View Full Version : Test driving Ubuntu 9.04

27th July 2009, 16:52
We had a discussion on here about Linux and free software a while back.

I gave Ubuntu a good try out the last few weeks and due to it's similarities to the Amiga with it's separate folders for different OS files, I picked it all up very quickly. Experiences:

Free software - great

Open office, Ubuntu, Gimp and all the free apps in Synaptic package manager are great. Once you enable the third party online repositories you can also install Google Earth and other apps very easily. Rather than downloaded complete install packages, which are quite rare in the Linux world's online webpages, you can do many installs directly via the built in package manager and they are guaranteed to be virus/spyware free. It will take care of the necessary “dependencies” for you (extra OS files and packages required for the chosen software).

If it's not in Synaptic/package manager, then hope it has an install package available. If not, you may be compiling, installing and chasing up dependencies yourself which is a pain.

Hardware support - average

If everything works out of the box, like many systems do, brilliant. If not, be prepared for a long session in the command prompt, online forums and delving into config files. Even if it does work, a kernal update can render drivers useless. If you have older hardware when this happens, nvidia and ATI may not write a newer driver for hardware opengl acceleration even though the last one became invalid with an X Server update (the part of linux/Ubuntu that deals with the GUI). Can be much more of a pain than Windows in this respect.

Virus checking/ firewall - don't need

Some performance increases to be had from no security software I'm sure as well as piece of mind. Unless you are passing files onto a Windows computer, you simply don't need this kind of software on Linux. There aren't many virues and the system is read only as standard with no open ports. You need to enter your password to do anything that can write or change the OS. A huge weight off your mind (not that I've ever had an issue in Windows mind you).

Desktop customization - Brilliant

The GUI is fantastically versatile and there is a Linux for every machine and taste out there. I really love the GUI used in Ubuntu, with it's hardware 3D effects.

Speed - not as great as I expected.

There are many distros out there that are lighter than Ubuntu and the Gnome GUI it uses, but I found it to be slower than XP on older hardware I was using to test. I guess it's not surprising as it will be a distro for modern hardware, but the fact remains that XP plus running virus checker guard and firewall ran faster than Ubuntu 9.04 on an Athlon XP 1500+ (1.33Ghz) with 512MB RAM (yes I disabled 3D effects to make it a fair comparision).

I like how it doesn't have a registry to get bloated or mess up - seems cleaner, although I can't say I had any performance issues with the Windows registry even if it does get a bloated mess. Plus, if you believe the community, the file system doesn't need defragging.

Overall - great, but I'll stick with Windows

My experience with Ubuntu was a positive one and I'd definitely recommend it to someone who just wants to surf the web, use office apps and general programs that are easily installable via Synaptic. It's obviously not for hard core gamers, although some DirectX games can be run through WINE which worked quite well for the one's I tried - not perfect though. From an admin point of view, you know the person can't mess up the system if they don't have the password and it will be virus/spyware free. No virus checkers or firewalls - it was a nice change although I did get sick of typing my password at times!

It can be a pain in the arse compared to Windows and updates can ruin things without warning. I experienced this twice in a few months using older hardware and I spent a lot of time in forums learning about Linux and the various commands and keyboard shortcuts that you must use in the prompt if you want to control the OS and get things sorted. This can lead to frustration. You can boot older kernels however should there be an issue from Grub, the boot manager. Can't escape the fact that you feel like a server/professional admin when dealing with Ubuntu's "guts" sometimes - it's server and command prompt origins are still very apparent.

My advice – nice free OS and I can see the attraction of open source software with missing digital rights management, corporate bullshit, rigid structure etc – but I'll stick with Windows for better gaming and retro emulators. It's just easier and less hassle much of the time even if you do have to pay, you can spend more time playing/working rather than tinkering.

A big up to the open source community however - really love the work you guys do and we're very lucky that you do all this for free. I have loads of respect for the whole scene.

27th July 2009, 17:11
Very nice mini review. And it reflects my thoughts of Ubuntu very closely.

I've experienced exactly the same problems with updates ruining things without warning. The worst is when trying to get a graphics card to work properly. So many times I've tried to use ATI cards and Ubuntu has installed with its default generic GPU drivers set to be used. Downloading and installing the ATI ones and rebooting has left me with a completely black screen after the loading progress bar has finished, with no easy way back to the previous configuration without dropping back into a commandline and then (as you say) spending a lot of time on forums and wiki's looking up how to reverse the driver install and revert to the generic one. And annoyingly, without the direct ATI card support drivers working most of the 3D advanced effects don't work on the desktop. Grr!

The other issue is wireless network cards. These are still a right bugger to setup in any Linux distro, and it normally ends up requiring the installation of software to allow the Windows drivers for your make of Wireless NIC to get them working. You would think that with the popularity of wlan networks these days that it would be given more development and focus in the Linux community, but I've not seen any since the days of Fedora 4, which is a while back.

Still, as you say it is a very good OS and ideal for anyone wishing to have a fixed setup for office, email and internet. For them very little ever changes or wished to be changed and it is a very stable and robust OS for this. For the rest of us who want to tinker, play games and emulation Windows is sadly still the only real option.

Ubuntu has come a very long way in a very short development time (compared to Windows) and so I expect we will see a lot more in the next couple of years.

Also as you mentioned, Ubuntu isn't quite as lightweight as some other distros. Struggling on lower powered systems. There is however a sister distro called Xubuntu that is designed specifically for lower powered systems. I run that one a AMD K3 450MHz laptop with 128MB of ram and it runs fine.

I also highly recommend you look at Fedora. That is a more complex feature rich Linux distro than Ubuntu and its installer is more advanced with a huge array of options, providing the ability to install nearly everything available to Linux out of the box. That is the reason the Fedora distros are so huge and multi disk compared to Ubuntu. But great to play around with, and I would say it is more stable and forgiving when trying to install drivers and other system critical updates. I've not had Fedora lockup on reboot after installing something like can happen in Ubuntu.

Fedora is more businesslike version of Linux though, compared to Ubuntu's polished installation and default installation setup.

27th July 2009, 17:21
Thanks for the feedback. :) It was your original thread that got me into trying Linux:


...and I have read the various posts around this forum including yours.

Commenting on your network issue - I was lucky; Ubuntu supported my USB wireless network stick I was using right out the box. All I had to do was type in the WPA password and it connected.

I'll try Fedora next. Mint linux also looks interesting as it has loads of media codecs pre-installed. I need a break from it now however and I'm back using Windows, which funnily enough, I seem to appreciate a little more now! :D

At least I know how to use it for the future, or if I want to install it on a PS3.

27th July 2009, 18:13
That is very true. We all moan about Windows, but use something else and then come back and you soon realise it isn't quite as bad as you thought. Its like anything. Use the same thing for long enough and you get so used to it that you notice the smallest of flaws, but use an alternative and then come back and you are glad you returned. A bit like dropping your car into the garage to be service and getting a bottom of the range smaller car for the courtesy car.

28th July 2009, 06:29
Same experience here. I had tried Ubuntu a few years ago and it was great, everything worked "out of the box" and it was very fast.

Unfortunately, i had to go on using XP for some windows exclusive apps. I know i could have used them in Ubuntu via cross-platform softwares but i always refused to use Ubuntu and then emulate windows, then i'd rather use Win itself.
Anyway, the use of these softs was related to my work at that time and i always thought that the day it would change, i'd switch back to Ubuntu.

And then, a few months ago, i was finally ready for the change. Unfortunately, my wifi USB key was not working. It took me 2 weeks of reading forums, tweaking and coding before i could get a positive result. Then came an update of the kernel and all was ruined. This was my final attempt in the world of Linux.

I had already tried many other distros but Ubuntu was the only that was still tempting me.

If i have a day off and i wanna go shopping, i don't wanna spend my day on the border of the road, trying to repair my car as it is only a mean of transportation!
For OSs, it's the same, if i wanna browse the net or beat the games, i don't wanna spend my day in kernels and command prompts.

I'm still using XP at the moment but, to be honest, there's nothing really great coming out of Microsoft lately. Vista is... well, i won't go further talking about it and i have serious doubt about what's coming next. Also, the look of their desktops gives me nausea (even when tweaked).

I think more and more about Apple but their prices block me...

28th July 2009, 10:35
Those that don't use Vista on a well setup system, or have only used it for short periods of time on other's system tend to all have a negative view towards it. Before I installed it as my main OS I also had very negative views. These however were mainly due to using it the most on laptops, where the focus should be on a lightweight resource optimised OS, which Vista is not, and so doesn't perform or run well, and gives a bad user experience.

In contrast, running it on a fast multi core system with a lot of ram and HDD space, plus a powerful graphics card, is a completely different experience. The argument is still there that we shouldn't have to have 4GB of ram, at least a dual core CPU and over 100GB of HDD space on the boot drive just to make Vista a nice experience, but it is true.

With such a setup Vista is allowed to breath, and Vista x64 Ultimate edition is a very nice OS to use. Since using it, going back to XP definitely does feel like a big step backwards. The file structure is nearly the same for both OSs, and even the control panels are similar (in classic view), but the completely updated File Explorer and search functionality really does improve things. Being a fan of the Windows version of Directory Opus, the adoption of a very similar folder navigation system pleased me greatly.

And while it is all eye candy, I do like the improved 3D effects such as transparancy and drop shadows used in the full aero setup of Vista. Plus the reworked start menu.

Software, contrary to many user reports also works well, even on the 64bit version of the OS. I've found relatively few software packages that don't run out of the box, and most that don't can be made to work. And that includes software as far back as 2001.

Windows 7 is offering the same feature set, and more, and with the same frontend user experience. But a lot less resource hungry and optimised to run well and much lower specs. This will be the real Vista that should have been released to begin with, rather than the hurried OS that we got due to M$ worrying about Apple's Mac OS X 10.5 due for release at the same time. I'm sure people will be much more receptive to Windows 7 than they were to Vista.

Sorry for hijacking the thread. ;)

28th July 2009, 11:48
Windows 7 is offering the same feature set, and more, and with the same frontend user experience. But a lot less resource hungry and optimised to run well and much lower specs. This will be the real Vista that should have been released to begin with, rather than the hurried OS that we got due to M$ worrying about Apple's Mac OS X 10.5 due for release at the same time. I'm sure people will be much more receptive to Windows 7 than they were to Vista.

This is Windows 98 vs 98SE all over again. Microsoft relese a beta OS to ramp up driver support, iron out difficulties and get the word out there, then release the finished version a couple of years later.

I have no doubt Windows 7 is going to be a nice bit of kit, but it's still going to be difficult to get people to upgrade from XP which just works for pretty much everything people do. Most people will make the jump once Microsoft abandon XP's updates or the web / computer makers find a way to force an update upon us.

28th July 2009, 12:32
As always I think the majority of users upgrading to Vista or Windows 7 happens when they purchase their next PC. Hardly any non technically minded home computer users purchase a retail copy of an OS and install it themselves. I've actually never encountered any in this category even wishing to attempt or consider it, with most getting worried if they have to reinstall the current OS they are using, or even boot into safe mode. They would rather give their PC to me to do it for them.

I do agree that is is very much like Windows 98. However Windows 7 is a much larger progression from Vista than 98 SE was. The UI for example has changed quite a bit with a completely reworked start menu and minimalistic taskbar, which I think could actually confuse many used to XP.

28th July 2009, 12:33
Harisson, sorry but i don't agree at all about Vista. I don't even have a laptop, my desktop is a quadcore with 4 Go Ram and yet, i can't stand the OS. It's ugly and unpractical. I have bought it and used it for a bit more than 4 months and when i decided to get rid of that piece of bugging ugliness, it didn't feel like a step backward but like fresh air. There are so many things i could use as example, i wouldn't even know where to start.

I will probably try windows 7, i have tried all Microsoft OSs since windows 3.1 (95: bof, 98: yeah, 2000/me: bof, XP: yeah, Vista: lulz, Windows 7: ???).
The more i see Microsoft's way of overbuilding instead of developing, the more i feel like going Ubuntu or, maybe, replacing all my PC setup with Apple before the 22nd october.

28th July 2009, 12:49
What couldn't you get to work with Vista?

As I said, I've had hardly any issues, and those I have had I can resolve with community fixes (especially for older games). I even have games like Grand Prix 4 running very nicely on Vista x64, which I was surprised even ran at all.

And what bugs did you encounter?