Ubuntu experiences thus far

August 13, 2007

apple / life / linux

So I’ve been successfully using Ubuntu for two weeks now. I have several initial reactions, and other thoughts. I’ll talk about what I don’t like first, and then about what I do like.

What I don’t like

My main issue thus far has been my graphics card. Which, of course, isn’t Ubuntu’s fault at all. I have my graphics card working very well with Ubuntu, so it’s not that my graphics card is junk, either. The issue is that it doesn’t seem to be able to run Beryl, which from what I hear is the eye candy of Ubuntu. I like eye candy, so I’d like to be able to run Beryl.

Other than that, my issues are with the software companies inability or unwillingness to make software that I use compatible with Ubuntu. One of these is iTunes. I love iTunes. I’ve been using Banshee on Ubuntu, and it’s a great player. It has a great interface, great organization, great everything. My main issue with it is that it doesn’t know about my podcast subscriptions, presumably because they’re in an iTunes formatted XML file. So this is a really minor thing.

A related issue is that there is not a 64 bit version of Last.fm for Linux. I’m a huge fan of last.fm, and use it all the time. When I play CDs in iTunes, the last.fm player knows what’s being played and adds it to stuff that I’ve played, and lets me recommend it, or tag it, or whatever. Banshee doesn’t appear to do these things.

Adobe is my other issue. I tried downloading gimpSHOP, just to play around with it and see if I could get used to it enough that I could occasionally avoid rebooting into Windows to use Photoshop. Nope. Can’t do it. I love Photoshop. As much as I sometimes hate it and am frustrated by it, I don’t want to imagine life without it. Flash and Illustrator are also things I couldn’t do without, but I don’t spend an incredible amount of time in either, so it’s a smaller issue for me.

I’m not very impressed with the text editors, and I think the default is better than the several downloadable ones I’ve tried. Sorry about that one. I think Notepad++, which appears to be exclusively Windows, is far better.

I’m sure there is a way to do this properly, that I just haven’t learned. If I’m logged in to my default account, which is not the root, and I double click to open a text file that is only editable by the root user, I’d like to be able to have a graphical equivalent of the sudo Terminal command, so that I could edit said text file without having to use the Terminal. I actually like the Terminal, and find it incredibly powerful, but sometimes I just don’t want to look up commands that I haven’t learned yet, just so that I can edit a text file that Apache uses.

What I do like

Ubuntu is a great operating system. I love almost everything about it. It has a great community on a number of different forums, all of whom were amazing in helping me through my various issues in getting Ubuntu working in the first place. It’s an incredibly powerful system, and it runs very fast for the power that it has.

Mozilla has been amazing for me. I can share my Thunderbird and Firefox profiles between Windows and Ubuntu without the slightest issue. FileZilla (no relation to Mozilla) has also been wonderful, as the beta version of my favorite FTP application runs very smoothly on Ubuntu.

Back to the Adobe thing, for a positive note, Dreamweaver isn’t a big deal for me. I like Dreamweaver, and I plan to use it whenever I have to do web edits in Windows that need a directory tree, but I’ve been using Eclipse, with some plugins for PHP, Python (which I hope to learn soon), JavaScript, CSS, and XHTML, and love it. It exceeds the expectations I had, prior to trying it out.

On a similar note, Apache on Ubuntu is far superior to any implementation of it that I’ve seen on Windows. I’ve tried several of the packages for LAMP development on Windows, and their weirdness is one of the reasons I wanted to try Linux. Initial setup, configuration, and changes on Apache and the development things on top of it are a breeze for me, compared to the way they were on Windows. This also exceeds my expectations.

The overall interface and methodology of Ubuntu is wonderful. I love the themes (in spite of not being able to use Beryl), the customizability, the ease of configuration and administering and all those other common tasks; many of which are not very fun on Windows. Not to mention the ease of adding software! The repositories are huge, and full of amazing software that can all be updated at once. I’m amazed by that one.

Other initial thoughts

For what it’s worth, I haven’t lost my Mac envy. My ideal setup, at this point, is to get myself a MacBook Pro (drool), get rid of Windows on my desktop, and use Ubuntu as the desktop system/home server. To use Ubuntu for certain development tasks, file storage, learning things, times when I need a desktop, etc. and use the Mac for design work, iTunes, other development stuff, and portability.

Until then, though, Ubuntu is easily the best system in my house.