Ubuntu Linux – Aspiring
Ubuntu is the LINUX distribution that divides opinion the most.
Ubuntu is innovative, forward thinking and the most likely LINUX distribution to have any hope of taking on Windows, MacOS and ChromeOS on the desktop. Ubuntu also has aspirations of taking on the mobile and tablet market dominated by Apple and Google.
So many other distributions are derived from UBUNTU including the distribution that is competing for the honour of top dog in the LINUX world, MINT.
Ask most people in the LINUX world which distribution they would recommend to people who are thinking of trying LINUX and UBUNTU would be the first word out of their mouths.
Ubuntu was the reason I started using LINUX full time and was the first distribution I felt comfortable enough with to ditch Windows at home forever. I would think a lot of the people who read this post will say the same thing.
I have said all this yet Ubuntu is criticised in equal measures. I think one reason for this is that they are deemed not to listen to their users. An example of this is the Unity interface. It flies in the face of everything the Ubuntu user base was wanting but Canonical continued on anyway. Now Unity divides opinion as much as Ubuntu itself.
This is a review of Ubuntu 12.04. I have downloaded it and installed it onto the Samsung R20 laptop.
The above is a screenshot of Ubuntu 12.04. I have changed the wallpaper to one of the stock wallpapers available.
Two things to notice here. The first is the block of icons down the left hand side and the second is the task bar at the top.
The one thing you will realise as you run Ubuntu is that it has a heavy use of icons. For me this is no surprise as the world has become accustomed to little blocks of icons. It is a symbol of the iPod generation. Every tablet and smart phone uses icons to symbolise applications. Menus are a thing of the past.
Before we worry too much about the desktop and look and feel lets start with the important stuff.
The first thing I do when I install a new operating system is to connect to the internet. So how well does Ubuntu do this? Well it is a breeze. Ubuntu has become so popular because it does just work and love it or loathe it you can’t argue with it’s completeness or its ease of use.
Clicking on the wireless network icon near the clock in the top right hand corner brings up a menu that shows both my Orange livebox and my Three mobile broadband. I was able to connect to both just by entering the security keys.
The browser installed by default is Firefox which isn’t my favourite. Installing a different browser is as simple as going to the software centre and searching for the required one. (In my case Chromium).
The next thing I like to do is to test whether Flash is installed or not. Now I know from experience that to get Flash, Java and all the MP3s etc working I need to install Ubuntu Restricted Extras. I find it annoying that I still need to go to the software centre to do this. I think this is a problem for new users as there is no indication that this needs to be done and if you read forums, quite often the forum posts direct you to the command line which is a new user’s nightmare especially if they are used to Windows and have never used a DOS window in their life. Maybe they could place the Ubuntu Restricted Extras in a more obvious place or show a message the first time you run Ubuntu asking if you want to install it.
One thing you will notice when you click applications is that they open to the right of the icon bar. This loses a bit of real estate when it comes to screen space.
The Ubuntu Software Centre is a great tool for searching for both free and paid for applications. It is very comparable to the Android Market Place. The software centre is very slick and it is easy to find the application you are looking for.
Having installed the restricted extras you can now watch videos on Google or run Rhythmbox to listen to your favourite MP3s.
The icon bar on the left can be amended to include other applications but by default has the following options.
1. Home (This is like the Windows start button)
2. Files and Folders
3. Firefox Web Browser
4. LibreOffice Writer
5. LibreOffice Calc
6. LibreOffice Impress
7. Ubuntu Software Centre
8. Ubuntu One
9. System Settings
10. Workspace Switcher
11. Rubbish Bin
If you install a new application it tends to pin itself automatically to the icon bar. You can remove it from the icon bar by right clicking the icon and then selecting unlock from toolbar.
Ubuntu comes with a premium set of software installed as standard including the LibreOffice suite, Rhythmbox for audio, Thunderbird for email, Shotwell photo manager and Brasero for CD/DVD burning.
This is probably the bit that takes some getting used to but once you do it is actually very intuitive.
The unity interface is a modern take on a tabbed window. If you look at the bottom of the screen there are five icons which are virtual tabs.
The five icons determine the main block of icons that appear. The Home icon will show you a list of all the recent applications and files that you have viewed.
If you click the applications icon a new window appears showing recently used applications, installed applications and applications available for download.
Obviously you can’t see every application that is installed on this one display. To expand the list of installed icons click the link next to the text “Installed” which says “see all n results” where n is the number of applications installed.
The applications available for download appear to be a random selection.
Now if you choose to view 81 installed applications the view can get quite cluttered. To get around this there is a filter menu in the top right hand corner which enables you to filter the categories you see.
You can select just one category or a selection of multiple categories. You can also filter by rating and software sources.
If you still can’t find what you are looking for there is a search bar at the top and it works very well. Just start typing and the application you need is sure to appear.
One thing you will notice as you open applications is that they add themselves to the icon bar. If you try and open another version of the same application by left clicking on the icon then you are taken to the application that is already open. For example open the text editor and then try and open another one by clicking the text editor icon and you will just be shown the original editor. To open a second version of the application you have to right click on the icon and select to open a new window.
If you have multiple windows open for an application and you click the icon for that application in the icon bar then a nice little screen effect shows both windows or all windows (if more than 2 are open) and you can select the window you want to open.
If you don’t like the order of the icons in the list then you can drag them around to put them in the order you want them to be in. If you want an application to constantly pin itself to the icon bar find it by clicking the home icon and searching for the application and then right click the icon and drag it to the icon bar.
Ubuntu is great for new users for a different reason. It really is easy to use. It looks great and the performance is very good. I trust Ubuntu like no other distribution. It is the operating system that you can depend on to just work.
Unity clearly divides opinion and some people clearly hate it but I’m not sure what the fuss is about. It works very well. It might not be as customisable as other desktop environments (For instance it is not possible to move the bar from the left hand side, however you can resize the icons) but you can get very familiar with it in no time at all.
If you are still using Windows and you are unsure whether Ubuntu is a good fit then I really would recommend giving it a go. You can run Ubuntu as a live CD without affecting your Windows install or run it alongside Windows.
What are your views on Ubuntu? Is it still number one? Thanks for reading.