I recently installed Ubuntu Linux on the laptop I’m currently using and will probably stick to it as my main workstation (though admittedly, the reasons are more political than technical). As most people who know me already know, I’m a Slackware fan and to me hardly anything matches up to the reliability and performance that it provides. But here I am, coordinating a switch from Windows to Linux for people who are technically sound, but are quite unfamiliar with Linux.
Why Ubuntu? Because it is designed specifically for the desktop. You pop in the CD, go through the simple installation procedure and have a functional desktop ready without having to struggle with your video card settings or Wi-fi drivers. I could get all this working (and in a much better way) under a distribution such as Slackware, but try doing such configuration for more than a couple of users, spread out in different areas, and it becomes a real PITA.
As for Ubuntu itself, it installed pretty easily (even though I chose to do an advanced install). It managed to detect all the hardware, set the correct resolution and configure everything correctly. The update system worked very well and I managed to apply all patches as well as add more packages, all through the graphical utilities. For the more advanced users, “apt” can be used to do this since Ubuntu is based on Debian Linux.
One issue I did face was with authentication for running graphical admin tools. At first, I kept entering the root password which wasn’t accepted. Once I found out that I need to enter my user’s password to allow “sudo” to run the tools, the password was accepted, but the tools simply failed to run after that, without giving any reason. Will look at this issue later, since it hasn’t exactly hindered my work.
Printing is something that I have seldom managed (or bothered) to setup on Linux. My last printer was an HP LaserJet 1300 that I setup using the web interface CUPS provides. It worked very well, but this is hardly something a non-technical person can manage. With Ubuntu, all I had to do was select “Printing” from the “Administration” menu under “System” and select “New Printer”. It found all shared (through Windows) printers on the network and installed them without a problem.
Some of the most commonly used software that comes with the current Ubuntu (Breezy) is a bit old, maybe something it inherited from Debian. It ships with version 1.0.7 of Firefox and Thunderbird (currently at version 1.5), two things that I use the most.
Though in future, I may keep a “production” laptop running Slackware and use a secondary lappy/desktop with Ubuntu, until the new converts are self-reliant, Ubuntu is what I’ll be using so that I can easily support them and from what I’ve seen, it isn’t that bad.