Ubuntu Linux for Me

Well I finally did it. I had no particular stimulus other than me being on holiday and saw a Slashdot post about a recent review of Linux distros for the desktop. They’d rated Ubuntu highest, so I went along to distrowatch.com and did some reading up. After downloading and burning the (single) ISO, I’m now running it. I always find descriptions of Windows to Linux migrations pretty boring, so I’ll lay off the details about how I got my printer working, etc. but after about 48 hours hacking about, I’ve now got almost everything I need and Windows seems long gone.

Still, I decided to dual-boot it with Bill’s Baby for when I work from home and/or I need to run some win32 thing, but so far I’ve not needed to do so. Some things work better than they did before: scanning and printing now have more features than I had with HP’s own drivers under Windows (and the Xmas cards this year are done with The Gimp!); anything to do with networking (including Bluetooth and, surprisingly, PPTP) is just better, and for some reason virtual desktops are easier to use (faster I think). The one thing that fell down was my Palm’s password app, which has no Linux version. So now I’m having to cut/paste all my passwords into the Jpilot KeyRing plugin. Ahh, the mighty clipboard

But with the essentials now having been migrated, I’m free to play – and lordy there are so many things to play with. It was a tough one deciding whether I should go with Gnome or KDE. In the end, I thought that since Ubuntu prefers Gnome, I would go with that even though KDE looks nicer. As ever with important decisions like this, and just after I installed Gnome, Linus Torvalds pops up on their usability list and declares he prefers KDE. Oh well. Maybe I’ll try KDE one day – I like the look of SuSE, for example.

Not having used OSX much, which seems to me to be the nearest thing to most of the UNIX-like windows managers out there, the overall experience of Ubuntu with Gnome is pretty eclectic, UI-wise. At first I found the inconsistency annoying, but now I’m accepting it as a sort of adventure. The Gtk+ stuff seems mostly to be the klunky grey, huge font look that early Swing apps had (like the developers just don’t care), but other stuff is much nicer. Then there’s the occasional oddity: this app has old style click-to-activate menus, for example. And there are apps that have bits of them that are obviously put together by different people who don’t talk to each other about UI consistency… at all!

Now I’m on my third day of using Linux on the desktop, I find I’m really settling in. I play about with system fonts from time to time (the anti-aliasing seems a bit off compared to Windows), and maybe try different menu bar configs or Desklets now and then (still can’t get them to start up automatically), but otherwise I’m pretty much comfy. Of course, I’ll be back with Bill’s Baby when I’m at work, but I’m with Linux now for good I reckon.