Ubuntu

I really like my Ubuntu home setup. It's the only system I use now. What follows below is a quick summary of my experiences switching over to Ubuntu. Now thats it's done, I can't imagine ever needing Windows anymore.

Ubuntu is really becoming one of the better desktop and notebook operating systems - because it just works so well. I never liked Windows very much - but it was sort of the default for desktops since - forever. It has always been expensive, unstable and slow and gets slower over time. bad microsoft Half the reason is that Windows barely meets the definition of an operating system. Security is a thin shell surrounding very old core code. It carries a huge software and hardware legacy and is marketing driven, Wall street quarterly driven, etc. Its just a bloody operating system with a GUI. A basic windowed GUI (like what Zinc Software used to offer) can be coded in about a Meg of code space so there really is no excuse for this bloatware. (This is what happens when you cut and paste software code and never clean it up). Ugh. Enough already.

I'm not alone in these thoughts. Here is one site that has collected critical and informed criticisms against Microsoft with tables of alternative operating system's and applications available to everyone. Bad Vista (click on the logo) is another. If you're really not into open source software you can always have a go with Apple. At least with Apple you get great industrial hardware design for your money.

Mark Shuttleworths' Ubuntu, a distribution of Linux provides a fast, intuitive and a secure operating system with all the features a normal desktop user needs. So I took the plunge and ordered a new machine and installed Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) the 64 bit version. After a few issues with it (sound and dual screen configuration) I an glad to say its running very well.

Software updates and installs using the Synaptic package manager is just so easy. Proper install and removal, no tricks, no registry to mess up.

Ubuntu uses a journaled file system which improves reliability and eliminates the need to check the file system after a power failure. I run ext3 on the Linux drive and ext4 (BIG file sizes, faster allocations) on the secondary multimedia drive. When I feel courageous I will convert ext3 to ext4. ubuntu logo

Ubuntu is a secure operating system. I don't run any virus protection. Don't need to. I thought virus protection was mandatory. This surprised me totally. Watch where you get your software - stick to known code/build servers and install Noscript and AdBlock for Mozilla Firefox. I thought web security was mostly a web app/browser/java weakness thing, turns out its mostly the operating system 's fault (I've spent too much time in small embedded systems). Bugs can always be exploited but its much more difficult in Linux. If damage should occur, it should be limited to just the current active user's space.

Since Ubuntu is based on Linux, it has Unix like text based configuration files for everything. Example: /etc/fstab is a text file. In the Ubuntu 10.04 version, the GNOME window buttons (min max close) have been moved to the left. Don't like it? Run the GNOME gconf-editor, find your way to the "apps/metacity/general/button_layout" parm and change it back to "menu:minimize,maximize,close", which puts them back on the right. Not only that, you can bookmark it and other changes to make it easy to find them again in the future.

The sound issues were ALSA based code issues - updates in the summer of 2010 fixed this. Lost the operating system sounds for a while, multimedia always played OK.

I tried to use Twinview to drive two monitors, but playback occasionally had video tears. I have Nvidia hardware - one HDMI and one high BW VGA output. Turns out the x window system can't handle 2 async monitors - the sync intervals can come at any time resulting in a tear in the video output which is from the big video buffer updates happening. The fix is to set 2 x drivers and use Xinerama to tie the two screens together. You do get 2 cursors, 1 for each x screen. Only one moves at a time depending which screen you are mousing over. Voila, 100% perfect video on a 54 inch plasma display and a 22 inch LCD. I configured it as a super wide side by side setup and set the background image on the plasma side to black - no point driving it for nothing. Did I mention that the 54 inch plasma is, well, impressive?

I use Evolution for email, it handles multiple pop/smtp servers - slightly simpler than Thunderbird. There are many other clients available to choose from.

I do run an old Photoshop 7 (PS) using Wine. Sometimes a repaint issue appears when a child window is closed - but does not really effect the operation at all. Gimp is OK with the PS look and feel - but its just not the same as PS. These graphic applications have a steep learning curve so I'll stick with PS.

My new canon MP250 printer works well - once you find the 32bit Debian driver from Canon - not in the US: cnijfilter-mp250series-3.20-1-i386-deb.tar.gz.

Scanner issues. This is the only weak part of open source I have encountered so far. I can scan positives really well but I have no sophisticated software that will handle negative film and their unique coatings. (Negative film has a colored layer and needs to be compensated out - and each film type even from the same manufacturer has different coatings.)

My older Epson 2450 Photo scanner works with XSane but the driver is not sure if its a US or European version and the color correction ICC tables are messed up - but I can raw scan, cancel the errors as they pop up and fix normally in PS. This is a XSane issue but to be fair its not even at release 1.0 yet - a work in progress. Now I use IScan from Epson as the front end to Sane. This works OK. Most of my images are transparencies of one size or another so it's really not so much of an issue.

Silverfast would not load up in Wine - security type copy issues I believe. The only solution I see at the moment is to load up Sun's VirtualBox with Win 98 and load Silverfast there - but there may be security issues there as well. Viewscan would solve all these issues but it currently won't run in 9.10 Karmic Koala. It's not free but by far the best scanner application out there and it's only $40.

I added a second Tera byte hard drive and using gparted to set the disk allocations - it was easy and fun. You do have to get into /etc/fstab to get it to automount at boot time - not a big deal as it all worked first time. A full Tera byte in a little drive just freaks me out.

It took a while to figure out why suspend would not work - you need to have a disk swap space size at least equal to all of your installed RAM. Suspend just parks the RAM (machine state) onto the swap space on the disk and then shuts down the hardware.

Want to run a 64 bit operating system in Sun virtualbox? You need a CPU that has the 64 bit Virtualization extensions or you are stuck with 32 bit operating system machine virtulations only. You need to go the Intel site and check not only each version - but for some chips check the spec info too. I guess die space is an issue and Intel plays mix and match with the marketing a bit. Intels COR 2 Duo Processor Table

I have upgraded to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS from 9.10 in Dec 2010 (painless) Make a 10.04 CD, run the update from 9.10 and then update the mediabuntu sources for 10.04 when its all done. Ubuntu just keeps getting better. I have forgotten when I last booted Windoz - must be months now.

BTW, My hardware: Dual Core 2.8G E7400 CPU, 4G RAM, 1.3Tbyte in drives, Nvidia 9400G driving a 22 inch Asus LCD and a 54 inch Panasonic plasma. I now have a Brother laser printer MFC-7440N. Brother supplies Linux drivers for the scanner and printer. It has a stand alone fax.