A Trivially Hardy Upgrade

May 13, 2008 in #teen rants #blog #linux #ubuntu #mandriva #reviews #bsd #foss #wine

Ubuntu never started out very high in my estimations. Here's what I had to say about "Breezy Badger" in January 2005:

"Why the hell have they named a distro after a farting field animal? Maybe there's a lot of hot air surround it? Why go 'sudo apt-get' or 'sudo aptitude' in a gnome terminal when you can use the synaptic, or convert to KDE? Don't go for Ubuntu - use Mandriva or Suse, THEY are Linux for human beings!"

That was an extract from my first website (hosted on freewebs). I was almost 14 at the time and experimenting with Live Linux CDs mostly to annoy my parents. It wasn't until Dapper Drake that my interest was aroused in Ubuntu (or indeed in Linux as a permanent operating system), and I finally started to appreciate that sudo apt-get and sudo aptitude saved a lot of time trawling through GUI menus.

That said, I still don't understand the daft naming conventions, but I think they got the general idea after Dapper. It was the first LTS version of the distro and you could tell they'd spent plenty of time on it (the delay also contributed to this conclusion).

It really felt like a platform which Canonical could build on for years to come - and it finally made me convert from being primarily a Windows addict and liking Mandriva (on the basis that KDE felt vaguely familiar) to seeing Dapper and Gnome as being much more intelligent ways of achieving the same ends - I now look at KDE and struggle to work with it - which is a bit of a turn-around! I even noted on my freewebs blog a year later:

"If I was given the choice on which distro to commit to hard disk, I would choose Ubuntu, despite stiff competition "

Two years on from that, and I've been using Ubuntu in a solo-boot for 3 months, (and in a dual-boot 6 months before that) - I've even managed to introduce a couple of people to the OS - quite a change!!!

In terms of naming conventions, Edgy Eft was indeed 'Edgy' because it was essentially Dapper Drake with a few things added which weren't really supported properly in the previous release. There were also a few products which weren't quite enterprise quality, but mature enough to appeal to hobbyists or enthusiasts. It was a perfectly usable system, but it really didn't have much more power and gusto than Dapper - it was just a few additions you could add to Dapper if you had a few hours spare on your hands.

Feisty Fawn was a different story - you got plenty more apps, most of which were a little more mature, and Ubuntu had more customisation options. Community support exploded and there were plenty of options in the repositories. This was the version of Ubuntu which I initially dual-booted with Vista (as my hardware was struggling with it). Feisty had plenty of power but no means of making the most of it - you were left wondering at frequent intervals how someone had got something to work that you had been trying for months!

Gutsy Gibbon was the one which I dual-booted with Windows XP (yes, I downgraded Vista) and later solo-booted. I'm sorry to see it go as Gutsy really was good. It was a solid workhorse and you could finally harness the distro you were given to complete complex tasks - and I finally got Wine and Innotek VirtualBox to do something useful (which was somewhat difficult on Feisty!). On the downside, I did have to re-write most of Alsa to get the integrated sound on my laptop working, and my graphics and wireless were never properly supported. Despite this, it did what I needed and more (i.e. playing PS1 games in ePSXe on a computer game pad!).

I've now moved onto Hardy Heron (Ubuntu 8.04 LTS). I assume the name is supposed to instil confidence in enterprise that not only will this distro be supported for 3 years (5 years if you get the server version) but that it will stand the test of time and take care of everything you throw at it.

Well, it's lived up to that so far... Migrating from Gutsy was fairly easy. I exported all data into formats I could re-import later into my /home drive (which remains unaltered by any distro changes), upgraded to Hardy then reimported the information back into the relevant apps. I've got to a fully-functioning working environment in under 3 hours - and not only that, my hardware is supported properly - granted, I still have to do some leg-work with Alsa to get the sound working (I insert one line into a config file, then make sure the alsa mixer knows what it's controlling), but the graphics and wireless have been supported straight away (despite my integrated ATI graphics card needing a proprietary driver). It's also far more intelligent with choices of app to run files with - rather than firing up gedit to run a Dos executable (which i used to encounter at regular intervals).

I've installed all the various media codecs, so I can view almost every supported media format, and Opera is back in getting me browsing. I just need to tweak it to work with my college network, but otherwise, all is fine - I've even managed to get Age of Empires (and Age of Empires II) working on wine, with the promise of finally getting Excel 2003 to work - though I may need to remove Wine-Doors (as it seems to hinder rather than help for some bizarre reason).

Hardy is ridiculously easy to use - and can be as complex or as simple as you like. With any luck it will remain a solid workhorse for me over the next 3 years (and I'll simply be reviewing Ubuntu via Live CDs, as I do with other distros). My only issue is with their thinking that Firefox 3 Beta 5 provides stability - but I'm using Opera, so it's not about to get ugly!

My only annoyance was that I couldn't get PC-BSD to recognise my keyboard, otherwise I would have been dual-booting two open-source OS's - but I remain satisfied with Ubuntu as my sole OS for now!

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