firefox 2. Thanks, Canonical. I really do appreciate standard tools, not substitutions such as IceWeasel. The next thing I noticed was a message on the desktop telling me I had 412 updates available. OK! Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I let the update system have its way with the machine.

Ah. Update is finished and I have to restart system. Excuse me...

Second Boot

Well, second boot after 412 updates was totally uneventful. The system came back up and I'm back to work. Perfect. Here's some screen shots illustrating what I've experienced so far.

Here is where the updater is busily downloading the 412 updates onto my system. For the first time I have to say I don't want to go screaming off and change the theme to something more contemporary. I may change the desktop theme in the future, but I don't have to. The default theme is fine just the way it is.

After downloading, we're now applying the updates

Once finished, a message appears at the upper right telling me a system restart is required. My only complaint is that the text and the box could be bigger. I did not click on the notification icon, preferring to save and close everything first. That leads to my second minor complaint. The dialog disappears, but leave a mysterious blue circular icon on the upper tool bar.

Fortunately being the monkey that I am, I just had to press that little blue icon, which produced another message, this time a well-formed dialog, telling me a restart was required and did I want to do so now? In this case I did.

Final Thoughts
  • This whole experience has been too cool. My complements to the Ubuntu team for putting 7.04 together. If this is an Alpha release then I can't wait for the betas or the final release.
  • Gnome doesn't suck in this release of this distribution. In fact it's great. I have no desire to change to another desktop manager. I fired up Nautilus, and wonder of wonders, it came up with everything I want on a file browser; I didn't have to hunt down and turn on/turn off one feature. It was configured perfectly.
What I'll be doing next:
  1. Checking out DVD and CD playback.
  2. Checking out the other applications.
  3. Attempting to update OpenOffice from 2.0 to 2.1 with this distribution.
  4. Playing with the repository system to see if it's better and faster than RPM.