Great insights, Tom!

Story: Ubuntu Linux Desktop ReviewedTotal Replies: 4
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Jun 13, 2005
12:05 PM EDT
I think that Ubuntu is one of the great recent efforts that have caught the attention of many. I believe that MEPIS and Xandros are two other such efforts. I believe that you mention them in your Linux Journal article, but I'll have to go back and read it again to be sure.

I find it really interesting that Debian based systems have, over the past two years or so, formed the basis for several of the most interesting (and usable) systems around. Hard to believe at first, when you consider what an unfriendly, geek-like reputation Debian-based systems have. However, the packaging that's central to Debian systems has always been the best available, the community and openness of Debian software (which the Debian Social Contract guarantees) are great, so your premise about several of these factors coming together is, in my opinion, right on the mark.

There are many other good distributions that have come out of nowhere during the past three years, all of them Debian-based. Just a small sample of the ones available: Ubuntu and its cousin Kubuntu, Kanotix, it's father, Knoppix, MEPIS, Linspire, Xandros, the resurrected Progeny, and my favorite full featured commercial systems that's been a small, but very solid player, Libranet.

All of these distributions and their associated systems have solid user communities. The most successful ones have very energized and helpful communities.

Jun 13, 2005
3:26 PM EDT
Although I prefer SUSE from a purely commercial perspective, Debian rulz!

There's a benefit to having highly motivated people working together. There's just a passion behind Debian that's hard to beat.

Sun and Microsoft unfortunately are also big Debian fans. Their hope is that everyone will drop Red Hat, SUSE, etc. and go to Debian. If you're a business person, you know why. I'm sure I'll still have a job even if Debian "wins".

Jun 14, 2005
11:28 AM EDT
Ubuntu really converted me to the Debian world. For years (1997-2004), I used RPM-based systems (RedHat, then Mandrake), because that is what I learned on and mastered to a certain degree...and things installed and worked properly. I had a desktop that I could USE without staying up 'til 4AM for 4 days to get things tweaked. Dealing with RPM-based production systems led me straight down the road to "RPM Hell", however. Something as simple as upgrading a PHP or MySQL version was not-so-simple. Compiling from tarballs did not help...failed library versions, etc.

Debian always intimidated me. I tried it a few times in years past, but I worked as a developer and life did not afford me the luxury of re-learning a different approach to linux package management and configuration. All the talk about Ubuntu made me curious, so I got the iso and was utterly FLOORED by the simplicity of the install and the polish of the desktop. Someone FINALLY got it, I thought. I started building a server with the Ubuntu (minimal) option custom, and started getting familiar with the Debian way of things. I will not turn back to an RPM-based distro. (though I will inevitably be working with lots-n-lots of RedHat ES/AS installations to make a buck).

That being said, I prefer KDE, so I don't use Ubuntu for a desktop. Tried Kubuntu, nice, but not quite me. Haven't tried Xandros. Liked LibraNet, but afraid it will wither with its founder's death. Got Linspire 4.5 with a $179 Athalon box at a major retailer and was very impressed...drove home that night with a grin that I bought a retail PC with LINUX on it...the validation of the years of effort tinkering with this OS almost brought tears of joy to my eyes. Linspire is definitely not for me, although it could be nice for a complete Linux newbie as a MSFT alternative.

My favorite desktop now is MEPIS, hands down. I like it so much I contributed $. For server installs without X, I will likely use sarge to keep things kosher, but it lacked for my worked, but required too much messin' to get it right. With MEPIS, all I had to do was change one setting to get my resolution to my preference and I was done.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I just hope my aptitude won't give me too much of an attitude.


Jun 14, 2005
12:10 PM EDT
From a thread on the Ubuntu Users list:


I would recommend Ubuntu to anyone. Keep in mind, I make a living recommending Linux. So, if you wonder why, I'll tell you.

Every PC manufacturer with whom I have worked has had to make serious engineering changes to Microsoft Windows. I wish I could show you the hotfix lists. I don't have access to them now, but one time I did. I'm talking about reams of pages. Reams and reams of pages and 10's of thousands of hotfixes existed.

One manufacturer doesn't have an NDA with me, so I'll tell you about Gateway. Once they received the product from Microsoft, they had to fix it, make enhancements, build drivers, etc. Then they would test it like mad men. Then, they would create a download and would load the OS on hard drives which could be put in computers.

I watched people slam things on tables and walk away cursing and angry because they thought they were ready to do a run and something went wrong in the final test. It cost a fortune to hold up production because of some flaky bug.

If Gateway or any other manufacturer bundled Ubuntu, they would make serious fixes to the distribution to get it to work. I think that they would have fewer fixes and would have better documentation with Ubuntu than Microsoft. They would also add components like a version of Cyberlink's PowerDVD, etc.

Why don't they? Because they are tied to the financial arrangements - marketing rebates.

I build my own computers unless someone gives me a name brand computer for whatever reason. I have a Gateway sitting here, for example.

I tweak and fix every system. Something is wrong with every OS with which I have ever tried. I see complaints about drivers and apps and all sorts of things on mailing lists including this one.

Unless an operating system is engineered for a specific set of hardware, it's almost impossible to get it right the first time. For example, I have a Whitebox I bought from Micro Center because they are now bundling Linux with their house brand. But the DVD software that came with the drive doesn't work on Windows. Guess what - the OEM version of that software built for Linux works extremely well with the DVD drive. It's a cheap Chinese drive, but it works great.

If I recommend Ubuntu, I'm willing to engineer it to a customer's specs - only if I'm paid however.

The problem many people face with Linux is simple: hardware compatibility. Back in the mid 1990's we carried around hardware compatibility lists for NT, Novell, O/2 and IBM Lan Server. If something didn't work, it was always our fault. Funny how expectations have changed.

That's a perspective from the industry. It's not that Linux has less drivers than Microsoft or Mac - it's just that they have different ones.

If you want to make Linux work for you then you'll have to make it work.

I consider it fun, you may have other things to do.

Vincent Trouilliez:

I agree with Tom...

I am no Linux guru, nor a developer, but I have worked 3 years at the Nec and Packard-Bell factory for Europe (in Angers, France). I don't have any DNA with them as I was only a simple worker there... employed to fix all the machines that would fail anywhere in the production lines, either assembly or stress testing. The point is, like Gateway, they have whole teams of S/W guys that spent their time fighting with H/W and S/W suppliers to get drivers or programs that work, and work hard to make everything work together, before they can upload the final master image to the network, to be used in production. For every new machine/configuration, they must do it all over again. So they are quite busy. But it used to be okay. However over time, they were given less and less time to get everything working, so this lead to more and more problem. Every other week, you would have thousands of machines that show a similar bug/problem, due to insufficent testing from the engineering dept. Needless to say, everytime this happened, it was real mess. Not only the affected machines would not be shipped in time, but more importantly, they would clog the production lines (slots would not be freed) and slow down the entire factory... costing lots of money.......

So, to sum it up, I don't believe that putting Linux instead of Windows XP, would cost them or be any more hassle than what happens with windows right now. Just not possible ! Also, the biggest complain so far with Ubuntu is the problems with proprietary format for multimedia files. Well, I don't have the figures, but considering Ubuntu is 100% free, I very much doubt that it paying a little fee for Java, mp3, crypted DVD what have, would cost anywhere near as much as a Windows XP license !

So really, it's hardly neither a S/W nor money problem, but just marketing/policies. If they had the nuts to at least "test the water" by offering a small range of Ubuntu machines, I bet they would find it less costly to get Ubuntu rather than XP, implemented/working on their machines.


Jun 14, 2005
12:22 PM EDT

tadelste: I spent a couple weeks in Angers in '93 with a friend who was studying there. Nice town, Nice tapestries.

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