Ubuntu May 2006
I've seen Ubuntu at the top of DistroWatch for some time. I've avoided it for the usual reasons: I don't know how to pronounce it, I didn't have a machine conveniently available to test it on, and so on.
Well, apparently its pronounced "oo-BOON-too" and now that Parallels is available to run VM's on my Mac, I don't need a sacrificial machine to play with distributions.
Ubuntu is a single CD. There's also a "live CD" version available if you just want to play with it without installing; I didn't look at that. Installation was quick and simple. Apparently some folks don't like that the install is text based - sheesh, is it so hard to live without a mouse during the install? To me, it makes perfect sense: there's darn little that requires mousing. Probably the only real place was during the selection of allowed resolutions for the yet to be started .. if that screen confuses you so much that you can't get by it, I don't know how you get through your daily life anyway.
There's a sticky thread "Is Ubuntu for You?" that mentions other reasons that might dissuade you from trying Ubuntu; none seemed to apply to me so I pressed onward.
Much has been made in the press about Ubuntu being "easy". For example, this review entitled Dumber people can run Linux. Well, Ubuntu wasn't difficult, but it's the first Parallels install I've ever done where the network wasn't set active. No real problem: a quick click on System->Administration-> Networking let me activate eth0, and that was all that was required, but it still was a little surprising.
I was also surprised that selecting the Update Manager didn't cause a large download of fixes. How can that be? The version I downloaded was first released months ago - do they keep the cd's updated with bug fixes and security patches?
I liked the "sudo update-alternatives --all" script - it presents alternative programs and alows you to choose which you will use. For example, here it asks me about "editor":
Sshd wasn't installed by default, but I found it in the Synaptics Package Manager (OpenSSH server) and installed it in a flash. I was once again surprised to find that the installed sshd_config has PermitRootLogin set to "yes".
Ubuntu is the gift of Mark Shuttleworth to the world. Seriously. This is the guy who founded Thawte and sold it to Verisign for $575 million. You can hear Mark talk about Ubuntu and other things he's doing at this google video. It looks like Mark is doing the right things with his fortune - that's great to see; the guy deserves applause from all of us.
By the way, if you must have KDE, there's also Kubuntu.