Saturday, December 20, 2008

That was easy!

This article is part of my series on exploring Linux. In my last article I just finished the Ubuntu installation and was rebooting...

I was faced with a multi-boot menu that contained both my new Ubuntu install and my old Vista install. After 9 seconds Ubuntu started automatically.

The desktop that greeted me was not altogether foreign:

The only initial indication of something strange was seeing 2 task bars (called "panels" in this world) and no Vista logo. Otherwise things are remarkably similar. Programs I have running are shown in the bottom panel. The Ubuntu logo at the top takes me to my applications and there are also quick launch icons available - very similar to Vista! (Of course, this interface is highly customizable - and if you don't like this Gnome environment, you can swap it out for some other one like KDE.)

I also found a very useful set of icons on the far right:

I like that the power on/off icon is out and easily available. It offers the usual options I've come to expect from a Vista laptop like: Logout, Suspend, Hibernate, Restart, Shutdown - plus a few more I'll have to try.

I quickly spotted the bar graph that would indicate WiFi networking. I was met by a very user-friendly interface that allowed me to quickly find my home network and enter my security information. I immediately launched Firefox that came pre-installed and was on the internet - uber cool! (I'm actually posting this article from Ubuntu as I type.)

Next was the bluetooth icon. Another simple experience. In two steps I had my Logitech bluetooth keyboard and mouse connected and working. All the buttons and wheels on my mouse are working as they should. This was a sore point for me a few years ago when I tried to use these same peripherals under Windows XP. I wasn't able to use a generic bluetooth receiver, but had to stick with the Logitech version that had other limitations. No limitations now! I don't know if this is a credit to Ubuntu or HP's bluetooth receiver.

Things are going way too smoothly... I wonder what that scary looking red arrow with the exclamation point is all about... It turns out that icon is notifying me of system updates. Now that I am on the network I have 189 waiting for me! Another nice interface listing the details of each update and giving me the option to install each one or not. Let's give this a shot...

... I'm back - after 5 hours! Talk about slow data transfer. They must have a lot of people hitting their servers (there does appear to be a way to stage downloads locally for enterprises though). Interesting thing - no automatic reboot of the system. I'm liking this already! I had heard that Linux can upgrade and restart many of its services on the fly. My only indication that something had happened was a request to reauthenticate to my wifi network - obviously the network services had to be restarted. Also, the red arrow icon had now become a refresh icon that was indicating I should restart the system when it was convenient for me. [As a side note, I have noticed that in the past week there have been about 5-10 new patches every day!.)

I've been quite impressed that my basic laptop hardware, wifi and bluetooth devices have all functioned perfectly. Very impressive. I have yet to get to the web cam or fingerprint scanner however. I have noticed that my touch screen and Wacom tablet functions elicit no reaction. I will have to look into this.

Remember that video sample that was unwatchable in Vista? Let's see how Ubuntu handles that.

But first I needed to retrieve the video from a share on my other system. As with Windows, I was able to browse to Network Places, and then find my workgroup, server and shares. It was just as easy as being in windows - maybe easier in fact, because it also displayed the hidden shares on my server.

Back to the video test - here are the video's details:

  • resolution: 1280 x 720
  • codec: H264 (mkv file)
  • framerate: 24fps
  • audio: AC-3, 5.1 surround
I decided to try the preinstalled Movie Player. It claimed to need some new plugins and used the same mechanism as the system updates to get them. After 10 minutes or so (slow updates!) it was ready to play. Wow! Smooth video! Not like the Vista experience at all. But the system is working hard - I notice the occasional frame drop if I have other applications running in the background. But Ubuntu is clearly superior to Vista in this test.

-- But hold on a sec! Why is my audio so quiet in the video? Why can't I turn it up past a whisper? hmmm... this bears some investigation...

1 comment:

Niklas said...

Regarding the slow updates, if it's not your connection, you might try another server, you can change the server used in System->Administration->Software Sources.

Welcome to Linux. And I like the way you're approaching this.
Many articles are about people using Linux exclusively for as little as a week without knowing anything and intentionally not doing any kind of research(!)