Amazing Ubuntu

I must say, I’m amazed how far Ubuntu Linux has come in the last 6 months.

When I tried 5.10 last october, it was nice, but it was still how I experienced Linux ever since I tried it out on the desktop – Flaky: WLAN didn’t work, DVDs didn’t work, Videos didn’t work (well… they did, but audio and video desynched after playing for more than 10 seconds), fonts looked crappy compared to Windows and OS X and suspend and hibernate didn’t work (or rather worked too well – the notebook didn’t come up again after suspending / hibernating).

I know, there were tutorials explaining how to fix some of the problems, but why working through tons of configuration files when I can also just install Windows or OSX and have it work out-of-the box?

Now, yesterday, I installed Ubuntu 6.06 on my Thinkpad T42.

Actually, I tried updating my 5.10 installation, but after doing so, my network didn’t work any longer. And in comparison with Windows and OSX and even Gentoo Linux where the fix is obvious or well documented with useful error messages, I had no chance in fixing it in Ubuntu on short notice.

Seeing that I had no valuable data on the machine, I could just go ahead with the reinstallation.

WPA still didn’t work with the tools provided by default. Now, we all know that WEP is not safe any more and in my personal experience is much flakyer than WPA (connections dropping or not even getting up). How can a system like Linux which is that security-centered not support WPA? Especially as it also works better than WEP.

To Ubuntu’s credit I have to say, that a tool, NetworkManager to fix WPA on the desktop was released post-feature-freeze. If you know what to do, it’s just a matter of installing the right packages to get it to work (and fixing some strange icon resource error preventing the gnome applet from starting).

Aside the connectivity issue (you won’t read any praise for NetworkManager here as a tool like that is nothing special in any other OS which is designed for desktop-use), the Ubuntu Experience was a very pleasant one.

Syspend to RAM worked (Hibernate didn’t – it doesn’t even hibernate). Fonts looked OK. And best of all:

I was able to play Videos (even HD with sufficient performance) and watch a DVD. Hassle-free.

Granted, I had to install some legally not-so-safe packages (with the help of EasyUbuntu which does the hard work for you), but you’d have to do that on any other system aswell, so that’s ok IMHO.

This was a real plesant experience.

And in the whole process I only got three or four meaningless error-messages or stuff not-working silently which is supposed to work according to the documentation.

I’m good enough with computers to fix stuff like that and I had enough time to do it, so I’m not very upset about that, but I’ll only recommend Ubuntu as a real desktop OS once I can install it on a machine and connect to my home network without cryptic error messages and as cryptic fixes (that NetworkManager-bug).

Still: They’ve come a really long way in the past 6 months. Ubuntu is the first Linux distribution ever that manages to play an AVI video and a DVD without forcing me to tweak around for at least two hours.