Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Linux and Open Source

Ubuntu 10.04 lives up to the hype

I realize over the last couple of months I have been just as guilty of hyping up Ubuntu 10.04 as every other person in the media. And I confess there was a small portion of my brain that was concerned that the latest-greatest from Canonical couldn’t possibly live up to every fragment of hype surrounding the release. 10.04 was being billed as the golden child of Linux from all corners of the Linux-verse. Well, we all finally got chance to see how the official release stood up to the various PR machines. Did it stand up to what was promised? From my perspective it not only stood up to it, it surpassed the hype.

Understand I have been using 10.4 since the alpha period…so I have had plenty of time to get used to what 10.04 was all about. But when the official release was installed on my machine, there were enough subtle differences to make me take notice. Even some of the applications I installed after the fact weren’t the same as they were on the alpha, beta, or the RC. But is it perfect? Of course not. What operating system is? How close to perfection is it? Let’s take a look.

The good

With Ubuntu 10.04 there is a lot of good, and it begins with the installer. One of the issues I’ve had with Live CDs is that a new-to-Linux user has trouble understanding the concept of the live CD. Ubuntu has solved this by not really stressing the “live CD” aspect. Instead they have a bootable CD that, upon boot, right away presents you with two options:

* Try out Ubuntu
* Install Ubuntu

It can’t get any clearer than this. No more will new users load up a live CD and wonder why there is an Install icon on the desktop. This is just one more step towards that user-friendly Nirvana that all OS developers are searching for.

More good? Well, I shouldn’t have to mention the Ubuntu One Music Store (I praised that up and down the wire last week). But I have to admit the MeMenu is quite nice. With the ability to get to your Ubuntu One account, your user account, your broadcast accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as well as instantly post to all of those accounts. Now I have to confess I instantly installed GNOME Shell to replace Metacity and the MeMenu for GNOME Shell does lack access to your broadcast accounts. It does, however, allow access to System Preferences with a single click.

But what about beyond the desktop? How does Ubuntu 10.04 actually run? First and foremost, boot time is astounding. I saw a poll recently (in fact, it was here on Techrepublic). I was surprised to see the winning result was 30-59 seconds. Most Linux distributions are striving for that magical 10 second number and Ubuntu 10.4 is incredibly close. My recent installation of Ubuntu 10.04 was coming in at around 15 seconds. The addition of Samba pushed that number to a whopping 23 seconds. Now that is time from bios post to actually having a usable desktop - not just seeing the desktop and waiting for everything to finish loading so I can use it.

And just how is it once it is up and running? Fast. Stable. In fact, I would be willing to say this is the most stable Ubuntu I have used. I have yet to witness a single glitch, hiccup, or crash. And I have been beating the heck out of this installation. I guess the best thing to say about Ubuntu 10.04 under the hood is that it is about as solid a desktop Linux release you will see. There have been some changes made including the switch from starting daemons from /etc/init.d/ to DAEMON start/stop/restart where DAEMON is the name of the daemon you are wanting to start. But all of those changes were made in the name of making Linux even easier.

The not so good

I know, I know…I even avoided the word bad. I did so with good reason. The bad here is very relative (in most cases). In one case, the bad is actually close to bad. With the more recent GNOME and KDE desktops you can very easily share out folders to other machines. This process should be an out-of-the-box experience. However, you still have to install Samba. If you are going to include SMB sharing options on a desktop, don’t make the users have to install a prime component to that process…install that by default! Now, when those users go to share out those folders, they will be asked if they would like to install the remaining components for this process. This could (and should) be avoided. Just include Samba in the installation process.

Which brings me to my next issue.


It’s not longer included in the installation. Why? I don’t really care why…I just care that this is a huge oversight. One of the great things about a Linux installation is that, out-of-the-box, you have just about everything you need to start working. It’s not Windows where you have to purchase everything else in order to work. But now the only image tool installed is OpenOffice Draw. And from my perspective that is a fairly lame replacement for The GIMP. If you’re going to remove The GIMP from the installation, at least replace it with something equivalent! You could install Inkscape at least! Of course it’s not a huge deal. You can just open up the Ubuntu Software Center and install The GIMP yourself.

Which brings me to my final not so good. There are (hopefully) a lot of new users who will be trying Linux out for the first time with 10.4. But upon installation there is no “Welcome to Ubuntu - Let’s get started!” screen. That would have been a nice addition. So many pieces of the Linux puzzle could be explained in one nice, flashy introduction. And for those non-new users, just dismiss it and make sure it doesn’t start at boot. As it stands, upon first boot, the new user is greeted with a desktop. Where do you go now? What do you do? When you are a new-to-Linux user, some hand holding would be appreciated.

1 comment:

Metah-4 Genome said...

Linux....I SHOULD give it a try..LOL

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