Introducing Warty the Warthog
Ubuntu Linux represents a crisis in my life, the likes of which aren't supposed to happen at the age of 22. This distribution has promised to be everything I was looking for in my first two years of Linux exploration, and it's simply not fair. Ever since my initial experiments with the trio of Mandrake, Slackware, and Debian I've been in search of a distribution which is based on Debian's powerful package manager, is as user friendly as Mandrake thinks it is, yet is as lightweight as Slackware is capable of being. However, three months ago I discovered Arch Linux with it's minimalist simplicity and incredible Pacman and ABS package management. Ease of use is non-existent, but hey, two out of three ain't bad, so I gave up the search.
Now here comes Ubuntu, seemingly attempting to merge these three worlds. Of course, compromises have been made: it's not as minimalistic as I'd now like, non-GUI administration can be a bit difficult, and you don't have the complete control which I've fallen in love with by using Arch. However, I believe Ubuntu strikes closer to the target for desktop Linux than ever before, and is set to be suitable for users and hackers alike. That is, if Canonical manages to get the bugs in order.
Please keep in mind, this article is coming from the perspective of someone who's used computers for 17 of their first 22 years, but has always focused more on hardware than software. Like I mentioned, I've been using Linux for two years, but I've only felt like I understood what I was doing for the last three months, when I gave up Windows for Arch Linux. I've also never been a fan of desktop environments, preferring Fluxbox, PekWM, and Enlightenment in addition to the console.
Now on with the adventure!
Stumbling Through Installation
Freedom Doesn't Come Easy: A Glimpse of History
Debian has a long and storied history with installers, which tends to hold down distributions rooted in it's code. When I started with Debian Woody the install process was long and drawn out, but most of it was just pressing enter to confirm Debian's choices. This behavior wasn't all bad, as it got the job done, but it had this tendency to drive me insane as a new user. Others have been trying to improve the process of installing Debian for ages, but most I've encountered have been nearly unusable *cough*Progeny*cough*. Both Xandros and Libranet have capable installers, however, proving that it can be done; and while Xandros' felt like more show than functionality, Libranet actually affords an admirable level of control with it's hybrid text and graphical solution.
More recently, Debian has been working on a new installer of their own which is still ncurses, prompts minimally, and is destined for the upcoming Sarge release. I previously tried this installer with the May 30th test candidate net install. Even then the installer promised to be much less frustrating, though I encountered a nasty bug with systems not on a network, where I was nearly trapped in a hellish loop of dialogs. Ubuntu uses a modified version of this new Debian installer, and I'm glad to say I didn't encounter any bugs, just design flaws.