posted by Jeremy Wells on Tue 8th Feb 2005 08:05 UTC

"Ubuntu, Page 2/2"
Lastly, sound did not work correctly until I manually installed the Enlightened sound daemon using Synaptec. Admittedly, I may have broken things when doing an update with Synaptec, but the fix was simple enough. If you are using Ubuntu and the startup sound is choppy, make sure that the current version of the Enlightened sound daemon is correctly installed.

Unfortunately, no matter what I tried to do, suspend via APM would not work correctly. Pressing the function and F4 keys on the laptop would put it to sleep, but upon waking Gnome would experience long delays after clicking on menu options ( restarting the X server or rebooting the laptop fixed the problem). APM does appear to correctly manage the fan speed and possibly the CPU speed, however. The battery charge indicator also works correctly and the laptop's LCD is turned off by the screen saver. Hibernate may work, but it would require a FAT partition which I don't have installed. The inability to suspend the laptop is not a large issue for me as I rarely use the laptop in a situation where it's not plugged into an AC source. Lack of full APM compatibility is Ubuntu's largest fault in my opinion.

Desktop Experiences

Unlike many distro reviews, my goal was not simply to install Ubuntu in order to review it; I wanted to actually use it as a replacement for Windows. Before Ubuntu, I was seriously considering several KDE-based distros, but eventually came back to the Gnome interface. To me, Gnome is more visually appealing and more usable due to the lack of clutter and duplication. Although the Gnome developers may not admit it, the Mac user interface appears to be their design goal while KDE's design goal is clearly to duplicate the Windows UI. To most people, the consensus would be that the Mac is the clear winner in usability and appearance.

Ubuntu has made some positive changes to the standard Gnome configuration. The login screen and desktop are visually attractive and simple. The appearance is professional; although some people don't like the choice of brown for a color scheme, it's fine with me. Ubuntu places a menu bar at the top of the screen (a la the Mac) with two menus: Applications and Computer. OpenOffice 1.1.2 is the office suite, Evolution is the mail client, and Firefox is the browser. There are also shortcuts in the menubar for launching Firefox, Evolution, and help. A sensible, non-duplicated mix of applications are included.

It is very easy to add new applications to Ubuntu using Synaptec--the GUI front-end to apt-get--Debian's coup de grace solution for package management. All I can say is that it works very, very well with the exception that about half of the applications don't add an icon to the Gnome menu. There is a very wide range of applications customized for Ubuntu that are available in the standard Ubuntu repositories. You can also add a "backport" repository to Synaptec in order to get the most recent versions of Firefox and the Gimp, for example.

I used Synaptec to upgrade my kernel to the newest 686-based security upgrade (the default kernel install is 386). The new kernel options were automatically added to Grub, so all I had to do was reboot.

Long-term Experience

I have now had Ubuntu installed for about two weeks. In this time, I have not used Windows at all. I use OpenOffice all the time (as I do on Windows) and like it better than Win Word. I ended up switching from Evolution to Thunderbird as my mail client--again very easy to do with Synaptec--and am much happier. While Evolution has more features, it had an annoying tendency to keep changing the scroll bar position when I switched between folders. In addition, the escape key did not work to close the open message window--a feature that every mail client I've used has had. The layout was also not as efficient space wise as with Thunderbird (or Outlook for that matter). The way windows popped up halfway off the screen made me think that the developers never assumed that someone would be using Evolution on a lowly 1024 x 768 screen.

During the past two weeks, Ubuntu has been very stable. I have not once experienced a crash or freeze (except for the issue with APM, described above).

Overall I am extremely pleased with Ubuntu. There's a lot of developer activity and the online forums and wiki are well put together and useful. Moreover, Ubuntu has an admirable philosophy that "software should be available free of charge...usable by people in their local language and [by people with] disabilities.... People should have the freedom to customize and alter their software in whatever way they see fit."

Conclusion

Ubuntu is one of the best distributions available and one which I can unequivocally recommend to those wanting to switch from Windows to Linux/Gnome. The small pain of configuring this distro to work on my laptop was well worth the hassle.

About the author:
Jeremy Wells currently works in the cultural resource management field and is interested in promoting the use of open source software in non-profit enterprises.
If you would like to see your thoughts or experiences with technology published, please consider writing an article for OSNews.
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