Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Open Source OS's Part 2: Ubuntu

Welcome to Part 2 of Open Source Operating Systems. If you missed Part 1, click here. Today we will focus on Ubuntu. I really like Ubuntu. It was the first Linux distro that I used and I really think it is intuitive and very similar to Windows XP. This is how I will break down each exploration of the operating systems featured in the mini-series: Basic Introduction (background, history) and then Basic Features (userability and how it compares to Windows). The breakdown will be pretty simple but hopefully give you enough of an introduction to understand how you could benefit from it.

Introduction

Ubuntu says this about themselves: "Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need - a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more." It was made by a develpoment team (and a community of open developers) for developers and for the use of an everyday Joe like me. So the intimidation factor is really a non-issue when you consider that this product was made for a wide spectrum of users, you included. Ubuntu is an operating system much like Windows actually. It has many of the same characteristics. Using VMware Fusion (click here for info on that little gem of technology) I installed Ubuntu on my computer. I don't use it primarily as I have no need to. The OS, however, is definitely usable as a sole operating system. In fact, I would wager that it could substitute for any mainstream OS.

Features

Accessories: Ubuntu has all the basic accessories you would expect from an operating system like a calculator (advanced one even), desktop sticky notes, dictionary, text editor, bluetooth, wireless technology software interface, screenshot taker, disk analyzer, and anything else you could need. If the basic package does not come with a specific accessory that you need or want, you can get it very easily on the internet. All those things are really limited use and luxury items but Ubuntu has them. It doesn't do anything better necessarily than Windows in this arena although it does have a sticky note applicataion that is pretty cool.

Install: Easy shmeezy... Using a virtualization software, simply load up the ISO and go for it. If you are formatting and installing Ubuntu, boot from CD and follow the instructions. Its pretty step-by-step but if you need assistance, contact me.

Internet: you can use whatever open source web browser you want with Ubuntu. My preference is Firefox (on all platforms really) and it works beautifully with Ubuntu. The internet experience is basically the same as on Windows although some websites interact differently with Firefox than with Internet Explorer. (I took a screenshot of Firefox for y'all - see right)

Instant Messenger: Ubuntu comes standard with an instant messenger that interfaces with a variety of different e-mail accounts, Gmail most importantly.

E-Mail: the application interfaces with Google and some other e-mail services but does not work with Exchange accounts. I also loaded up Thunderbird (which I will feature in later posts) and found it to run delightfully.

Office Applications: Ubuntu comes with Open Office. Learn more about it here.

Audio: Ubuntu comes with an application called Rythmbox Music Player. Playback is great. I like the way it organizes the music. It has a window for artist, album, and songs. It also has access to music stores similar to iTunes. The OS also comes with a CD burner, CD ripper, and sound recorder. You can see the player to the right with a little chess going on in the back.

Visual: The graphics and general user interface are great. You can see in the scren shots I have taken and appear throughout this post that it has a pretty cool look. Of all Linux-based operating systems, I have found Ubuntu to be the most basic but easiest to use. In this arena, think of Ubuntu as XP. It is really quite similar. Video playback with Ubuntu is great. There is an aplication called Movie Player that plays DVD, AVI, MPEG4, etc. It also comes with a graphics editor and photo manager that both are easy to use and pretty cool actually.

Games: the OS comes with basic puzzle and arcade games (more than XP and a better variety too) but you cannot play games that you purchase from the store as they are not made (typically) for Linux-based OS's.

Takeaways

Basically, Ubuntu is a great OS for anyone looking to surf the web, listen/download music, watch movies, and produce any kind of office document (spreadsheet, document, presentation, database). It does all the basic things you would expect from an OS and with style. If you think about it, it is pretty amazing to get those applications without costing you a penny. Truthfully, I think Ubuntu has done a huge thing for the Open Source community by really making OSS OS's usable by the everyday person. Other distros are doing similar things which is execellent. The OSS movement really needs OS's like Ubuntu because they standardize and drop the level of skill required to use them. So check it out. The live CD is really good.

2 comments:

linuxowns said...

Ubuntu is great.

I run it on all my computers (4).

I do find it to be a bit ugly by default, but once you install some themes and enable compiz fusion, you have the best looking desktop available for all platforms.

Take a look here for some examples:

http://linuxowns.wordpress.com/screenshots/

Another big plus is that you can surf the web without having to worry about viruses, malware, ...

I find it a bit strange that you compare it with XP, as it is nothing like it at all.

But the best thing about Ubuntu is it's package manager (apt) and the GUI front for it "synaptic".

rblaz said...
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