First impressions of Ubuntu, etc.

Last Friday I tried out the latest release of Ubuntu Linux. They provide a “live” CD, which boots and runs directly from the CD just like Knoppix. My goal is to find a nice desktop-oriented version of Linux that “just works”. On the server side, I’m sticking with Debian, but I find vanilla Debian a bit lacking in the desktop department. So as a stop-gap between cutting over to OS X completely, I thought I’d try out Ubuntu and see how I like it. Ubuntu is based on the same apt package system as Debian, so it’s familiar, and it’s touted as being very desktop-friendly.

First impressions: it looks nice. apt-get works as expected from the command line, but the default archive server has a very slow connection — I wonder if there are mirrors on Internet2 that I could use. If not, that’s a definite drawback, as I’m not sure I could give up the blazing speed I get from debian.lcs.mit.edu. I was able to install xmms easily, and my sound card was immediately recognized, and the system shares the sound card between apps. However, for some reason it didn’t work streaming MP3s from my mp3act server. Recent versions of OpenOffice and Firefox are provided. It didn’t pick up my dual-head setup, but I didn’t expect it to — I’ll need to download and install nVidia’s x.org driver manually. It looks like I’ll need to install some compilers and devel tools before I’ll be able to build the nVidia driver. But I expect it’ll work.

As with every other version of Linux, the default fonts are butt-ugly. Why can’t someone put out a Linux distro that has nice fonts out of the box? That has always been one of my biggest gripes with Linux. There are tutorials on the ‘net to improve the look of the fonts under Ubuntu, but honestly, this shouldn’t be something I have to mess with. Linux is never going to get anywhere in the desktop market until they can get past this issue.

All of that said, I think I may try out an “official” install of Ubuntu on the hard drive, and see how it goes for awhile. I’d rather not wipe out my existing Debian install, so I’ll have to scrounge around for a spare hard drive first.

In other news.. I’m thinking about finally taking the plunge and going with totally paperless bills and financial statements (where possible). My redundant disk setup gives me a more reliable place to store documents electronically, so there’s no reason not to go for it. As with everything else, I’ll see how it goes.

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