Friday, December 11, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10: The Ubiquitous Universal Ultimate Uber Ubuntu review

The internet has been flooded with windows 7 reviews recently; even if you are not using it by now, if you haven't tried the RC earlier, you will still know what 7 can and cant do and how it stacks up against Vista and XP. Writing yet Another 7 Review would be pointless. However, XP and Vista are not the only alternatives to 7, so I thought it would be much more interesting to explore how 7 compares to a lesser known alternative: Ubuntu Linux.

Freedom and choice
Linux is all about freedom and choice. Windows users are used to neither, at least when it comes to their OS. Their freedom is greatly restricted by what Microsoft licenses and policies impose on them, and their choice, for the most part, is limited to selecting a basic, premium or ultimate version; a choice which mostly affects the price. Often you do not even have that choice as windows comes preinstalled on your computer, and you're basically left choosing the wallpaper.

The contrast with Linux couldn't possibly be greater. Distrowatch lists over 300 different Linux distributions, and thats not even half of them. Most distributions also offer different versions, for instance Ubuntu, besides offering desktop and server versions, also has a Netbook Remix and a MID edition for small screens and portable touchscreen devices. Like most distributions, Ubuntu offers a choice between KDE, GNOME and Xfce as desktop environments (respectively named Kubuntu, Ubuntu and Xubuntu). Then there are derivatives tailored for specific users, like Edubuntu for schools. Mythbuntu for HTPCs and PVR. Ubuntu Studio for low latency audio editing and multimedia creation. Eeebuntu, fluxbuntu, Goobuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Christian Edition, Ubuntu Satanic Edition (no Im not kidding) and dozens of others, and that's just the Ubuntu family. You also have Ubuntu forks, that is, independent distributions based on Ubuntu, like Linux Mint, Sabayon, CrunchBang, ... The list is endless and I haven't even mentioned any of the other main Linux distributions like OpenSuse, Fedora, Debian, Mandriva, Gentoo or Slackware.

Someone new to the Linux world is bound to be overwhelmed and confused. I know windows users that have trouble determining which windows version is appropriate for them, how could anyone manage to find an appropriate Linux distribution out of several hundreds ?

Most mainstream Linux distributions are more similar to each other as they are similar to windows, so in a way it doesn't matter too much which one you pick. The most visible difference is determined by your choice of desktop environment (usually KDE or GNOME), but those are relatively consistent between distro's. To help you find a distro you could have a look at distro-watch and read about the most common distro's. Or you can have one recommended to you using some online wizard, but if you really don't know where to start, then the regular Ubuntu desktop version would be a good first choice.

Ubuntu 9.10 (the number refers to year and month of release) is the latest version of what currently is the most popular Linux distribution for the desktop, and arguably the best supported one. Do not worry too much about chosing the right variant, if you want to try KDE instead of the default GNOME, you can simply add KDE later, effectively giving you Kubuntu as well. If you want to try the Netbook Remix interface, you can just install it on top of a regular Ubuntu with a few mouseclicks, just like you can install all packages from Ubuntu studio or Edubuntu. So its not that crucial what you start with, Ubuntu is flexible and its easy to customise after an initial installation.

In this article we will examine some of the pro's and contra's of Ubuntu compared to Windows 7, but most of those arguments will apply equally to other Linux distributions as well.

As you probably know, Ubuntu, like nearly all Linux distro's, is free. Free referring both to the price and the fact you are free to use the software in any way you want to, to run it, look at the code, even modify the software and redistribute it. You can install and reinstall it on as many machines as you want, there is no activation hassle or any limitation really. Its your software. You are even free to sell Ubuntu if you wanted to.

To obtain Ubuntu, you just download it from the net, or you can request a free CD to be shipped to your home; you don't even have to pay for the medium or the shipping. Its almost too good to be true, its free as in free beer. Just like the vast majority of software written for Linux.

Windows 7 is neither open, nor free. Depending on the version, it will set you back somewhere between €100 and €300, even if it is bundled with a computer and the cost is hidden in the overall price tag. If you lose or scratch your disc, or if your machine doesn't come with one and you need one later, you might have to spend another €25 just to obtain a copy of the software you already own. Your license might be limited to a single specific machine and you may even not be allowed to run your own OS in a virtual machine. Did I mention (re-)activation and WGA pains?

Most software written for windows is also closed source, commercial software, and if you add the cost of MS Office, a commercial antivirus, and some popular software like Photoshop or Premiere, you can easily end up spending more on software than hardware. Then again, most of the opensource software available for Linux has been ported to windows as well, therefore nothing prevents you from combining Windows with free software like Firefox, Open office, Gimp and a free virus scanner.

Further blurring the cost picture somewhat is the fact that not everything Ubuntu is free; the legal status of the MP3 codec is dubious, and therefore an MP3 codec is not included in Ubuntu by default, as open formats like OGG are preferred anyway. If you do need an MP3 codec, you can download one with just a mouse click, but that may or may not be legal depending where you live and who you chose to believe. A (legal) commercial decoder for MP3 and Microsoft's WMA audio and video codecs will set you back around €18 from Canonical's shop. The same applies to DVD playback, the available Linux players capable of playing encrypted DVDs are potentially illegal (especially in the US). If that bothers you, purchasing a legal PowerDVD license costs you another €37. Lastly, if you need support, there is of course a lot of free community support, mostly through the excellent Ubuntu support forums, but if you insist on having commercial phone/email support from Canonical, you are free to buy a support contract for another €40 -or more, depending what you want exactly.

Still all these costs are entirely optional, and usually unnecessary. You are perfectly able to install and run Ubuntu for the net total price of zero €/$ with no strings attached.

Ubuntu: 10/10
Windows 7: 6,5/10

Live CD and Installation
An Ubuntu cd is not only a way to install the OS, its also a so called Live CD. That means you can boot from the disc to try out the OS without making any changes to your computer, without even installing it. Obviously this has some limitations, but its still impressive to be able to boot a tiny 650 Mb CD and have full functional modern OS that will recognise and enable most, if not all of your hardware, enable you to go online, surf the web, run instant messenger, play your media or do office productivity work - all without touching your harddrive. Using a Live CD you can get a first impression of the OS and to some extent determine hard- and software compatibility.

Ubuntu iso images can also be installed on a USB pendrive, giving the exact same functionality and the added benefits of better performance and being able to write data to the stick, thereby preserving sessions, installed software and documents. A live USB stick opens some interesting possibilities; you can have one on your keychain to always have access to some key documents, Firefox bookmarks, Skype and various tools. You can boot the stick from virtually any pc, which is particularly useful if you ever need to help a friend with a bricked PC or access emails or do some homebanking on a public, untrusted machine which may well be infected with keyloggers or other malware. Just plug in your stick, boot from it and you have your own, secure pc.

A Live CD (or stick) is also very useful to troubleshoot or recover data from machines that no longer boot, have virus infections, or lost passwords. NTFS drives can be read and written to and you can run recovery software like testdisk to recover files from a crashed or accidentally formatted drive. At the same time you can be online on that very same, previously bricked machine to look for help or information on the internet. For these reasons alone, even for Windows users its definitely worth having an Ubuntu Live CD or stick around.

The actual installation of Ubuntu itself is rather easy. Once you booted from the disc or stick, a simple GUI wizard will guide you through the various installation steps and its not harder than installing windows, although it is much more flexible. If you already have windows or another OS installed, Ubuntu will by default propose a "side-by-side", dual boot install, preserving the existing OS, and resizing and creating partitions as needed. Its also not very picky where you install it, any partition on a local or external USB drive is fine. Lastly, a nice touch is that while the OS installs, you can still surf the web, play a game, chat or do some work, since you can launch the installation from the live session, and it just runs like any other application. Installing Ubuntu requires about 5GB disk space minimum and will take about 15 minutes depending on your hardware and depending if you need to resize existing partitions (which can take several hours).

If you do not want to install Ubuntu on its own dedicated partition (or drive), then there is an option called Wubi that lets you install Ubuntu “inside” Windows. You can launch the Wubi installer from within windows and use it to install the new OS to a virtual filesystem in an Ubuntu folder on your existing NTFS or FAT drive. Wubi automatically adds Ubuntu to your windows bootloader, giving you a dual boot ability. This approach is not without its drawbacks however, and I would not recommend using Wubi beyond perhaps a first attempt or if you have very good reasons not to repartition. If you are serious about learning or using Ubuntu, I would strongly recommend you boot from the live cd to do a regular install on a dedicated partition.

Compared to installing Ubuntu, Windows 7's installation seems like something from a previous decade. Its not hard; the hardest part is probably typing in the serial number without mistyping, but its so inflexible and limited. There is not even a way to test the CD/DVD for defects before attempting an install. There is no way to check, copy or recover files already on the hard-drives prior to (re-)installation, no way to test the OS with your hardware or use the CD for anything other than installing really. And while you're installing you can only look at the progress bar, there is not even solitaire to play, much less emails to read. Franky, installing windows 95 was more exciting, at least it gave you something to read.

The installer itself has some other shortcomings: it (predictably?) will not play nice with existing installed operating systems other than Windows; it will wipe a Linux bootloader without asking, and is unable to install if it cant read (what it thinks is) the bootable partition of your system. Those are flaws one could excuse, but not being able to boot and install from a memory stick is an omission that is simply unforgivable. Especially in this age where netbooks without optical drives are so popular. You can not legally install 7 without optical drive, or at least I would not know how to. That's hard to understand for an OS that claims to be ideal for netbooks. Being unable to install windows 7 to an external USB drive is another restriction I can not understand.

That said, if you do have an optical drive and you don't care about installing on external drives, or about multiboot; if all you want to do is install the OS (and you have a dead tree newspaper to read while it installs) then there is not much to complain. Windows 7 installation is easy and fairly fast as well.

Ubuntu: 9/10
Windows 7: 7/10

Out of the box experience
Anyone who has ever done a from scratch install of windows knows how much work there is to be done after the initial installation. There are a lot of programs and drivers to be installed and downloaded before the OS actually is usable for most people. Audio, video and wifi drivers, DirectX, updates, .NET frameworks, Adobe Flash, Java, PDF reader, antivirus, an Office suite, an instant messenger, all your favorite utilities, probably a different browser and email client. Compared to XP, Windows 7 does improve in this regard, helped in no small amount by the absence of a gazillion updates and service packs at this time, and thanks to some improved default apps like Windows Mail, but I still spent several hours chasing, downloading drivers, apps and utilities I simply can not do without. All in all, I needed to download well over 500 Mb and spent several hours locating, downloading, installing and configuring it all.

With Ubuntu, the out of the box experience is considerably better. OpenOffice, firefox and a decent email client (evolution) come preinstalled, as well as a multi protocol instant messenger, applications to manage photo albums, a powerful image editor (gimp), a PDF reader, a bittorrent client and a host of other utilities and applications that a fresh windows installation lacks. Basic drivers for all your hardware are probably installed automatically and for some people the default application set will be almost all they need to get started. You'll probably just want to install flash and java which are not included by default because they are not opensource (other, more pragmatic distributions like Linux Mint do include Java and Flash by default, as well as some non-free codecs, including MP3 and libraries to play encrypted DVDs).

A major difference between Ubuntu and Windows lies in how easy it is to find and install missing applications, utilities and drivers. No need to search the web and download and install them one by one from various sites and using the same pointless installation wizards over and over again. In Ubuntu you just go to the Ubuntu software center, you search in a list of applications (currently offering 2000+ free apps), select the ones you want and with just a few mouse-clicks everything is automatically downloaded and installed for you. That includes popular Firefox plug-ins like Adblock, java and flash, as well as nVidia and ATI drivers. You just select them from a list. Who said using Linux was hard?

Ubuntu Software Center

The Ubuntu software center is perhaps the most interesting and valuable applications for Ubuntu and IMHO a key advantage over windows. Its like Apple's App store for the iPhone, except all the software is free. There is the same ease of use, and it lets you find great applications you might never have heard about otherwise. If you dont like the included F-spot photo album manager or you want something more powerful than Movie player, just search by keywords or browse by categories and you will get a nice list of applications you can try and install with a simple mouse-click.

Every application in the software center at this point is free as in gratis (this may and probably will change eventually), is tested with your version of Ubuntu and is guaranteed virus/malware free. All so called “dependencies” are managed for you, so if an application requires some external tools or additional libraries, these will automatically be installed for you. No need to hunt down “.NET 2.x framework” or wonder which update or service pack you need when an app complains it cant find vbrun600.dll. Behind the scenes the package manager takes care of that for you.

As for drivers, Windows 7 does offer a decent set of basic drivers that enable a lot of hardware, but typically you'll still need to visit your manufacturers website to find drivers for your motherboard, printer, scanner, webcam, .. I even needed to download a 60 Mb driver just to properly enable the extra buttons on my mouse!

With Linux, for the most part, either your hardware works out of the box and doesnt need a driver as its already included in the kernel, or it doesn't work, and may well never work. There are exceptions to this rule, for instance for recent nVidia and ATI videocards you will need a “proprietary” driver to enable 3D support, just like in windows. If that is the case, upon your first boot Ubuntu's "hardware drivers" application will prompt you and tell you about these drivers and ask your approval to download and install the appropriate version for you. The same applies to a few wifi cards. For a few devices (e.g. most recent Epson printers and scanners, and a few integrated ethernet controllers) you will need to download a .deb package from the manufacturers website and double click it to install it.

For the most part however, you won't need any extra drivers. Your soundcard probably just works, most webcams are supported out of the box, thousands of printers and scanners work fine without any additional drivers. Bluetooth, wifi, (wired) network cards, RAID controllers, USB audio devices, game controllers etc they all “just work”.

Except, when they dont. If you have the misfortune that your hardware is not supported out of the box or by using a pre-packaged proprietary driver, then you may face a fairly intimidating, complex and time consuming process of finding the appropriate instructions on the web and entering “obscure” commands in a terminal with no guarantee it will ever really work. Geeks may enjoy the ability to compile kernel drivers and modify them to make them work, but someone just trying to get his webcam to work so he can Skype with his family will easily be put off by the complexity, and conclude Linux is just not user-friendly enough. If your hardware is not Linux friendly, then Linux is not very user friendly. As I read in someone's signature on a forum: Linux is very user-friendly, its just picky about its friends. Just remember, you can test this easily even before installing, by just running the liveCD.

Ubuntu: anywhere between 2/10 and 9/10 depending on your hardware
Windows 7: 8/10

Click here for Part 2

Using Ubuntu; the GUI and Applications

Using the OS and GUI
Ubuntu offers a choice between various so called Desktop Environments. You can install or remove additional DE's through synaptic package manager and if you have more than one DE installed, the login screen will allow you to chose a particular one for each session, so its quite easy to test them out and decide which one works best for you.

The DE determines to a large extent what your GUI looks like, how it behaves and which default desktop applications are installed. The most popular two are GNOME (default for Ubuntu) and KDE (default for Kubuntu). Another promising DE is Moblin, developed by Intel specifically for netbooks, but its not quite ready yet for prime time on Ubuntu. I do expect this to become an interesting alternative very soon.

Selecting a DE is purely a matter of preference. KDE looks a bit more fancy and arguably more like Windows 7. Its quite powerful and extremely customisable. GNOME is a bit more bland, but to me at least, its more intuitive and I just think it looks better. Either DE comes with their own panels with very different start menu's and organisation of your desktop in general. KDE favours a single click interface while GNOME by default uses a more traditional double click interface. Both have different sets of default applications for things like the file manager, email client, music player, and IM although they do share common apps like OO and Firefox.

Using a different DE for all practical purposes very much feels like using a totally different OS. Fortunately, DE's are compatible with each other. You can run almost all KDE applications on GNOME and vice versa. If an application is not written specifically for your current DE, it may look slightly odd as it uses different graphical styles, different menu's and file browsers, but it will work just fine because the package manager will automatically install the required DE dependencies.

Tweaking your GUI is not exactly limited to selecting a DE however. Just about everything can be tweaked or changed, and if you look on youtube or google images for screenshots of Ubuntu, you'll have a hard time finding 2 desktops that look even remotely similar. In fact you'd find plenty that have added docks and panels and have been customized to the point where you cant distinguish them from Windows or OS-X, or just not recognize them at all.

One popular tweak you might have seen already is the famous Compiz desktop effects, which includes the 3D rotating desktop cube and the wobbly windows. Enabling basic desktop effects, like the wobbly windows, it is just a one click operation in the appearance menu. If you want to unleash all the power of compiz, you'll need to install compiz manager where you can configure advanced graphical effects that make Windows flip 3D or Aero 's transparent borders look downright silly. It even puts OS-X to shame.

For the most part, this is all just eye candy. Having virtual desktops is certainly handy but being able to present them on a rotating 3D cube or sphere does not do much to improve your productivity. Neither do wobbly windows, rippling water or fancy minimize effects. And still, overall they do have a severe impact on your computing experience. Do you remember the times where moving a window only showed the border being moved ? When minimising an application gave no visual feedback? That's how moving windows in 7's GUI feels to me now, compared to Ubuntu. Boring, old fashioned and too rigid. You have to experience it first hand to really grasp it, but Compiz is simply lightyears ahead of windows Aero. Have a look here to get an idea:

A lot of compiz effects also do improve productivity: whenever I run Windows I miss the ability to smoothly zoom the desktop with my scroll wheel. I miss the expo plugin showing me all open windows and desktops. I miss the ability to work on multiple virtual desktops seamlessly and group and tab windows. To be fair, on Ubuntu I miss the simple but useful Aero snap function, although some Compiz plugins can be configured to provide similar functionality.
Despite Linux technological lead over windows in this area, Linux might not be known as much for its advanced GUI as for requiring an archaic terminal aka command line interface (CLI). It has a reputation of being a geek OS where even the most trivial task requires typing cryptic commands reminding some users of their old DOS days.

For the most part, this CLI dependency is a misconception. Its not needed. The vast majority of operations can be done through the GUI, just like in Windows (although in some cases it does require you install a small program to give you that GUI). There are however, very good reasons why you will find so many Linux tutorials and forums posts giving CLI instructions, sometimes even for basic action like installing a program or package.

The first reason is that CLI commands are faster. This is true for the author of the instructions, who doesn't have to describe step per step which menu and dialogue to click, but instead can usually achieve the same with a brief, single line command. Its also true for the user, who may not completely understand the command, but can simply copy it from the webpage and press the middle mouse button to paste it in his CLI. It just doesnt get any faster or easier than that, not with any GUI.

A second important argument for using the CLI in such cases, is that its much more universal. In the Windows world, everyone uses the same GUI. Not so in Linux; CLI commands will work regardless of which desktop environment you use, where as GUI instructions will differ dramatically between KDE and GNOME, and lets not mention the other dozen DE's. Writing GUI based howto's would have to cater for every popular DE, which is neither practical nor sensible. CLI instructions are also language independent, if you have Ubuntu installed in French or Chinese, the CLI commands will still work whereas following a GUI based instruction might be relatively hard. CLI often works across versions and even distributions, whereas GUI instructions may not. CLI works when you do not have a GUI installed (think servers) or when you borked you GUI.

Almost every new linux user coming from Windows is initially intimidated by the CLI instructions he is bound to find in the Ubuntu documentation and on forums. I know I was. But as you get more proficient with the OS you will quickly learn that the incredible powerful CLI is not a necessary evil, but a huge asset. And its almost entirely optional. Its just the way most information on the net is presented for the reasons mentioned above; because its easier and faster and universal. Granted, it is not intuitive, but it doesn't need to be as I can not think of a single common action that is not achievable through a more intuitive GUI just as well.

As for Windows 7's UI, you probably know its interface quite well. Its not all that different from Vista's, in fact its not all that different from XP and therefore even 95. You may love it or hate it, but its strongest asset is its familiarity. Despite being overly familiar with it, I happen to hate it for the most part. I can not believe anyone would consider the exact same UI ideal both on 30” multi monitor desktops and on 10” touchscreen devices. I think the uncategorized cascading “all programs” start menu is one of the most retarded ways conceivable to organize and launch applications, second only to Windows 3.11 program manager. Actually, thinking about it, program manager definitely was better!

I do like the new combined quickstart and taskbar; it is logical and works well for me, at least for commonly used apps, but a rethink of the hole concept of the start button to access all programs as well as locations and system settings is long overdue. It seems pretty stupid and requires too many mouseclicks compared to the logical and clear organisation of menu's in GNOME (I also dislike KDE's approach, but YMMV). Furthermore I happen to think the Windows system tray used to be overcrowded but now it has become utterly confusing and borderline unusable (ever tried clicking that tiny arrow on a 10” netbook? With a touchscreen?). I hate the enormously wide windows borders and the transparency looks silly and ugly when maximized.

But none of this would bother me too much, if only I could tweak all of this easily to my own preferences which obviously differ from MS' GUI designers. If I could just swap out the explorer GUI and replace it with something I like better. But I can't. There is precious little to customize beside the colours (somewhat) and the wallpaper. At least not without buying additional software like Windows blinds or BumpTop, and even then it comes nowhere near the power and flexibility I have become used to on Linux (although BumpTop is innovative and kind of fun; Im not sure if its all that practical but its worth checking out if you'd like to see how very different a DE can be).

Entirely subjective verdict:
Ubuntu: 9/10
Windows 7: 6.5/10

What good is a great OS with no software to run on it? Much of your experience with Ubuntu will be determined by the applications you run (or can't run). Overall the amount and quality of free software available for Linux may well surprise many, but there is no denying windows has a far richer software ecosystem. There is almost literally no desktop software available for Linux that doesnt also exist for windows, while the opposite is far from true. The conclusion is already obvious, Ubuntu is not going to win this section.

For office and internet usage, its unlikely you will miss much by switching to Linux. While it may not have all the features (and bugs and security holes) that MS office has, OpenOffice (and variants like IBM Lotus Symphony) is still an excellent office suite that should satisfy the large majority of users. You will also get a wide range of browsers and email clients to chose from, many of which you may already be familiar with (firefox, chrome, opera, thunderbird). There is a good selection of instant messengers that can connect to all popular IM networks like Yahoo, MSN and ICQ, as well as a native Linux skype client.

There are countless programs for managing or playing back audio and video, and even for HTPC/PVR usage there is a fairly rich selection of software that puts Windows Media Centre to shame (MythTV, XBMC,..) To manage digital images there is a lot of choice as well, whether it is album managers (f-spot, picasa,..), photo editors (gimp is almost as good as Photoshop and free) or conversion utilities of all sorts. The artists among us will appreciate Inkscape for vector images or Blender for 3D, and there is also no shortage of small utilities for things like gmail, flickr, blogging or social networking. For cloud computing, Ubuntu comes with Ubuntu One which lets you easily synchronise and share files and folders online, and comes with 2 GB free cloud storage (more if you pay).

Video editing is something else. There are a few ambitious and promising editors that have been progressing very quickly, like pitivi, lives and kdenlive, but if you are used to all the power of Adobe Premiere and After Effects, you may still find them a bit limited. I also found them relatively unstable last time I tried them, and so Im still sticking to Sony Vegas in a windows virtual machine.

Games is probably the most notorious and famous weak spot of Linux, though for young children, the opposite is actually true. There is a huge collection of excellent and free educational and plain fun software for children between 2 and 12. But if you are older and a serious gamer, switching to Ubuntu is not going to be very satisfying. There are some games for Linux, both commercial and free. Some of them are even surprisingly good, they are not only space invader clones, but if you can't live without your Crysis or Modern Warfare 2, then do not format your Windows drive just yet.

Some windows games can be run on Ubuntu, using wine "emulation". Wine, which stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator, is a partial implementation of the Windows API for Linux, and it includes most of DirectX 9, so it lets you run a lot of Windows apps, including a fair number of games like World of Warcraft, and slightly older versions of MS Office and Photoshop.
Performance is not as bad as you'd think, in fact a few apps and games will actually run faster under wine than they do under native windows, but many games, certainly recent games or games that rely on DirectX 10 or 11 will either not run, or not run adequately. The older the game/app and the more popular it is, the better your odds. You can check online on winehq if a particular app or game is supported and if so, how to make it work, but the simple truth is that a hardcore gamer is going to need a console or Windows because Ubuntu, even with wine, can not replace it at this point.

Games are not the only weak spot; other frequently missed windows apps are some hardware-specific utilities. Like iTunes. While there is no shortage of excellent Linux media players/managers, its currently hard, if not impossible to synchronise with your ipod or iphone. Similar problems exist for blackberries and I'd say most smartphones. How ironic is it to buy a Linux powered HTC Hero phone, or a Linux based TomTom GPS, only to find out there is no way to synchronise or update the device on... Linux?

Wine is no help here, as it doesnt support accessing USB devices yet. But there is another workaround: you can install windows inside a virtual machine using VirtualBox and run your windows-only hardware utility inside the VM. Its a bit cumbersome to have to do it that way, but its definitely easier than dual booting and it works very well (provided you download the free, but closed source PUEL version of virtualbox' website, as the opensource version doesn't support USB devices). Here you can see VirtualBox at work:

Ubuntu: 7,5/10 if you're not a gamer
Windows 7: 10/10 if you dont mind paying for your software.

Click here for Part 3

Performance, Stability, Security and Conclusion

Measuring performance of an OS is something difficult and very prone to subjectivity. It also depends wildly on hardware, drivers, and more importantly, the software you run on top of the OS. Still, overall a few things are probably safe to say: Windows 7 is a vast improvement over Vista in boot times and responsiveness, especially on machines with 2 GB ram or less, and machines that have been used for months. Windows 7 is overall pretty snappy, its comparable again to a fresh XP install and generally Ive not often felt I was being slowed down by the OS. Quite a relief when compared to Vista. That said, on my machines Ubuntu still boots faster and shuts down a whole lot faster. Its just as snappy, if not more so, and once it has booted, my harddisk remains quiet.

Ubuntu clearly requires less RAM. With all desktop effects enabled I boot into my desktop with barely over 300Mb ram used, roughly half of what 7 uses. Unless you run some large, memory hungry apps, Ubuntu will run just fine with 1 GB of ram and even 512 MB is twice the recommended minimum and is real world usable. Its probably not a stretch to say Ubuntu needs less than half the amount of ram 7 needs, and on modern machines with 2+ GB ram, swap space is usually not needed, nor used. Windows has this tedious habit of swapping applications from RAM to disk no matter how much free RAM you have, resulting in almost non stop disk activity whatever you do. Ubuntu will only swap when its really necessary, and a result, almost never does.

BTW, if you're truly RAM constrained, or have an old windows 2000 or 9x era machine you want to put to use, then check out specialised distributions like Puppylinux which happily runs with 128 MB, or Slitaz and Damn Small Linux that require less than 32MB (!).

There is more to “performance” than boot times and ram usage however, and in some other area's Ubuntu may disappoint. A lot of users report sluggish web browsing in firefox, especially scrolling is sometimes perceived as being less smooth as in windows. Flash playback is another notorious weak point, adobe just doesnt seem to invest as much effort in its Linux player as it does in the windows variant, and it shows, especially on low spec'd hardware.

In the end, overall Ubuntu feels significantly faster to me, especially on older or slower hardware like netbooks or machines with limited amounts of RAM, but YMMV and on well supported modern hardware neither OS should disappoint.

Ubuntu: 9/10
Windows 7: 9/10 on modern hardware, 7/10 for netbooks and older hardware.

Stability and reliability
Linux has a strong reputation for stability and reliability, because of its popularity in the server market and its unix heritage. Windows has the opposite reputation mostly due to its horribly unstable win 3.x, and 9x predecessors. But reputations are just that, and in reality windows has matured to the point where I consider it rockstable for desktop use, and any crashes or blue screens nowadays are usually caused by faulty hardware, malware or in some rare cases, third party driver bugs, but rarely issues with the OS itself. Likewise, and unfortunately, Ubuntu in my experience doesn't quite live up to its reputation either. If you expect unix server like stability, Ubuntu may disappoint you - in some cases, badly. Google on “Ubuntu freezes” or “Ubuntu won't boot” and you will find countless horror stories, proportionally many more than you will find for windows.

To be fair, the main cause of this, is not bugs or a badly written OS like windows 9.x but very often it is related to bios incompatibilities, typically incomplete or buggy ACPI implementations, and in some cases badly broken firmware of some devices. Its not “fair” to blame Linux for your motherboard vendor cutting corners by shipping boards with a broken or non compliant bios which they only tested with, or only made compatible with windows (often compiled with a known buggy microsoft acpi bios compiler). Its not "fair" to blame Linux for hardware with incomplete or buggy firmware that gets patched up through windows drivers, while those firmware patches are not made available for Linux. Its not “fair”, but it doesnt change your experience if you happen to own such a piece of hardware and Ubuntu (and other linux distro's) exhibit behaviour like not waking up from standby, flaky touchpads, losing network connectivity randomly or freezing more frequently than windows 3.11 ever did.

With the increasing popularity of Ubuntu, and the upcoming Linux based Google Chrome OS and intel's Moblin, I do suspect OEMs will test more thoroughly with Linux kernels and these issues will slowly fade away. In most cases such issues can also be worked around by updating your bios or firmware, or by disabling some specific functionality in the kernel. If you know what you're doing, you can sometimes even patch it yourself, and if its new hardware, its likely a patch or workaround will be provided quickly. But here and now, it can be frustrating, very hard to diagnose and cure, especially for a new user who will often not even bother to look for a solution and just concludes "Ubuntu sucks".

Not all stability problems can be blamed on the hardware vendors though, Ubuntu is certainly not without its own faults. In fact I have the impression Canonical is often pushing too hard to maintain their aggressive 6 month release cycle no matter what, and this goes at the expense of time to test their software properly. New releases often have severe bugs that impact a non trivial amount of users, and in some (admittedly, rare) cases just an update renders your machine unbootable or without functional GUI. If you spend some time on the Ubuntu support forums, one will quickly wonder if Ubuntu's regular 6 month releases do not deserve a semi permanent “beta” label in the google tradition; sure it works fine and is rockstable for the majority of users, but its anything but flawless or bug free for all. LTS (long term support) versions are a lot less prone to such bugs, so if absolute stability and reliability is what you are looking for, Ubuntu 8.04 LTS might be preferable over the latest 9.10.

In the end, generally calling Ubuntu unstable or unreliable would be a stretch, provided your hardware is properly supported under Linux. From personal experience, I have seen very few serious problems over the last years on any of my machines or the machines I manage, but when it comes to quality control other distributions like Debian or OpenSuse do a better job than Ubuntu, and if it weren't for virus and malware problems, it pains me to say, but IMHO Microsoft nowadays does a better job as well.

Ubuntu: 7/10 for regular versions, 9/10 for LTS
Windows 7: 9/10 if you can keep your machine malware free.

Security and privacy
Microsoft has made significant progress when it comes to securing their OS over the last decade(s). They made security a top priority and their work does bear fruit. Despite the common jokes, the amount of gaping security holes seems to shrink constantly and by including features over the years like a firewall, decent malware protection, the hated but important UAC and drive encryption, Windows 7 is no longer the security joke it once was.

However, due to the closed-source nature of Windows, your perception of security and privacy does depend in no small amount on your faith in Microsoft and other third parties, as there is no way to verify if there are no hidden backdoors in the OS or in third party software. When you install drivers or other software, you can usually not verify or have anyone else independently verify for you that these programs do not offer attack vectors or compromise your stability, security or privacy, either by accident or intent.

Even with complete trust in the ISVs, achieving reasonable security requires some work, knowledge and common sense. If you open pamela-blowjob.avi.exe or you set a 3 character password on your administrator account, no OS is going to protect you 100%. Not even Linux is fundamentally different here.

What is different is the fact that in the real world, for a variety of reasons, the risk of getting hacked, infected by a virus, worm, trojan, malware or rootkit on a Linux PC is almost nil, even if you are stupid and ignorant. To some extent, this is due to a fundamentally better security model of the OS, and partially because of the relative unpopularity of the OS compared to windows. More important however is the opensource nature of Linux and its software, and the mechanism most Linux distro's use to distribute software: if you download something through Ubuntu software center, you actually connect to a trusted and managed library of software, a so called repository. This repository contains both compiled binaries and the source code, which is free for anyone to inspect.

Repositories also digitally sign and checksum their software, so even if someone would manage to hack Canonical's servers to infect the binaries with a virus or rootkit, the signature verification mechanism would still reject the download. Software packages are also frequently (re)built from source code and source code is a damn difficult spot to hide malware or backdoors.

A good analogy I read somewhere, is that of a biological virus. For it to exist and spread its reproduction rate must exceed its death rate. The same is true for a computer virus, so while in theory linux is not 100 % immune to malware, in reality the environment is so hostile to malware that no one has managed to write a successful virus or worm that actually works and spreads (and don't think no one ever tried). As a result you simply do not need an antivirus or antispyware for Ubuntu, although some do exist (mostly to detect windows viruses which are harmless on Linux).

Likewise, Ubuntu doesn't need a firewall by default, for the simple reason that unlike windows, by default it doesn't have any open ports with software listening that an intruder could attack. Not having open ports renders a firewall completely pointless. If you do install software that listens to a port (say a webserver or ssh server) you obviously want that port open, so a firewall is still unnecessary, unless for more advanced configurations, for instance if you want to specify which network or IP address can access those ports.

The fact Ubuntu doesn't need a firewall doesn't mean it is completely immune to remote hacking or worms; just like in the windows world, security flaws do exist and if you do run server software and that software has an unpatched flaw, it will provide an attack vector, although the extent of the damage that can be done will usually be quite limited courtesy of a rigorous security model. Also the opensource nature of linux does ensure thousands of people look at the source code and can identify and quickly patch security holes. Lastly the diversity of Linux distributions and its countless versions means that any single security hole will typically only affect a relatively small fraction of all users, making it rather impractical to exploit for any potential hacker or worm.

One more point about security; the old mantra "physical access equals root access" applies equally to Windows and Linux. Anyone who gains physical access to your machine is able to compromise your data. If nothing else someone could always boot from a CD and format your harddrives. Unless you encrypt your document folders, with either OS it is easy to copy or access your personal files, and with some effort its usually possible to obtain passwords and steal your digital identity. Both windows and Ubuntu provide easy to use and secure drive encryption, which protects your identity and privacy (although it obviously does nothing to protect its integrity). Unfortunately, Microsoft restricts this functionality only to the expensive Windows ultimate and enterprise editions, and you still need to believe MS on their word that it is not providing backdoors by intent or accident.

To summarise, is Ubuntu really more secure than windows? Yes, definitely. But not infinitely; enabling ssh and setting a 3 letter password will still open the front door to your personal files for any potential hacker. Giving someone physical access to your machine will compromise any unecrypted data. As usually with security the weakest link is the user, and Linux is no exception to that rule.

Ubuntu: 9/10
Windows 7: 7/10 if you know what you're doing and have trust in MS and the NSA. 2/10 if you are ignorant or frequently see black helicopters circling your house.

Maintaining the OS
Most of us are part-time network admins on our home network -if nothing else. Keeping our machines up and running and up to date does require some work. In the windows world, this means installing windows updates now and then, doing application updates, updating your AV, de-fragmenting your drive, and, let's be honest, every 6 or so months, when our registry has bloated to hundreds of MBs and windows crawls to a standstill, do a complete reinstall. I've not used windows 7 for long enough to be sure, but it does seem to have improved in that last aspect at least, as after a few months of use, its still fairly snappy and hasnt slowed down nearly as much as I was used to with XP. Then again I have no used it all that much either, but Ill give it the benefit of the doubt.

Ubuntu further improves on some of this. For starters there is obviously no need to update your AV and antispyware as you dont need any. Similarly, you dont have to defragment -ever. Ubuntu's filesystem (ext4) is immune to fragmentation. The small price you pay for that luxury is that you can not use 100% of your drive or partition's capacity as by default 5% will remain reserved (though this can be changed and in reality you want at least as much free space on windows anyhow). There is no slowdown when your drive is almost full, in fact there is no slow down when its entirely full (though weird things start to happen when your root partition is full). In general there is hardly any perceptible slowdown in Ubuntu over time. It pretty much remains as fast after a year as it was the day you installed it, regardless of how many applications you installed, uninstalled and reinstalled.

But if you do want to do a fresh Ubuntu install, you have some interesting options not available in windows. For starters, you can simply backup and restore your home folder (or better, just keep a separate /home partition). That will ensure 99% of your OS and application settings remain preserved even if you re-install the OS. To a large extent this will retain your OS and application settings even when you install a different version or even a different linux distribution.

You can also export a list of all the programs and packages you have installed, and import that list in to your package manager to automatically install all the same packages and programs again with one simple command.

Finally, you can even remaster your own Ubuntu liveCD. You do an initial install, add the applications and utilities you want, configure the OS the way you like it, download any patches that may have been released, then make your own custom live CD based upon that install, and use it for backup, deployment or give it to your friends. Its surprisingly easy to do and a very powerful tool.

Another advantage of Ubuntu is that updates are managed through the repositories. That means that the OS itself, as well as all the applications you installed through the package manager (or software center), are all kept up to date in the same way, using the same update manager. Once per day (or week or month, however you configure it) the update manager will prompt you with bug fixes and security updates for all your installed software, whether it is applications, drivers, plugins or the OS. In fact, even a new version of the OS is installed in the same way. Every ~6 months, update manager will tell you a new distribution release (Ubuntu version) is available and you can upgrade your OS to the latest version.

A minor downside of this centralised approach is that the list of updates tends to get very long and selectively installing updates can be a bit of a pain. Updates are also very frequent, if you have a lot of applications installed don't be shocked to be downloading 100+ MB of updates on a given week.

Another potential point of criticism is the application update philosophy that Canonical uses: by default Ubuntu will not update your applications to newer versions, it will only provide security and bug fixes. Application versions remain frozen until the next release of Ubuntu. This means if you installed Ubuntu 9.04 which came with firefox 3.0 and openoffice 3.0, you would remain on those versions until the next Ubuntu version is released and you upgrade your OS. If you want firefox 3.5 or OO 3.1 or other versions of applications released after the Ubuntu 9.04 freeze, you will need to download and install them manually, which in some cases may not be as easy as it seems. A way around this, is enabling the backport repositories, which will provide you with tested and packaged application version updates for at least some popular applications.

To recover your system from user error or anything else rendering your system unbootable, both OS's offer some tools. In Windows you have the good old safe mode, there is the option to roll back to a previous restore point and when you boot from the CD there are some (annoyingly) automated recovery tools. I say annoying because they are anything but verbose, they will just diagnose and attempt something without telling you even what its doing, potentially causing more harm than good.

Ubuntu also offers a recovery mode which will give you a menu with a few automatic fixes for frequent problems, or a root shell that will enable a savvy user to fix just about anything. You can also boot into older kernels from the boot menu if a new kernel update should give you any problems. There is however, no real equivalent to Windows' system restore and sometimes it would be good to have that.

Another glaring omission in the default application set of Ubuntu is a backup utility. I'm anything but fond of Windows backup (does anyone really use that?), but its better than not having one. Fortunately this is easily fixed by selecting Back In Time or Simple Backup from the software center. More powerful backup utilities based on rsync are also available.
All in all, IMHO its definitely easier to maintain Ubuntu, especially the unified update manager is a huge step forward over having 235 different and independent update managers popping up every day, but I do look forward to seeing a "system restore" equivalent for Ubuntu in the future.

Ubuntu: 8/10
Windows 7: 6/10

Closing thoughts
I started experimenting with Linux about 5 or 6 years ago. I was intrigued by the concept of an open operating system, and I craved for something other than Windows. Not because Windows didnt work for me, but after decades of using Microsoft OS's, I just wanted to try something different, it seemed unlikely Microsoft were the only ones having all the good idea's.

My initial impressions of Linux weren't that great. The distributions I tried back then seemed so rough and unfriendly that I didnt have enough motivation to get everything installed and working properly. I just couldn't get my head around even the basics and I would always struggle to get my videocard or sound working. It all seemed too much effort for too little benefit.

To be honest, its only when I first saw a demo of Beryl, with a 3D desktop cube that I set myself the goal of achieving the same on my own PC. Sure the cube was fairly pointless, but it did look cool and it was the challenge that I needed, the concrete goal that would motivate me. The whole process actually took me several weeks, if not months of experimenting, reading, trying and usually... failing; but I learned so much along the way. I had fun, in a very geekish kind of way. A whole new world opened up to me Though I still saw Linux more as a toy, a hobby, rather than an OS to actually use, I got hooked. Over time I began booting Windows less and less, to the point where I only used it for games, and even that became increasingly rare.

Its amazing how fast Ubuntu has progressed in those short few years. I wouldnt have dreamed this 5 years ago, but about 2 years ago, when I grew tired of providing tech support for the Vista laptop of my 70-something year old mother, I installed Ubuntu as an experiment. A month later the Vista partition was wiped and my tech support effort dropped to almost nil. Soon after her nerdy grand children, aged 5 and 9 discovered the "new laptop" was so much more fun than the "old laptop". The youngest one literally taught himself to read and do basic math using GCompris on Ubuntu. By now, both nephews run ubuntu as well as Windows on their own computers, and astonishingly, they didnt need my or their father's help to install it. Barely 10 years old, never installed an OS in their life, and they achieved what once took me weeks of hard work.

Anyway, as much as Ubuntu and Linux in general have progressed over the last years, it obviously still isn't the best OS for everyone. It probably never will be. Yet, perhaps ironically, both geeks and noobs should seriously consider it. For the noobs there is the ease of finding and installing free software, as well as the effortless security and low maintenance. For the geeks, its like an endless kindergarten. Everyone else will have to try for themselves and weigh the pro's and con's.

Which brings us to our final verdict. I don't believe any single OS can be ideal for everyone and every machine, but in the end there can only be one winner in this comparison. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind who that is; the only winner in this contest between two great operating systems, is you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gaming on Linux

Gaming is always described as one of Linux' achilles heels. And while its certainly true there are more good windows games than Linux games, I've been pleasantly surprised by what is available for Linux. Two of my current favorites:

Quake Wars: Enemy Territory

I was a big fan of the original Wolfenstein Enemy Territory game. I must have played it for hundreds of hours. Not only was it free, it was an absolute blast to play. Not as insanely fast paced as Quake or Unreal Tournament, set in a realistic looking and feeling WW2 environment with more or less realistic weapons and with absolutely brilliant cooperative teamplay.

W:ET now has a more than worthy successor called Quake Wars: Enemy Territory. ETQW remains true to the original in many ways. Although it has picked up some speed (or am I getting old?) and it is no longer set in a WW2 environment but rather something slightly futuristic, everything that made W:ET so great is still present. Wonderful maps and missions, gorgeous graphics, varied classes with different abilities and weapons giving a teamplay that is second to none. And it works absolutely perfect on Linux.

Here is an "instructional" video that shows off the game and might help you get started:

ETQW is no longer a free game, although there is a free demo with 1 large map (the one explained in the video above) which is already sufficient to have countless hours of fun. You can download the Linux demo here:

World of Padman

World of Padman was perhaps my biggest surprise so far. This is a completely free and opensource Quake 3 Arena based shooter with a very original comic style. The graphics are nothing short of stunning and the whole game is so incredibly polished in every detail, its hard to believe it is not a commercial game.

The gameplay itself is not fundamentally different from other shooters, but the atmosphere most certainly is. With its comic style and "plastic" weapons (bubble guns to name just one), its perhaps also something you'd prefer to see your children play. But make no mistake, its fun for adults too! Here is the trailer (which hardly does justice to its actual visual appeal):

Download the full game here:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fedora 8 review by an Ubuntu Noob.

I've been Ubuntu Feisty and Gutsy and on 2 laptops and my desktop for about 6 months now, so I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I'm still very much a Linux noob. One that usually gets things done, but not without google and copy/pasting commands into the terminal that I sometimes.. roughly understand.. mostly. Or at least I think I do. Or so I pretend :)

Generally, I'm quite pleased with Ubuntu. Its my first real exposure to Linux, and while the transition from Windows (which I have been using since 3.1) wasn't always easy, the OS has grown on me. But since I only tried Ubuntu so far, I thought I'd give the brand new Fedora 8 a spin, and see how it compares and if it cures some of my unresolved Ubuntu headaches (especially ACPI on one of my machine).

note: this "review" is based on the 32bit Live CD. Things might be different when you use the DVD image.

Booting from the LiveCD

Like Ubuntu, Fedora now comes with a LiveCD, which is always a good way to quickly check it out. So I downloaded the ISO, burnt the DVD, and booted from it. Now here is a first surprise: immediately after selecting the DVD drive as boot drive, you get a graphical grub, with a nice looking Fedora logo.

I didn't know that was possible, Canonical, take note please. The options are limited, basically checking the CD for errors and booting/installing the OS, so I'm a bit less pleasantly surprised by the fact I don't get to select a language, keyboard layout, or even screen resolution.

I select to boot, the screen flickers a few times, and I get a nice, polished usplash screen with a progress bar. I am not entirely sure, but it looks even as it us running my native 1280x800 resolution.

Another subtile, but nice touch is the option to show the details of the bootprocess. This is something I always missed in Ubuntu. The booting process seems relatively fast, but as long as Im not booting from the harddrive, Im not ready to draw any conclusions on that yet.

The greeter once again looks stylish. Simple, but beautiful and professional looking. I'm also pleasantly surprised my 1280x800 laptop display is correctly configured. And here I have the option to select language but not yet the keyboard.. Oh, well, I log in as "fedora" by clicking on it.

First impressions

I get welcomed by a familiar looking GNOME desktop, that I could easily have mistaken for an Ubuntu installation with a blue theme. But some minor difference occur to me; there is a "computer" icon on the desktop, alongside icons for homefolder, trash, removable storage and a launcher for the installer. Menu items are slightly differently organized as in Ubuntu, a bit more logical perhaps. There is no Openoffice preinstalled (only Abiword), which is a bit of a bummer for a liveCD, but it has no real importance if you only want to test and install it.

Then it occured to me I didn't hear any "jingle" when I logged in... I check my sound, and as I feared, there is no sound. Turns out its the exact same issue Ubuntu has with this machine, and the way to control the volume is using the "surround" slider in the mixer, which is hidden by default. After turning that up, the sound works, but unlike with Ubuntu, the rotary volume dial at the front of my Acer notebook doesn't do anything. Neither do the multimedia buttons.

On the bright side, all the Fn keys seem to work to control display brightness, the touchpad works and even scrolls, WLAN and Bluetooth radio can be controlled with the correct buttons, my WLAN is recognized and works straight away, which is anything but a certainty with my Intel 4965AGN. Bluetooth works too, much better even than in Ubuntu. I had no problems setting up a bluetooth mouse, or associating the notebook with my windows smartphone, exchanging files with it etc. In Ubuntu it took some quite a bit more effort to get those things working properly.

Font rendering in Fedora is... different. Im not sure if its better or worse. GNOME menu items are clearly crisper, and easier to read, but in other places it looks slightly messy. For instance, check this zoomed image on firefox menu:

Its a bit weird to see the point on i being above the uppercase F in the word File. Zoomed out it looks like the text is warped. Shame really, because overall, Fedora's look is much more appealing to me than the default Ubuntu theme.

Time to see if Fedora improves on some of the issues Ubuntu struggles with on this particular machine: ACPI. To my surprise, by default there is no shutdown button on the gnome panel; you have to go through the "system" menu to shut it down or restart it. Hardly an issue, and its easy enough to add the "power" button, but still a bit silly IMHO.

Far worse is that there is no "suspend" option available. Only restart, shut down and hibernate:

After some googling I find that this is because I have an nVidia card, and the default "nv" driver causes many issues with suspend, so it is disabled. Fair enough, I will have to test this after installing the nvidia drivers, which is absolutely necassary anyway, as the "nv" drivers are truly agonizingly slow. Its painful to watch the screen dim in steps after a short while of inactivity, and it takes forever until the screen brightness is back to normal. It would have been better to leave this feature disabled without accelated graphics. As it is, it only serves to cause frustration and perhaps as a reminder that you have to install drivers.


I decide to take the plunge and install fedora, so I double click the installation icon. Finally, the installer ask me for my keyboard layout. Its not like I wouldn't have managed to change it gnome, but it would have been nice if I where asked earlier.

Next steps in the installer are not unlike installing any other OS, with the exception of partitioning disks, which is anything but intuitive. In fact, I'm very confused by it. Aside from the traditional hdaX and sdaX volumes it alo shows me "LVM volume groups" which apparently contain the other sdaX partitions although the size don't quite match.

I don't know what all that is. There is no help available either; I'll have to google on that later, but for now, I'll just hope its not important, and select the correct partition for root, swap and boot and I ignore the LVM stuff.

The graphical representation of the disk(s) is not helping either, the size is proportional and you can't zoom or anything, so a 3GB swap partition is simply invisible and impossible to select from the graphic, at least on a 120GB disk. One thing is for sure, gparted that ubuntu uses is certainly more userfriendly.

The next step, Im once again not too sure what to do: I'm asked wether and where to install Grub. the choices are limited to the /boot partition which I didnt have, or not installing it. Thing is, I already have grub (on sda1), but fedora's installer doesnt seem to be aware of that. Or is it ?

XP seems recognized and is added by default, Ubuntu is not. If I do install it, I fear I will lose my ability to boot Ubuntu (and maybe even XP), if I don't, will I be able to boot Fedora? Some help would be nice here as well, but once more, no help is available. Since I liked the graphical skin on grub :), and I want to be sure to be able to boot at least Fedora, I decide to let fedora install grub on /boot. Later it will turn out grub will let me boot XP, but I had to change the menu.lst manually to regain a working Ubuntu boot option.

The last steps are pretty straight forward and include setting up root password, timezone, network configuration, etc.

Installation itself is fast, very fast. I didn't measure it, but it was only a few minutes. Amazing actually. I don't think I ever installed an OS that fast. Or it must have been OS/2 Warp in a VM a couple of months back, but that doesn't really count ;)

First boot

(to be continued)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ubuntu + Compiz + VirtualBox=Magic!

Have a look at this video to see how nicely you can integrate a windows virtual machine (VirtualBox) with Ubuntu using Compiz:

This tutorial will let you recreate the exact same functionality and effects; I will even provide the wall papers and such later.