I have tried several OS' in the past – Windows 3.11 to Windows XP. OS X to several flavors of Linux (I especially liked the Mandrake Linux distro a lot. It is now called Mandriva). While my laptop always had an active Linux partition, I have to admit that, I booted to Windows more often than Linux. If I needed to write a script or run some command line programs, I used Cygwin. Windows alongwith Cygwin pretty much satisfied my needs.
But the recent happenings in the Windows world have got me thinking on continuing with this OS. Compared to the advancements happening elsewhere, the 5 year old Windows XP has now become an OS which needs to be kept in a software museum than on anyone's PC. The much delayed Vista is not helping things in anyway.
Before I renew my anti-virus subscription with Symantec, I thought I will give Ubuntu a try again. [My Linux partition now has Breezy Badger]. Let me use Ubuntu as the primary OS for the next 3 months. If everything works out fine, I will keep Dapper Drake as my primary OS and will never upgrade to Vista. If not, I will go back to MS and make Bill Gates richer by a few hundred more dollars when Vista gets released. So my experiments with Ubuntu 6.06 begins.
So why Ubuntu and not any other distro?
There are several reasons. Since Linux distros are community supported, it is better to go with the distro which is most popular at a given time. Earlier this decade, Mandrake Linux was quite popular. Then Gentoo took its place. Now it is Ubuntu's turn. Not a single day passes without an article or two about Ubuntu Linux on Digg or Slashdot. Ubuntu's famed hardware compatibility along with software selection on the apt repositories and a great community make it the Linux distribution of choice of today.
I downloaded the iso file of the Ubuntu installer from the Japanese mirror (Surprisingly, there are no mirrors in India. Even countries like Namibia and Costa Rica have a mirror! No offence to these countries. Just that they are smaller)
When I tried Ubuntu in the past, it had a text based installer. The installation had two phases. The base system gets installed first – the system then reboots to install and set up the rest of the software. Quite a boring half an hour. This time around, there is a surprise! The install CD is both a Live CD as well as the installer!
When you boot the install CD, you are given an option to start or install along with the rest of the customary Linux installer options. When you select this, it boots like any Live Linux CD. Soon you will be greeted with a gnome desktop. The gnome desktop had a completely functional menu, so that you can try all the applications like OpenOffice, Firefox etc., On the desktop, I found two icons. One was a folder which contained several examples of documents which you can open and play around with (Don't miss the well made short interview with Nelson Mandela. He explains the meaning of the word Ubuntu.) and the other is a shortcut to start the Ubuntu installer. This is a very refreshing change. While the system is installing, you can still work with the OS, like browsing the net, playing some games or even creating an MS Word compatible document (And yes, if you chose to do that, don't forget to save it on a thumb drive or upload to a server. Otherwise, you will not see the document when the system reboots!)
The installation is reduced to just 6 steps. Wow! That is just amazing. Installing an OS is now like installing any software on Windows. 6 clicks and you are done! Way to go Ubuntu!
The only challenge (if you want to call it that way) that you might face is partitioning the hard drive. Rest of the steps like selecting your time zone, giving the user names etc., are all a walk in the park.
Thats all with the install. At the end of it, all my hardware except the media reader on my laptop were perfectly detected and installed. Rebooting gets you into Ubuntu Linux. One thing that I can't stand in any Linux distribution is the ugly looking fonts. I did not like the default font and the wallpaper. How I changed them into something beautiful is on part 2 of this post.