I have three Linux computers that I use to varying degrees. Until recently, they were all the most recent Fedora Core version. I've tried a lot of Linux distros on the different computers—Debian Sid, Gentoo, Mandrake 10, etc. In the past I've always come back to Red Hat or Fedora Core. Honestly, the biggest reason is probably that I know the OS very well. Despite my always going back to Red Hat land, I've never been much of a Red Hat zealot. I don't try to convert people, or anything like that. I don't think any Linux distro is intrinsically superior to any other at this stage. Linux is too advanced, and too mature for fundamental superiority in any of its primary flavors. It all comes down to what fits your head the best.
Unfortunately, although Fedora Core still fits my head best, the community seems to have hit the doldrums, big time. I've always complained about the repository politics, and I always end up going first with the Fedora Extras faction, and then the RPM Forge faction (usually preferring the latter). Since FC4 came out, I've been very frustrated that I cannot get the combination of timely updates and stability that I've come to expect from Fedora Core. I switched from Fedora Extras to RPM Forge hoping for more dynamicism, but I think that was actually a change for the worse this time. At the same time, Ubuntu seems to have breathed a huge amount of energy into the Debian world. I tried Debian once and was very disappointed. Sid broke too often and woody updated way too slowly for my needs as a developer. I tried to learn enough of the system to be able to tame Sid, as Debian Gurus such as Edd Dumbill can, but that's when I discovered that Debian just didn't fit my head. I went back to Fedora. Edd tells me, and many others have corroborated that Ubuntu does an amazing job of dealing with these problems. "Ubuntu just works" is just about an axiom these days. Time to give it a go.
A month or so ago, as an experiment I installed Ubuntu on my third string computer. Besides the installer (which sucks) I was quite impressed with the Distro. Impressed enough that I'm installing Ubuntu on the second string computer as I type. That will bring me much more close and personal with Ubuntu: that's my main media computer: video, music, graphics, games, literary writing, etc. If I'm happy with that the last bastion of FC4 for me is my laptop—my very right arm. It's my main development and communications computer (programming, tech writing, e-mail, Weblogging, IRC, IM, etc.)
My first impression of Ubuntu is that the installer is laughably ummm...retro. I've been installing Linuxen since Red Hat 4.2, and I've see it all, from having to duck into the spare console during an install for workaround hackery to the steeplechase of the Gentoo installer (I swear they're deliberately placing a hurdle in front of users: if you can't complete the scavenger hunt of the install process, they don't want you as a Gentoo user). Ubuntu's installer might be the ugliest and least intuitive I've ever seen. Fedora Core and Mandrake have really nice installers, and honestly, I'm a bit spoiled in that department.
Once I got past the installer the default look of Ubuntu is a combo of really sharp fonts with a theme that's drab almost to the point of depressing. Who chose that brown/copper background and the dun theme? That got changed with the quickness. It's interesting that you only create a regular user, and never set a root password. On my first Ubuntu machine, I couldn't resist switching to single user mode and setting a root password. This second time I'll just leave that alone and see how it goes. Ubuntu set me all up in sudo, so I'll probably be fine for a good while.
I started with the default package manager and added a whole bunch of packages I needed, or wanted to play with. The package management experience is better than Debian's which was already better than Fedora's, but then again, that has always been Debian's well-known strength. I did run into a problem with non-existent "Multiverse" repository option provided in the package manager. For some reason I was not able to install, say Real from the default package manager. It said I needed to enable "Multiverse" but I was having problems with that repo entry. I tried Synaptic and it installed the problem packages with no problem. Synaptic is a real treat.
So far I'm definitely happy with the switch. Many more things just work than in FC4. I do have to look into a few things, for example:
- Enabling mp3 play in Rhythmbox (I knew how to do this in FC)
- Figuring out how to loosen the firewall chokehold and how to enable services. Wanting to print and SSH to the machine, I tried the various applets in System->Admin and Apps->System Tools and I can't figure out the equivalent of FC's "Security Level" and "Services" applets.
I'm confident I'll find answers because the Ubuntu community seems as full of useful info as the Fedora community used to be. I already addressed a couple of needs with some easily found resources: