Thoughts on Ubuntu, two weeks in

So I’ve been using Ubuntu exclusively at home for the past 2 weeks, and at this point I’m confident I won’t be going back to Windows.

After the mess I made of my hard drive during my first installation attempt, I wiped the disk out and made 3 partitions – one for Windows, one for Linux, and one for storage.

Installation went pretty smoothly this time. I used the alternate installer and it pretty much guided me through the whole process. All of my hardware was auto detected, including my video card, sound card, and wireless card. However, I had to futz around with a text file to get it to display on my entire laptop display.

The usability of Ubuntu/Gnome is fantastic. I’m loving apt-get. Installing software is as simple as typing “sudo apt-get install applicationname” in the command line. It does all the rest of the work. It’s really just amazing. All the downloading, installing of additional software, and the installation is just done like magic. For the command line phobic, there’s the GUI package manager and Automatix. The only app I’ve had to download so far that I couldn’t get this way was Swiftweasel and I probably could have if I’d known exactly what app-name to use.

The biggest downside post-installation is probably that the out of the box software leaves a little something to be desired.

Ubuntu avoids non-free (as in speech) software, so even mp3 codecs aren’t included.

Movie Player and even VLC have some trouble playing back certain videos smoothly. Mplayer took care of that, but it’s a bit of a pain. It didn’t auto detect my video driver, I had to go into preferences (which requires right clicking anywhere on the GUI, the preference menu is completely hidden otherwise) and set it manually. It also has some odd quarks, like if you try to open a video while one’s already playing, instead of opening a second instance or interrupting the existing video, it just spits up an error message and stops playing anything. It’s not a deal breaker, but I sure miss Media Player Classic (though I think it’s the only Windows app I actually miss).

I also had problems with Firefox. Under any OS Firefox is a resource hog that leaks memory, but for some reason it was even more painful under Ubuntu. If found Swiftweasel which seems to be much better and runs my add-ons. This is the only other bit where I’ve had to muck around much. I had to download the app and install it (it had a simple Windows like installer, so it was very easy) and I had to manually turn on font rendering, which was a matter of googling around until I found a file I had to download and put in the Swiftweasel program directory.

I also followed these steps to smooth my font rendering in Ubuntu as a whole.

So those were the most “painful” bits. Not too bad, but I think the “out of the box” experience could be a little better. Still, I had imagined switching to Linux would be much more painful. I think picking up a system with Ubuntu pre-installed (like the new Dells, Koolu, or System76) would be fine for most people. There might be a little more mucking around required in the beginning than a new Vista or OSX system, but I think the pay off will be worth it to all but the most technophobic users.

Here are the other apps I’ve been using that didn’t come pre-installed:

aMule (eMule clone). sudo apt-get install aMule

Audacious (Winamp clone… I’ve never liked iTunes, but iTunes fans rave about amarok and Songbird). sudo apt-get install audacious

Comix (for reading CBR and CBZ files, though the built-in doc reader does this as well). sudo apt-get install comix

Filezilla (just like the Windows version) sudo apt-get install filezilla

Ktorrent (Azureus crashes w/o an error for me, but this works well) sudo apt-get install ktorrent

Nicotine (A Soul Seek client) sudo apt-get install nicotine

I think that’s about it… other than that I’ve been mostly just using what’s included!


  1. Hi, How did you ‘turn on the font rendering’ on Swiftweasel? I’ve been googling for a while and can’t find a solution. Thanks!

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