posted by Christian Paratschek on Tue 2nd Nov 2004 16:46 UTC
IconBy all means, Ubuntu Linux and Canonical Ltd. have made a spectacular arrival on the Linux scene lately. The combination is like a dream come true for many, many Linux aficionados: tightly selected bleeding edge packages to focus the distribution on a single CD, corporate backing, 18 month support, that all sounds like a formidable package.

Furthermore, Ubuntu is based on the ever-popular Debian Linux, so our fellow Ubuntista has access to virtually all software that exists for Linux. Now they even released a Live CD and the whole thing can also be installed on Apple Hardware. It's no miracle that Ubuntu stormed the Distrowatch-popularity charts in no time. And as of now, it doesn't look like Ubuntu is going to be a One-Hit-Wonder. Well, of course I could not hold myself back and installed Ubuntu two days after the Preview Release came out in September. Six weeks later, Ubuntu is still installed on my Notebook and it does not look like it's going away soon. Let's have a look on Ubuntu Linux 4.10, the "Warty Warthog".

I was really impressed with the Preview Release. I originally only installed it to see the then brand-new Gnome 2.8 desktop and, as I expected lots of problems within a totally new distribution that I never had heard of before, I planned to reinstall FC2 on the same day. But though there were a few rough edges in the Preview Release, it surely had good beta quality. There were no show-stoppers for me and so I just kept it, "apt-getting" myself through September and October. Besides, what a marketing move to release the Preview Release on the day when Gnome 2.8 was released - that surely made a lot of Gnome aficionados install Ubuntu who would have otherwise not tried it. Kudos to the Canonical marketing team! To my pleasure, as you can read here, this will be the standard procedure for all Ubuntu releases to come. So expect the "Hoary Hedgehog" Preview Release on the day when Gnome 2.10 comes out. Excellent...

I will not touch the Gnome-KDE issue. No, that's wrong. I will touch it but only briefly: I have stated my opinion in my last article, I do think it's a very good development that the distributors start concentrating on a defined subset of software. One idea: why not make a Ubuntu-like distribution focussing on KDE?! I bet there would be a market for a company who produces a totally free, Debian-based, commercially supported Linux distribution that includes the newest KDE desktop on the the day when it comes out (at least as a Preview Release, just as Ubuntu). Maybe some .com-hype millionaire with too much time and money listens...

But back to Ubuntu. Let's look at the software choice of "Warty": Kernel 2.6.8.1, Xfree 4.3, Gnome 2.8, Firefox 0.93, OpenOffice.org 1.1.2, Gaim 1.0 and XPDF 3.0. A pretty decent package, some people will be surprised that Xfree 4.3 is in it. The answer here is simple: As Ubuntu is based on Debian and Sarge will also feature Xfree 4.3, the Ubuntu team choose to use it too. They will, however, include a modern X.org release starting with the next version, that will probably be 5.04, the "Hoary Hedgehog". A short word on the install: this laptop is more than 2 years old now and all distributions since Redhat 8.0 have detected all the hardware correctly (except for a broken power management and the obligatory winmodem). As expected, everything worked. After the installation, I activated the "universe" repository (which is a snapshot of the debian tree) and added Bluefish, XMMS, Thunderbird and EasyTAG. Oh yeah, and Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters (the older ones of you will surely remember this game...).

The package management via apt-get/synaptic really is an advantage over other distributions. Although I have used apt-get/yum on Fedora regularly, I have to say: it's even slightly better on a Debian-based distribution. The technical procedure might be the same, but having the one universal package repository where you can find each and everything is just a killer feature. Of course, there is not that much difference between Ubuntu and a Fedora Core installation with a decent yum.conf set up, it merely "feels different". Hard to explain, I guess you'll have to experience it for yourself.

A good concept forms the basis of Ubuntu but that would not be enough. The magic is: they actually did a really fine job. Warty Warthog is a pretty well-designed and bug-free piece of software, especially considering that this is just the first release of the Canonical team. But before I praise them too loud, I will start talking about some of the problems I had during the last weeks.

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