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Trying Ubuntu 8.04

I’ve been using Suse (and OpenSuse) for years, ever since moving off of RedHat when they started Fedora.  Other than a couple of Gentoo detours, RPM based distributions of Linux have been where I have lived since RedHat 6 point something.

I have been having some problems with my laptop (running OpenSuse 10.2) and it got to the point that I thought it might be easier to get a clean install than figure out what was causing my various problems.  That sometimes happens when you get a year and a half of messing with stuff accumulated.  You can’t easily roll back what you can’t remember you did.

So I’ve been waiting with anticipation for OpenSuse 11.  But I got tired of waiting, and this weekend I decided to try Ubuntu, which I’ve played with but haven’t actually used.  This is quite a change for me.  I’ve worked with Debian servers from time to time, but not by choice.  I have also been using KDE for a very long time (starting with KDE 2).  For the first time in recent memory, I’m moving to Gnome.  I might end up changing back to OpenSuse and KDE when it is released, but this will give me a month or two of spending the ten hours a day I spend on my laptop finding out what the other side is really like.

Ubuntu installed very nicely.  The installation process doesn’t seem as flexible as OpenSuse.  I missed OpenSuse’s easy package group selection.  But overall, I was fairly impressed.  Within just a few minutes I had a shiny new Ubuntu desktop.  Of course, it didn’t use my external monitor, and the display resolution it started with stunk.  But a quick install of the binary drivers (not installed by default because they aren’t “free” in the sense that they don’t come with a open source license), and a little configuration tweaking, and I had my dual monitor Xinerama setup working nicely.

I am not a fan of sudo, at least on boxes on which I am the only user, but I think I can get used to using it.  I’d rather open a terminal and su to root.  But its not a big deal, I’ll adapt.  On boxes where there are multiple people who might touch system wide settings, sudo is very nice.  That just doesn’t apply to my laptop.

Wireless, sound, and all of the rest of my hardware just worked.  Adding packages was very easy, and everything worked very nicely.  While there are some things I like about smart over synaptic, I’ve used synaptic before and it has come quite a distance since I last worked with it.

One thing that really impressed me was adding a printer.  The system-config-printer tool found my printer on the network (I print directly to the IP address using CUPS) and got it set up and configured almost without intervention, and it was about the easiest printer setup I’ve ever seen.   Way easier than it would have been in Yast (at least on OpenSuse 10.2), and of course way easier than Windows does anything.

I prefer administration tools that put everything in one place for you, rather than having to hunt for the right tool to tweak settings.  So I like the approach of the KDE preferences tool and Yast better than the “What was that thing called again” search for the right tool.  Some of that might be familiarity, but Ubuntu/Gnome could do a better job of streamlining the preferences process.

Overall, I am impressed.  The system install, adding software, getting things configured, and getting started using the new setup was very quick and easy.  I think just about anybody could do it.  Having recently struggled through trying to get Windows 2003 servers working properly, Linux definitely beats Windows, and I would not have any trouble at all recommending Ubuntu to anybody.

Some of my easy conversion might be because I’m not exactly new to Linux, and I knew going into it what some of the differences were going to be.   There are also a couple of non-distro related factors that make migration easier than it used to be.  I have a handy external USB hard drive.  So backing up my home directory so I could repartition my laptop was simply plugging the drive in and dragging the home directory over.  The hard part was waiting until it finished before I started messing with it.  When I got Ubuntu installed, I just dragged my stuff back to my new home folder.  Also, so much of my work is on Google, or in an svn repository, or other places out there somewhere in the cloud that saving the actual stuff on my hard drive is much less critical than it has ever been before.  My laptop is much more of an interface for stuff out there somewhere than it is actually used for storage.

If I change back, or if I find out things that make a difference, I’ll post them here.  I’m not sure how much I’ll like the differences in editors, terminal, and so on.  Only time will tell.  At the moment, it looks like my experiment might turn out to be a little boring, so I’ll stop talking about it for now.

Categories: linux, ubuntu
  1. Brandon
    May 26, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Hey, at least you were open-minded enough to try something new. Kudos for that. At any rate, you can still become su in a terminal, albeit with sudo: ~$ sudo su
    As far as having all settings in one place, also already there, but somewhat hidden: ~$ gnome-control-center

  2. Brandon
    May 26, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Postscript: Gnome-control-center can be enabled in the menu by right clicking on the menu, selecting ‘Edit Menus’, highlighting ‘Preferences’ in the left pane, then clicking the box next to ‘Control Center’ in the right pane.


  1. May 24, 2008 at 3:39 pm

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