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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ubuntu 7.10 Desktop Linux on Steroids

Ubuntu 7.10 was released a few days back and being an avid and passionate user of Ubuntu Linux i downloaded the distribution on my slow college internet connection , It took me over 30 hours to download the distribution [:(] So i was really looking forward to the new Ubuntu 7.10 and here is the review of the Linux distribution :-

Ubuntu is one of the better known Linux distribution , that is making mark on the desktop front from the deal with Dell to topping distrowatch there have been ominous sign that Ubuntu could actually challenge likes of Mac OS and Windows on the desktop . Ubuntu 7.10 is one step forward in this direction . It is probably one of the most polished Linux distribution that is very well supported by community on the internet . Ubuntu 7.10 builds on previous releases and adds new features , functionality, features ,customization that truly make it a interesting desktop Linux distribution to try.

Installation : -

I have been using a really old laptop (Cel 1.4Ghz , 256 MB etc etc) so as recommended on the Ubuntu website (they recommend not to use Live CD for installation on system with less than 320 MB of RAM) I downloaded alternate installation CD which is basically text mode installation cd for Ubuntu which provides a bit more customization of installation . Now initially the installation did go well , i didn't have any kind of problem but when actually it started copying files onto the system and configuring various devices on the computer for some strange reason entire installation screen looked garbled with all kind of strange text ( i guess it happened because of some bug in graphic card detection system because it was doing that when this happened on my system) anyways so since alternate installation CD didn't work out the way it should have i downloaded normal Live CD .
Some Clips of Installation using alternate installation CD


This is how alternate installion CD's installer froze

I booted into Live CD , now to my surprise Ubuntu 7.10 had automatically mounted swap partition unlike the previous Ubuntu distribution which for some strange reason had removed automatic mounting of swap drive making entire Live CD installation painful on my rickety old system .

Now because of mounting of swap partition , the Live CD and Installation was atleast responsive (unlike Ubuntu 7.04 :( ) and i was able to install Ubuntu on my computer in around 1 hour . The installation program hasn't changed a lot from the previous release of Ubuntu 7.04 . There is a migration assistant that could be of particular use to Linux newbies who would be using their computers as dual boot system , it basically allows one to have the same kind of desktop configuration (fonts , wallpaper , user account etc etc) as Windows on their newly installed Ubuntu Desktop . Also, since in the Live CD installation you are booted into a full fledged Linux desktop so if you have sufficient amount of RAM you could easily use other applications while installation is going on .

Over the past 8-9 years i had been using Linux , Linux installation has improved a lot from a time when it was the most difficult part for newbies to a time now when installation of certain flavor of Linux distribution like Ubuntu,Freespire,etc are even simpler than popular Windows operating system , things have surely changed a lot .

Booting into newly Installed Ubuntu System

After completing the installation on rebooting the system , i was presented with grub bootloader and to my relief it had configured my operating system properly ( i have Windows XP , Freespire , OpenSuse installed) . From selecting Ubuntu in grub bootloader to booting to Log in screen the entire thing took ----- minutes .

Ubuntu 7.10 Login Screen

After logging into , i was thrown into the familiar Ubuntu desktop with Human theme . Now the first thing you notice is that all your partition including NTFS windows partition are automatically mounted and even read /write support is automatically enabled unlike Ubuntu 7.04 .

Also , unlike previous releases of Ubuntu where one had to manually download and install Compiz Fusion (Compiz Fusion is composite window manager that provides best features of Compiz and Beryl) from Repositories if one wanted to have glitzy visual effects . In Ubuntu 7.10 Compiz Fusion comes pre-installed and on supported hardware offers a wide array of Visual Effect . Now depending on graphic hardware of computer one could chose from three level of Visual Effect (From System -> Preferences -> Appearance )

None : - This mode causes Ubuntu to use Metacity instead of Compiz Fusion , with no visual effect

Basic : - Has only simple visual effects like shadows , fading windows-menus etc

Advanced : - Recommended for PC with descent graphic hardware , enables effects like wobbly windows, transparency , animated workspace switching etc
Visual Effect Dialog Box
Now , the biggest advantage of Compiz Fusion is even on really slow hardware one can have descent set of visual effects even on my slow laptop i could use Extra graphics effects though it was painful while using application like OpenOffice because of my slow hardware.

Hardware Support

Hardware support is one area where desktop Linux has matured a lot over past few years most of the cameras,phones , ipod , printers ,graphic card etc all are very well supported out of box on Linux distribution these days , and Ubuntu has one of the best hardware support .

I Was able to use my phone Sony Erricson K750i and Nokia N73 ,Printer HP 1210 , Apple 30GB ipod , and few USB pen drives out of box without any hassle . Now besides this it recognized and configured almost all the peripherals on my laptop properly .

Another interesting addition to Ubuntu 7.10 is new Graphical Configuration Application (System -> Administration -> Screens and Graphics ), that simplifies configuration of things like graphics driver , resolution , monitor , dual screen , etc . Now this application is welcome addition as configuring via xorg.conf is really painful and difficult for Linux newbies . Also another interesting thing was support for wide screen monitor , in previous releases i had a significant trouble trying to configure widescreen monitor support using utility like 915resolution , Now in Ubuntu 7.10 it seems this application has done something to make it bit easier . Though because of unavailability of wide screen laptop i wasn't able to test this .
Screen and Graphic configuration application
Another interesting thing in this release of Ubuntu 7.10 is improved font support , the fonts look much better than previous release of Ubuntu and even in Firefox i must say fonts looked better than same web page rendered on Firefox running on Windows .

There is also significant improvement in printing .



Application Set

Since Ubuntu is a single CD Linux distribution , it comes with very basic set of applications . Some of the application included with Ubuntu 7.10 are : -

As a desktop environment Ubuntu uses Gnome 2.20 , if you are one of those who prefer KDE you could use Kubuntu .


As Email Client Ubuntu comes preloaded with Evolution, and for internet browsing Firefox Web Browser .
Application Menu in Ubuntu
Ubuntu comes loaded with OpenOffice 2.3 which is quite mature office productivity suite , with included applications for word processing , Spreadsheet ,Presentation , Database and Graphic designing . OpenOffice over years have matured a lot from it's StarOffice days , especially in terms of Microsoft Office compatibility . One should be able to open Microsoft Office documents easily in open office with little or no loss of formatting .

For instant messaging Ubuntu 7.10 has Pidgin 2.2.1(Which was previously called Gaim ) , now Pidgin supports all the major protocols including AIM,Jabber,MSN,Yahoo,IRC etc .
Pidgin Instant Messenger
Though , One area where Ubuntu lacks a bit is Multimedia support it comes with basic multimedia application and only limited codecs are installed by default because of Licensing issues .However Ubuntu 7.10 has made it really easy to install codecs with wizard based installation of codecs.

Wizard based Installation of codecs

For Music management it comes preinstalled with Rhythmbox which has good Ogg playback though mp3 support is lacking because of codec issues , For movie playing it comes pre installed with Totem which uses Gstreamer back end for playing video files . Though i would recommend installing of more mature and better multimedia application like MPlayer or Xine for playing video files .

For Photo management it comes preloaded with F-Spot and for graphics editing GIMP .


Desktop Search

One significant inclusion in Ubuntu 7.10 is inclusion of search tool called Tracker this tool coupled with search applet provides a very similar search functionality to Mac OS Spotlight . Now the application is still in early stage of development , but still it promises a lot . Now there have been similar tools available on Linux including Novell supported Beagle and Google Desktop but biggest advantage of Tracker over these tools is Tracker is extremely efficient and can perform well even on slow hardware .

Also one can easily adjust performance of Tracker from (System -> Preferences -> Indexing Preferences )

Tracker Performance Adjusting Dialog Box

Also Tracker is very well integrated with Gnome with Deskbar applet providing easy way of searching for files , Deskbar applet provides simple way of searching for files . Alt + F3 opens up Deskbar search box .

Tracker Deskbar Search Applet


Alternatively if you want to use Tracker search box , you could use (Applications -> Accessories -> Tracker Search Tool ) for searching for files .
Tracker Search Box

Conclusion

Overall Ubuntu 7.10 is extremely usable Desktop Linux distribution that could be ideal distribution for people making transition from Windows to Linux or Mac OS to Linux . Tracker search tool , Easy wizard based installation of codecs , Visual Effects using Compiz Fusion and easy installation of thousands of application in repositories all of this makes Ubuntu very appealing to linux newbies .


Brief of features in Ubuntu 7.10 : -
Kernel 2.6.22
Xorg 7.3
OpenOffice 2.3
Firefox 2.0.0.6
GNOME 2.20
Pidgin 2.2.1
GIMP 2.4.0-rc3
Tracker search tool
Compiz Fusion 3-D effects



Article Written by : -
Ambuj Varshney <>
For Linux On Desktop Blog (http://linuxondesktop.blogspot.com)
(C) 2007 , Ambuj Varshney

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

e significant inclusion in Ubuntu 7.10 is inclusion of search tool called Tracker this tool coupled with search applet provides a very similar search functionality to Mac OS Spotlight . Now the application is still in early stage of development , but still it promises a lot . Now there have been similar tools available on Linux including Novell supported Beagle and Google Desktop but biggest advantage of Tracker over these tools is Tracker is extremely efficient and can perform well even on slow hardware .

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