Another Review – Ubuntu

Disclaimer: I’m far from a linux expert and only have a few unix commands memorized. Although I’ve been moving around a unix shell since ’96 or so at my webhost, I only learned what I needed to learn to manage my websites and the qmail/procmail stuff that I needed to run the company mail.

History: I’ve always installed flavors of Red Hat linux on my home computers, because in the old days, Red Hat was the only one I could get to install with any competence. A couple years ago when Red Hat went enterprise, I stuck with the Fedora Core free alternatives, Core 1, Core 2 and Core 3. By the time of Fedora, there were a lot of “easy” linuxes out there, Mandrake, Suse, etc. I stuck with the Fedoras because well, I’d bought one-a-those $$ big 40 lb. books, and a lot of the Redhat commands were slightly different from the other linuxes. About a year ago, I wanted to see what the whole linux gui thing was all about, and it ran slow as hell on my old AMD 400, so I put together an AMD XP 2000 machine with 500 megs of RAM (for under $300) to try it on.

Hmmmm. It was still slower than I thought it would be with Fedora Core 3. Maybe that’s because I like to learn servers and with 3 cds of stuff, I’m not sure I ran into a server I didn’t like, and I probably had them all running, even the ones I hadn’t gotten to learning yet. (running, but not being port-forwarded from my hardware firewall….I’m not a total idiot). At any rate, at some point in FC 3, my sound card stopped working. If you add up all the hours, I probably spent several frustrating days researching the fix. Not because I needed sound, but I like things ta work. Samba was working on and off too. Trying to share files between my Windows machines was hit or miss, and I’ve probably read everything you possibly could about my smb.conf. Printers: again, very hit or miss with the Fedora Cores. Sometimes CUPS found the print server on my LAN, sometimes it didn’t.

So I’d been seeing all this stuff about “Ubuntu”:, “Linux for Human Beings” and all the enthusiastic followers it had, but I figured it was just the latest linux fad, and anyway, I’m slow to change. But, long story short, curiosity finally got the best of me. I figured I’d put in the Live CD and see if it could get my sound to work. If so, I might consider installing it.

So I downloaded the 650 meg Live CD in 10 or 12 minutes (it wasn’t so long ago that grabbing these .isos would take all night). I noticed that the entire install disk fit on one CD, so I took another 10 minutes and grabbed that too.

Popped it into the cd drive of my FC3 box and gave the Live CD a try. Hmmmm. Booted up and tried playing some system .wavs and they worked right out of the box. So it wasn’t bad speakers after all. So…..popped in the install CD and said bu-bye to FC3.

The install cd only puts in a basic system with Gnome as the gui. The system is basically Debian with add-ons and very stable. If you want servers, they’re easy to install. Let’s pick Samba:

sudo apt-get install samba

(the sudo is so you put the root password in before installing stuff). Boom, samba works right out of the box. You do have to share directories and put authorized users in, but you can either do that from the command line or the gui. Either way, it’s easy and it _just works_. So does sound. It _just works_. So do a lot of things. Apt-get also gets all the dependencies when you install an app, much different than in the old days. And if command line apt-get is too difficult, there is a gui for it called Synaptic.

Checking out the “Ubuntu forums”:, they make it even easier if you can believe that. A bunch of ez how-tos for newbies. But wait, there’s more. Some people have even put together a total list of most applications you’ll need and it’s all how-toed out on a single “web page”: . Just to mention one, java is much more difficult to install on a “normal” linux box than it is on Windows. Trust me. But makes it EZ.

There’s an old-school school of thought that linux *should* be difficult because that’s how you learn. I remember some advice an oldtimer gave a newbie on researching a problem with the man command. “It’s cold and clammy in there, but it builds character”.
All true. But when I installed Ubuntu, I decided I had enough character for now and it was time for some fun. And so far, it’s lotsa fun and it *just works*.