Okay, this week’s app is quite big, as applications go. It’s an entire operating system. Kubuntu Linux.
What is Kubuntu? Linux?
Linux is an alternative operating system for your computer. Windows is an operating system, so is MacOS. Linux is the third way. It’s based (loosely) on the Unix of old. And unlike Windows, there are many different “flavours” of Linux. Kubuntu is one of those flavours and many, many others are available.
If you want to try Linux without making any changes to your computer, you can download a CD image, burn it to a disk and you’ve got a Live CD. If you start your computer with this CD in the drive, it’ll boot into Linux and you can see how well everything will work with the machine you’ve got. They’re also very useful for recovery purposes as you can often get files back from a PC that just won’t boot into Windows.
What has gone before…
Here at work, I maintain Windows XP systems, there are a couple of Windows 7 boxes, and some Linux servers. These are my favoured pets. They get the best treatment, the highest level of attention. They’re not doing anything exciting, serving the odd web page, but they’re mine and they’re powered by penguins. At home, my laptop runs Linux. Has done for years. Sure, there’s the odd issue with closed-source drivers, the wireless card might fail when you do an upgrade, but that’s half the fun for me.
Today I have finally finished getting my new works PC running Linux. I still have the old, Windows 7, machine hooked into the network for when I need pesky little software pieces like Office 2010, Sharepoint Designer, Internet Explorer, but the development work will be done here in the comfort and stability of Linux.
Why Kubuntu over any other flavour?
Personal choice, really. Let me give you a quick timeline. In the beginning was Debian. Debian was a bugger to configure, a pain to get everything working, but once it did it was bullet proof. The Ubuntu project started up and took Debian, made it into something far more user friendly. People wanted to use Ubuntu but with the KDE (K Desktop Environment, the bit that makes the front end look like it does. Others are available. Enlightenment, for example, is just gorgeous).. So they called their spin-off project Kubuntu. Simple, no? I wanted a distribution, a flavour, built on the stability of Debian with the user-friendliness of the more modern projects. And I wanted to try the new version of KDE. So I chose Kubuntu. If you’ve got just the one monitor and a good nVidia graphics card, I’d recommend you take a look for Sabayon. If you want something for development that you can keep on a 4-gig USB stick, go with CrunchBang. Kubuntu’s a good all-rounder.
What are the advantages?
It’s faster. Cold to fully functional desktop in a matter of seconds. And not many seconds, at that. When I see my desktop, it’s fully configured and ready to use, none of this hanging around waiting for more bits and pieces to load. I’m up and running. Applications start faster, stuff that I would have had to install separately into Windows 7 just works here because it’s already there. Anything that’s missing, installation of extra software is a dream. No searching the internet for installation files, you just use the built-in one-stop-shop program to add what’s missing. Graphically, it’s my opinion that it’s nicer than Windows 7. Animations are smoother (on exactly the same hardware), the whole thing just feels cleaner. I’ve had to install no extra drivers to get everything working, it’s all just been discovered and configured.
The last time I tried Linux on the works PC I had to reconfigure the monitors every few days. It would forget what I’d set up, which one was left and which was right, what the resolution was. So far I’ve had none of that. We’ll see by the end of next week whether this is still the case. Last time I tried KDE it was slow and cumbersome. How things have changed!
But it’s really the little things. Things like being able to set separate wallpapers for each of the monitors, download those wallpapers from within the applet that changes wallpapers! Add desktop widgets that don’t immediately suck your system resources dry.
What are the disadvantages?
Well, if you come to Linux from Windows without anyone to explain what’s going on, you might struggle to find some stuff at first. The KDE start menu looks very like the Windows 7 one (only KDE did it first) and finding programs like your web browser, media player, etc. isn’t that hard.
Some software just doesn’t exist on Linux. There’s no iTunes, for example. But the bulk of what I use on a day-to-day basis is available for both Windows and Linux, so I keep going with the same stuff.
It’s not connected to the works Active Directory. Not yet, anyway. We’ll see how that goes.
Will I be switching back?