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By t2000kw at 2007-08-02 04:29
I have tinkered with Linux in the past (Caldera, SuSE) back around the turn of the century. I even put together a document on how to get the video to work on a Dell Inspiron 7000 laptop (not all original material, but made step-by-step directions for anyone who could follow directions). But I wouldn't say that I am very knowledgeable about Linux in general. I've tried twice this year to compile a kernel and failed at it. I wiped out my master boot record on one hard drive while trying to restore it on another hard drive. And it took me a few days to figure out how to get GRUB to reinstall itself on the Linux drive. But it really wasn't until this year that I found Linux to be a real replacement for Windows 98 and XP. Well, almost--but I'll get to that later. Even with the problems I've had, mostly self-inflicted, I must say that I'm ready for Linux.

I downloaded Ubuntu, burned a CDROM, and installed Feisty Fawn. It comes with most everything I need. One requirement I had was that I had to be able to run my Windows email program, Agent. I can do without Outlook and Outlook Express as they are prone to malware (viruses, trojans) taking over the address book and sending things out to people listed there. I don't even use them in Windows except I have to use Outlook at work.

I was able to install Wine and get Agent working in Linux with it, so I was happy. My wife was almost as happy, but she doesn't like changes. She did appreciate that Agent was there but didn't appreciate that I had problems booting into Windows. This wasn't a Linux-related problem. It was something that happened during a boot with faulty memory that corrupted the part that loads XP. I got that fixed but she still doesn't like new things. Oh well, everyone to their own ways, I guess.

I found the Synaptics package manager to be very easy to use. There are LOTS of different applications available using it. With the help of a Linux guru, I was able to make some changes in /etc/apt/sources.list and I had a ton of software offerings available to me.

Automatix was another item that helped me install various sound and video codecs as well as some applications that I like (Real Player, for instance).

The OpenOffice applications (word processor, spreadsheet, etc.) work fine for me. I haven't tried the database or presentation application but I'm sure it will work fine if I need them. There are minor compatibility issues when going between MS Word and OpenOffice's word processor, but they are not showstoppers.

One little irritation I have with Feisty Fawn (the current release due to be replaced in October, 2007) is that a bug appeared in Ubuntu when they tried to use an experimental section of the Linux kernel that suspends the USB port. This feature is for laptops to save on battery power, but reports I have read is that it doesn't save much power, and it often makes it impossible to use many USB scanners and some other USB hardware. The developers are working on this, but it wasn't' taken seriously until Mark Shuttleworth appeared in a bug reporting forum related to this bug, and it still isn't accepted as being serious enough to fix it with a kernel update for Feisty. It looks like it will be fixed in Gutsy, the next release due in OCtober, 2007.

My solution to this problem? I dual boot to XP to use the scanner.

As for the install process, it went pretty smoothly for me, but when I think about it from someone who has little computer knowledge, it could be improved upon. I see a common flaw in the installation process: Default install is to wipe the hard drive clean. Someone unfamiliar with partitioning might accidentally wipe out their Windows or OSX (or BSD or other) OS. This is not unique to Ubuntu but I have only tried a few distros so far. A default installation that would recommend saving your existing "other OS" partition and shrinking it to allow about 20% more room on it than is currently used would be useful to make this less "dangerous" to someone new to this. Or, perhaps a better way of steering a person through manual partitioning, with recommendations, etc., to allow an easier installation for a newbie.

Other than the USB problem, which is slated to be fixed in the next release, I have no real problems with this OS and didn't find the installation all that confusing, but I am familiar with partitioning.

I would like to see QTparted as the partition manager as it "understands" how to resize NTFS partitions. The included Gparted does not. Other than that, Gparted worked well for me. I used a Knoppix disk that has QTparted on it to make room on another drive (it had to shrink a NTFS partition to do so).

Also, I would like to see a faster problem resolution when something like the USB_Suspend bug prevents users from being able to use their scanners and some other USB devices. The developers felt it was not a big enough issue to fix it in a kernel update and told the community that it would have to wait for the next release, even though the bug was known to be a problem when Feisty was released. Other distros worked quicker than this to address the problem.

Even with its shortcomings, I like Ubuntu enough that I'll just dual-boot to XP to use my scanner for now and wait for the next release in October, 2007. I use it for everything else, so it's what some might call an XP replacement.


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