GNU Linux is for servers, Windows is for desktop.

That is my basis of engagement with operating systems (OSX Macs being too expensive and closed). However this equation is changing slowly but surely, as some modern operating systems are crumbling under their own weight (read Vista).

Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) was released recently (22nd April), and it makes installation process of GNU Linux significantly easier. I've tried Fedora, Suse and RHEL in the past, and Ubuntu definitely lives up to it's promise of "Linux for human beings". My target was to compile a kernel from kernel.org and test a loadable driver module with it. Here's my step by step experience with 9.04 -

  1. Download - 700MB from ubuntu.com/download. I too desktop version
  2. Burn the ISO (you may use virtual CD programs to load the ISO directly)
  3. Auto-run on Windows gives three options. The safest one is - Wubi - Windows-based Ubuntu Installer. It will install Ubuntu as a regular program, which you may uninstall anytime. Zero pain and wicked fast. The other way is to either create a Live-CD/USB or install it on a clean partition. In the third case, uninstallation may be painful. I chose Wubi with 6GB size. Although I recommend 8GB if you want to compile your own kernel etc. (it will take 1GB+ for this alone)
  4. Installation - It would take 15-20 minutes.
Following are the things I did after installation -
  1. Setup WiFi - The Network Mgmt Applet on desktop panel is simple.
  2. Launch Update Manager (System -> Administration ->). If one skips this it will launch on it's own for updating some packages.
  3. Play Music - This will again prompt for MP3 packages, which Synaptics (package management) will take care. (No need to hunt for any package)
  4. Firefox plugins - The default browser is Mozilla Firefox. I installed few plugins such as Xmarks and Google Toolbar
  5. Install Adobe Flash and Air - Almost any website one opens runs into some flash component. Installation is a breeze. It will download a *.bin file or *.deb package. Double click to install. Each installation requires authorization of primary account.
  6. Picasa 3 - Photo management software from Google
  7. Open Office is pre-installed, however only three spreadsheet, presentation and writer is present. For others you can use Add/Remove option. I installed Python IDE and removed a bunch of games.
  8. Enable 4 desktops - It has two desktops by default. You may right click on Workspace Switching area and change preferences.
  9. Skype - Installed Skype
  10. MPlayer - Installed Mplayer from Synaptics Package Manger (Syste -> Administration ->). For me it works only with -vo gl2, otherwise failing to play video.
  11. Opera - I installed Opera 9.6. also. It's a touch faster than Firefox to launch. Otherwise browsing experience is mostly similar.
  12. Gnome Panel adjustment - While adjusting the top panel, I accidently deleted it. To get it back you may use following commands in a terminal -
    gconftool-2 --shutdown
    rm -rf ~/.gconf/apps/panel

    pkill gnome-panel
That's it. All of the above took about 90 minutes. I was ready for the next stage.

Installing new Kernel
  1. Root user (sudo passwd root) or use (sudo -i) for root terminal.
  2. Install linux-source-* package from Package manager
  3. Unzip-tar the package in /usr/src (bzip2 -d *.bz2, tar -xvf *.tar)
  4. make xconfig (for this you will have to install qt3-devel and g++ available in package manager). You may add/remove kernel modules, options.
  5. make -j2 bzImage
    make modules
    make modules_install
  6. update-inramfs -c 2.6.x-y (your version of kernel from /lib/modules/*
  7. Update /boot -
    Copy /usr/src/linus-source-2.6.x-y/arch/x86/boot/bzImage to /boot/bzImage-2.6.x-y
    Copy /usr/src/linus-source-2.6.x-y/System.map to /boot/System.map-2.6.x-y.
    Rename initrd.img created by step 5 to a common naming scheme, namely initrd.img-2.6.x-y
  8. Grub Entry - Make the entry in /boot/grub/menu.lst - Just make a similar entry as the primary option.
  9. Reboot - While booting Ubuntu, press Esc key and choose the new option. Viola you are using your new kernel having modules in /lib/modules/2.6.x-y
Compiling the kernel will take significant time, depending on how fast your computer is. It tooke my Centrino single core x86 machine ~45 minutes.

Few review points -

  1. Free
  2. Things work (sometimes, else Google). Slick package management and update experience.
  3. Wubi - Makes it remarkably easy. It's makes it yet another Application
  1. Built-in fonts are not very appealing
  2. Some DRM / closed devices won't work. iPhone / iPod Touch for example.
  3. Misses variety of killer apps
  4. Things don't work (few things) - The clock fails for me, mp4 video works in gl2 mode only, sometimes Wireless card is not detected (reboot solves it). These are however minor and rare issues. (you may have your own :-))
I'll stick to my original engagement with OS's, however Ubuntu 9.04 breaks several barriers. If you've never used Linux or had abandoned it in the past, do take it for a spin. It won't take much time and may just change your notion of your primary desktop OS.


Still unsure - You may want to read these two articles Inside Ubuntu 9.04 and Seven reasons why people quit Linux to make up your mind.

p.s. - This is my first blog post written running Ubuntu.