I'm typing this on a Ubuntu System right now: I built this system from scratch last friday, and installed Ubuntu on it that day. This system is not for me, it is for the uncle of SmilingGirl. My reasoning for installing Linux on this machine was: he never used a computer and since Linux is ready for the desktop, I'll try it. Besides, that way I won't have to pirate Windows (or bill him more for a Windows XP... I only bill the parts I bought, btw...) I even bought a real external serial modem (which is three times more expensive than WinModems) in order not to enter in WinModem hell.
Indeed, I never entered WinModem hell.... I entered two other hells: codec hell and CD/DVD hell.
Let me first be positive:
- All hardware in the computer was detected
- NVidia binary drivers work well (even though TuxRacer displays wrong, but it seems I'm not the only one having this problem)
- Clean interface: it's the way the start menu in windows should have been. Neatly categorized entries instead of Company/AppName/TooMuchCrapForOneProgram.
- OpenOffice, Firefox, The Gimp, Lots multimedia proggies included.
- While nothing for the newbie: Synaptic is a neat packet manager
First impression thus was: "Linux is ready for the desktop!"
How wrong I was... You know: when I install a machine I always check everything that I expect to be possible from a basic machine. Let it be reading PDF's, surfing the web, etc... It has to pass this test or I won't give the machine in the hands of the end-user.
The first big problem
The first big problem I encountered would have been unsolvable for a newbie. Is it the fault of the Ubuntu team, or the fault of XFree or even the fault of the monitor manufacturer? I don't know: what I know is that the "Model String" stored in the monitor seems to be "CMC 17" AD". Whoopsie! See that double-quote after 17? Well that fucks up the XF86Config file. Manual editing is the only way out. (Which I do manage easily, but newbies are out!)
The first big annoyance
Why do I have to enter the keyboard encoding type? That's bollocks! Give me a choice "Swiss-German" and I'll be happy, thank you very much. Luckily I know that Swiss is "CH". (Luxembourg uses the Swiss-German or Swiss-French layout)
Second big problem
Let me call it "codec hell". Yeah, I know: it's Debian. No patent-encumbered formats for Debian. That's very nice from a philosophical standpoint but at least make it easy to go for the "practical" way. I managed to get Rythmbox to play MP3 but I found it that you can't change the ID3 tags of the file. Nice!!! NOT! Developpers: it looks like iTunes but the visual aspect is really not enough.
I wond't start about DVD playing: I just worked around it and installed VLC. As for other formats: I have no clue... I didn't do any p0rn surfing (yet) to find out.
Second big annoyance
So this thing doesn't ship with Thunderbird? Okay? The alternative is the Outlook-clone called "Evolution". Okay with me! Problem: no way in hell to configure it with the gmail account I created for SmilingGirls uncle (he doesn't know he has it yet, it "comes with the computer")
I ended up installing Thunderbird and removing Evolution (I removed it because it was possible to call it by double-clicking in the calendar) Thunderbird configged and you have a happy shark.
Third Big Problem
Now, you know: modern computers come with at least a CD-RW drive. Don't be surprised but I installed a DVD-RW in that machine. It seems that Linux developpers think that those two devices are novelties that only those new-fangled-newbies would like to use. Well, go wonder: this old fox likes to be able to burn CDs and DVDs.... oh, and while I can do it from the command line, SmilingGirls uncle is going to moan and complain if I tell him to type "cdrecord" on the command line.
I tried installing K3B, which didn't work well because it was unable to run the K3BSetup thing. Ubuntu is sudo-only, and logging in as root defeats the purpose right? Anyways: "sudo sh" didn't work either: it couldn't execute some command. I didn't activate the root account, because I don't know how to deactivate it again.
XCDRoast: yes... fine... if you know how to burn a CD it will work. It is absolutely non-newbie friendly. DVD burning would work with some kind of hack, but it seems to be bound to a license key which expires next March. Nice... NOT!
DVDShrink does install under Wine, but complains about lacking ASPI. Installing ASPI was a failure. Forget DVDShrink/Wine. Besides, it a DVD backup program and not really authoring software. (Still a native "DVDShrink" for Linux would be a great thing)
The only thing I can do is give a F- on this part. Sorry, a modern desktop must be able to burn CD's over a graphical interface.
So all in all: Ubuntu Linux might work for light-use corporate desktop, but most definately not for the home desktop.
I might have taken the wrong approach, or I took the wrong distribution (which I partially acknowledge because of the codec hell), I could use advice. Lots of it. I know other distribs have less probs with the codec thing (Mandrake, being a French distro) and perhaps less because they can run K3B. However, the distribs that use KDE as primary window manager are too confusing: too much choices, usage of programs is not clear, etc... (I think this as a long-time computer user)
I tried thinking as a newbie during the whole process of installing and using Ubuntu.... Windows XP now really starts to look like a good alternative. (Well, okay, Windows is crap doing all this stuff on itself too: it needs third-party software, but at least I know where to find that third-party software)
Over and out...A pissed and disappointed Shark...