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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
This guide was created as an overview of the Linux Operating System, geared toward new users as an exploration tour and getting started guide, with exercises at the end of each chapter.
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» Number of reviews : 2 - viewing 10 Per Page
Last Review by jeelliso - posted: 07-05-2006 04:11 PM
I've been looking for the perfect distribution for almost three years now. Everything I've tried has kept me satisfied for a couple of weeks, but I just can't seem to find one that fits all my needs. Until June 1, 2006, that is, when Xubuntu 6.06 was released.
Here are a few of what I consider Xubuntu's greatest qualities:
Package Management: : as an official project of Ubuntu[link], Xubuntu is also Debian based so it uses .deb binary packages. Debian has one of the largest software repositories with over 15,000 packages pre-compiled for your architecture. In almost a month of using Xubuntu as my ONLY operating system (no Windows dual-boot) I have yet to find a piece of software that I couldn't easily install using aptitude, or Synaptic (which is the Xubuntu "recommended" way).
Community Support: although the LQ community is the greatest Linux community on the planet (wink, wink, ;-) ), having a good support community with the software's developers is a major plus for me. As an official project of Ubuntu, Xubuntu is included in the excellent Ubuntu support community. Most everything that works for Ubuntu (i.e., stuff contained in the Ubuntu wiki and community docs) works seamlessly with Xubuntu. I followed numerous HOWTOs from the Ubuntu support site and worked very well with Xubuntu. I my opinion, there are few other distros with such an exhaustive HOWTO-like library. The two sites I am referring to are https://help.ubuntu.com and http://www.ubuntuguide.org.
Hardware Detection: a major problem with Debian in the past has been hardware compatability. Recently, though, Ubuntu has made excellent advances in the hardware realm and this extra work is visible in Xubuntu. Xubuntu was able to perfectly detect and configure my graphics card and my sound card (both of which are built into my laptop's motherboard). The video card was automatically configured to the optimal resolution and color depth (as any decent distro should), but it also activated my sound by default, which very few distributions have been able to do. In addition, Xubuntu correctly configured my computer to suspend and hibernate. Other distros have had this option supposedly configured, but my computer could never seem to recover from a suspend or hibernate system call. This was a big plus for me. Its not that I don't like having to work to get my hardware configured, I just think it says a lot for the Linux Desktop as a whole when this process is seamlessly automated. UPDATE: I also installed Xubuntu on a laptop that my friend owns (a Gateway 200ARC). After disabling his default sound card (the integrated one that no longer worked), Xubuntu was able to automatically detect and configure his Creative Labs MP3+ USB sound card/driver.
Speed: the whole philosophy behind Xubuntu was to create a faster, more efficient version of Ubuntu & Kubuntu (some of the more popular distros available). They, and by "they" I mean the Xubuntu developers, have replaced the bulky, resource covetous desktop environments (specifically KDE and Gnome) with an excellent, light-weight window manager: Xfce. They then totally customized the Xfce default appearance and functionality such that it very closely resembles the Gnome desktop, but with much better system response (especially on older computers). As much as I liked Gnome, I just couldn't see much difference in speed between it and Windows, what a drag. Xfce, on the other hand, acts and looks much like Gnome but you gain a very noticable performance difference. I can noticably see a performance increase in boot-up time (around 35 seconds), shutdown time (around 20 seconds), and login-time (only about 5 seconds on average). This was almost a 100% improvement over my default Window installation, and by default I mean the one the manufacturer sends with you that has next to no useful programs installed.
Library Dependencies: in order to keep the installation size smaller, Xubuntu chose applications that are GTK+ only applications. This means that you don't need any of those bulky Gnome or KDE libraries. I can do pretty much everything with Xubuntu and Xfce that I can do with Ubuntu and Gnome (or Kubuntu and KDE). Xubuntu is an excellent collection of applications relying on GTK+ (or other non-KDE or Gnome library) that provides very similar functionality to the "big-time" desktop environments. Grant it that ANY distribution could bet setup similarly to Xubuntu as far as the "Xfce desktop environment" goes, having all that done for you already and integrated is a definite plus.
Here are the programs that Xubuntu uses to keep the library dependancies to a minimum (in case you're curious as to what is available by default):
File Manager Thunar: brand new project built from the ground up for Xfce
Media Player : a simple but useful media player based on the xine engine
Text Editor Mousepad: a leafpad-based program for Xfce
Image Viewer GWview: a simple image viewer based on GTK with suprisingly robust capabilities
Spreadsheets Gnumeric: I know its a Gnome project, but, oh well
CD Burning Util. Xfburn: a simple program for burning ISOs, CDs (audio and data)
Although I am now a major supporter of Xubuntu, there are some applications that are not included for one reason or another and I've listed them below. So, if you need one of these programs you will have to research them yourself and install them. I'm sure there are a million other things that should be included in this list, but I'm trying to keep this article shorter, so I've restricted it to what I consider the more common programs.
Development Tools: this includes all build tools, but excludes vi which is included by default
Music library manager
Games: there are no little games like you get in Gnome or KDE that help you waste your time
I've also put together some notes regarding my installation that brings it up to speed with a "useful" Linux desktop. This isn't particularly geared as a tutorial or a HOTWO although most of it should work on any Xubuntu installation. Much of this was taken from the two sites listed in the 'Community Support' section above, but to save you a little time and effort (which everyone using Linux need from time to time) I've paraphrased them here and have given credit where credit is due. REMEMBER: when you are asked for your password in Xubuntu, you should most always enter the user's password and not the root password as everything that requires superuser rights is done through sudo so the root password is not even needed.
Added extra repositories: the first thing you need to do is enable the extra repositories so you will access to the entire software repository, not just those "officially" supported by the Ubuntu team. This was taken from https://help.ubuntu.com/xubuntu/desktopguide/C/add-applications.html, but is included here to save you from clicking here and there and everywhere.
1.) Open 'Applications->System->Software Properties'
2.) Select 'Add'
3.) Check the 'Community Maintained (Universe)' and 'Non-free (Multiverse)' buttons
4.) Click 'Close' to save your changes, then agree to update your package list
Adding a firewall: by default, Xubuntu does not come with a good firewall, so I suggest using Firestarter. It is pretty easy for the beginner to configure (although you shouldn't have to configure much) and is still pretty powerful for the advanced user. This was taken from http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Dapper#How_to_install_Firewall_.28Firestarter.29.
1.) run 'sudo aptitude install firestarter'
It should then be available under 'Applications->System Tools->Firestarter'
Adding more multimedia support: due to licensing restrictions, Xubuntu cannot come with support for proprietary formats (the one's you probably use most often), but it can be added very easily. This was sort of taken from https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats, but is not implemented exactly.
1.) run 'sudo aptitude install libxine-extracodecs w32codecs'
2.) enter your password and you should be good to go.
This includes support for most everything you will ever need to play including those WMV or WMA files. Unfortunantly, you cannot play andy files with DRM encoding. Too many stupid M$FT licensing restrictions. PLUG - join www.defectivebydeging.org which is aimed to stop the "spread" of DRM.
Adding the J2SE Runtime Environment: there is a lot of popular stuff that uses the JRE like Limewire and Azureus (I think, correct me if I'm wrong). This was taken from http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Dapper#How_to_install_J2SE_Runtime_Environment_.28JRE.29_with_Plug-in_for_Mozilla_Firefox.
1.) run 'sudo aptitude install sun-java5-jre sun-java5-plugin'
2.) then run 'sudo update-alternatives --config java' and select the option that corresponds to J2SE. This command should tell you that there is only one association with java so you shouldn't have to do anything, but I included in just in case you've already installed something else.
Adding the Firefox Flash extension: its difficult to surf the internet today without running across a website that includes some kind of flash, so why not install it. This was taken from http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Dapper#How_to_install_Flash_Player_.28Macromedia_Flash.29_Plug-in_for_Mozilla_Firefox.
1.) run 'sudo aptitude install flashplugin-nonfree'
2.) then run 'sudo update-flashplugin'
NOTE: you must restart Firefox for the effects to take place.
NOTE: if you are using a sound card other than your internal card (i.e., a USB or PCI card), you should probably disable the unused card before installing the plugin because on my friend's laptop (see the end of the 'Hardware Detection' section) the firefox plugin was trying to use the old internal card.
Adding developer's resources: by default, Xubuntu comes with not tools used to compile/develop software. Since there is a bunch of different packages that would need to be installed, Ubuntu has put together a good collection to easily enable you to compile/develop software. This was sort of taken from https://help.ubuntu.com/community/InstallingCompilers.
1.) run 'sudo aptitude install build-essentials automake autoconf'
This should install everything you need to build software (although it doesn't include support for EVERY language, so if the language you want is not supported, then you'll have to install it manually).
Overall I rated the Xubuntu distribution a 9 out of 10. I am very hesitant at rating a distribution a perfect 10 as I think this implies that the distribution is completely ready for mainstream desktop use, and I don't think ANY distribution is quite there yet. Although if I could, I would rate it a 9.5 out of 10. I think this is one of the best new distributions to come around in a long time. Oh, yeah, it also runs off a LiveCD, so you can check it out before you install it. Kind of neat.
Sorry this is long, but I wanted to be thorough. Since this a new distribution, I also wanted to provide enough information to the casual user so that it may be considered as their distribution of choice.
I tested Slackware 10.2 on a Compaq Presario M2105US laptop. It has a 1.6GHz Mobile Sempron Processor w/ 1GB RAM and, of coure, a CD/DVD Drive.
The installation went smoothly and, for a newbie, would prove to be a very valuable learning experience. A big plus was that I was able to strip down my installation to exactly what I wanted and nothing more. You get to choose every package other than the 'core' packages. This makes for a very fast, consistent system.
After the installation, my opinion changed a little. First of all, I think Lilo is bad; it has its limitations, thus I think Grub is better. Then, Slackware did not correctly configure either of my mice (touchpad & USB), my sound, or my X server. I had to manually rework my xorg.conf file basically from the ground up. For a fully developed distro, this should not be the case. In addition, my system clock was misconfigured as the clock was running almost twice the speed it should. I've had this problem with Debian, but not with Fedora, PC Linux OS, Gentoo, or FreeBSD. I have yet to find a workaround or permenant fix. To me, this is just another sign of bad hardware recognition. Other than that, it seemed just like Linux should, only faster than I'm used to.
Conclusion: If speed is an absolute must, and you will sacrifice anything to get it, the Slackware may be the distro for you. Otherwise, I just don't think it can compare to the other distros available. Unfortunantly, I will be moving back to my previous distro.