Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review: Ubuntu 8.10

For the last few weeks I have been using Ubuntu Linux on my HP Pavilion dv3000(dv3110tx) series notebook. The question that I have been trying to answer when running Ubuntu this time round was "If I was a non-technical computer user, reasonably new to Linux, would this work for me? Could I make this work?". As I used Ubuntu, since the system is targeted to new users and desktop users, could it be simple enough for people coming from Linux? I, myself, am a technical person and I do have experience with Linux and how to use it and how it works in comparison to Microsoft Windows so I had difficulty letting go of old Linux habits (ie. Using WINE).

I am tempted to run through the install process but that's not the focus here. In my opinion, Operating system installs are about the same and asks the same amount of questions. Whether you are installing Windows XP, Vista, Mac OS X, or Ubuntu, if you don't understand hard drive partitioning or can't follow prompts, then it's time you stop trying to be a tech person and do a little more research before you break something.

Once in the operating system these are the things I start looking at:
  • Network
  • Web Browser / Email Client
  • Instant Messaging
  • Office
  • RDP
  • Movies and Music
  • Network Access

Connecting to the wireless network wasn't as straight forward as I was expecting. This is an operating system that tries to simplify everything but remains very 'Linuxy' with network config. The NetworkManger, an addin with GNOME environment, seem to have no problems find ten different wireless networks. When selecting the network I wanted, it prompted me for a WEP key for the network as expected. However it confusingly only offered options for 128-bit encryption when I was actually using 64-bit. However after a few Google searches taught me nothing I bit the bullet and entered the key in anyway, and to my surprise it worked. Changes I would make here would to make it like Windows where it just detected that the network required authentication and offered a field to enter it, rather then confirm the type of security is used.
Once online, connection was stable and reliable. This may seem like a comment on the Internet connection rather than network, however I have used distributions that were unreliable on networks.

Web Browser / Email Client

By default, Ubuntu offered Firefox for web browser and Evolution for email. But having my preferences, I installed Thunderbird for email. I setup the browser and Thunderbird the way I usually like and off I was. On Windows, there is just the one Adobe Flash player by default, however Ubuntu seems to offer several solutions and it seemed to me that the non-Adobe solutions were less reliable.
Java apps didn't work properly as also many solutions were offered.

Instant Messaging

Pigdin was the standard IM client offered in Ubuntu. The multi-protocol client worked well with MSN network but lack standard webcam facilities as well as alternate clients for Linux.

is the default package, but unusually it seemed to be out-of-date. Didn't get to test out the software thoroughly this round however I have used the software package before. The Ubuntu update client picked up the latest version first time and downloaded the newest release. Other alternatives are offered (ie. Abiword, KOffice) but aren't installed but default.

RDP Access

I use a lot of Microsoft Remote Desktop for work and it was an important factor for me. A package called Terminal Service Client was the application of choice here and worked well. By default, 800x600 resolution was set which is actually how I like it, but it is capable to increase screen size.

Movies and Music

I will admit that I tested little here but enough for my purposes. Didn't get an opportunity to test DVD play, or music management. By default, Totum is the media player. However, like I expected, it wasn't able to handle decoded video files and XVid codecs were required. I also later downloaded MPlayer which I have had a good experience in the past with. Totum is also the application for MP3 and other audio playing but doesn't offer advanced management as you would find in Apple's iTunes.


Ubuntu does have an answer for most questions that Windows has come to answer out of the box. I find that people won't know about the package management utility which does a terrific job allowing for downloading and easy installation/uninstallation of software packages on the system. Applications are installed and managed cleanly incomparison to Windows where it's up to the software developer to make the software be managed and uninstalled cleanly.

The system didn't lock up on me for the time I have used it.

Battery time is reasonable for this laptop and is on par with Windows Vista SP1.
Power management also meets expectations with hibernation and suspension working 100%.

My original question was "Could a everyday desktop If I was a non-technical computer user, reasonably new to Linux, would this work for me? Could I make this work?". In my honest opinion, I couldn't seem this being an everyday solution. I understand that there are software packages that can compare to those used in Windows but I can't see it working. The answer here is No. Standard everyday users would be able to find the similarities without training and couldn't be expected to figure it out and it is such a contrast to Windows.

Updated 3-July-2010: Broken Image link removed.

Linux On Laptops

1 comment:

  1. Happy to annouce that with the help of this article, the HP Pavilion dv3110tx laptop was submitted into the Linux on Laptops website. I have added a banner at the bottom of the article for you to click and be referenced to it.