Switching to Linux which distro to use, Ubuntu?

This is the third of a sequence of posts where we’ll take a look at a few of the main Linux distros to find out which are the most welcoming to Linux newbies. In our first article of this series we took a look at Fedora 9 Beta, the second article we spoke about openSUSE, and the third in the series was about Mandriva.

We’ll do this test with the live (Gnome) CD to analyze: parts of the hardware that are recognized, software package installed, general usability (setup adjustments, software installation). Computer tested specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600, 2GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6100.

Ubuntu 8.04

Like the other main distros, Ubuntu’s live CD is extremely simple to use and quite fast to load the full Gnome desktop. But… once the desktop loaded I had the same screen problems I had with the other distros I tried (except Mandriva), the configuration was all wierd. Blame nVidia, blame Microsoft’s importance for hardware compliance, … all I know is that it wasn’t working. After the full installation and finding the correct drivers to install these problems do go away though. Also, embedded web videos aren’t displayed.


Ubuntu desktop

The desktop visual has the familiar Ubuntu style of orange. Ubuntu 8.04 (aka Hardy Heron) also packs all of the goodies of Gnome 2.22.



Monitor didn’t work too well. All of the rest worked like a charm: keyboard, bluetooth (I just got a bluetooth dongle), audio, webcam, and reading/writing to NTFS partitions of my HD. But, I’m aware that the video issue is corrected after the installation and that it isn’t working through the live CD because of issues with proprietary drivers.



The basic all-you-need package is present: Firefox, Transmission, Brasero, Pidgin, VNC, OpenOffice, GIMP, and quite a few others.


The huge “double thumbs-up” Ubuntu gets from me is their Add/Remove programs application. First, it packs hundreds and hundreds of options of programs you can install with just 2 clicks. Second, and most important is the stars placed beside the name for each application. A complete Linux newbie (like I was) wouldn’t know the majority of these programs and to see a ranking system based on feedback and usage is incredibly helpful. I was able to quickly find some very nice programs just by checking the options with five stars. It couldn’t be easier.


Ubuntu add remove programs

Ubuntu is a Debian based platform, so the options for programs that can be installed is huge and the installation process also can be very easy.


First impressions results?

Three pinguinsI was quite pleased with this test. Ubuntu makes sure things are quite simple for the user, fast, and very resourceful. But, Ubuntu’s lack of proprietary drivers distribution gives a few first impression glitches that can scare users away. In my opinion, I would give Ubuntu 2 pinguins because of the issues with drivers, but the speed and very nice ease of use made me give Ubuntu three pinguins.


Just an idea, why not make a release by Canonical loaded with these proprietary drivers? Then, it would make the perfect distro.


Overall Mandriva is my favorite distro from these tests. I do have Ubuntu installed on my main computer but if I were to do a fresh install I would surely change. At least that is my personal opinion with the current releases tested so far.

5 thoughts on “Switching to Linux which distro to use, Ubuntu?

  1. Have you checked out PCLinuxOS2007. This is my distro of choice, having replaced Mandriva2008.0 for it. Why? Because whilst the MandrivaOne live cd found and configured my laptop wireless card (netgear wpn511) and logitech webcam, when I installed Mandriva I was told that the Madwifi and gspca packages needed to be downloaded from the internet before they could be configured (how do you download packages when your wireless card isnt working and ethernet is not a quick option?)

    PCLOS2007 just worked. And as its a rolling distro every update takes you to the latest version so no waiting for the next one to be made available.


    Dave Le Huray

  2. «But, Ubuntu’s lack of proprietary drivers distribution gives a few first impression glitches that can scare users away.»
    This is incorrect. Ubuntu has a lot of proprietary drives, unfortunately. That’s why I’m sticking with gNewSense (http://www.gnewsense.org), a Ubuntu LTS based distro without proprietary software and drivers, that pesky things you and everyone must avoid.

  3. Pingback: Boycott Novell » Links 28/05/2008: Red Hat Big in Japan, Many Machines with GNU/Linux Preinstalled

  4. I made the switch to linux over twleve months ago. I chose to play it safe and run Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (my first taste of linux distro) alongside Windows XP Professional.
    I ran a dual boot pc for about three months and then made the decision to delete the Windows partition for good. I haven’t regretted it since.
    Ubuntu was just far more stable and reliable. None of the seemingly frequent crashes I had with Windows os.
    The one glitch I had with Feisty Fawn was when I had to reinstall the os after the Online updates seemed to be not installing properly.
    Since then I have gone on to Gutsy Gibbon, which again was a very stable and very reliable platform. I have tried the latest release of Ubuntu but only on live CD. I don’t have enough room for it on my hard disk.
    I currently use Mandriva Powerpack 2008, which I like, and openSUSE 10.3 which I also like.
    Both are very good distros and very reliable and I recommend them both.
    I am a true convert to linux. It is well written, and I as far as I am concerned, I consider it very safe as well. I don’t use antivirus software, and the in-built firewalls in both distros give me an added feeling of security. This is also an important factor to consider when choosing an operating system whatever it might be.
    Yes, it’s linux for me!

  5. Very nice story Philip! Much similar to mine as well. Makes us wonder why people are still sticking with Windows 🙂

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