Monday, May 16, 2011

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal: awesome

I think my journey with Linux is turning full circle.

My first foray into Linux is the Red Hat distro in the mid-90s. It is memorable because we got our CD installer in the US when we were there in training. And then back in Manila, we were tasked with installing a Linux Server and run the company's email service from there. I was part of the team who installed Linux and managed the mailing system. Every now and then the server would clog up and refuse to send and receive new mail, and I would log in and delete old messages. I felt quite geeky typing away in the command prompt, as we did not have X-Windows at that time.

The company eventually moved to Windows Servers and my responsibilities shifted from staring at monitors to talking with people. Such a move can dull your mind a bit technology-wise, and I contented myself with handheld tech.

So it's almost 15 years since I worked with a Linux system (save for around 4 years on a Mac). I was quite hesitant to start now with dabbling into Linux again, to be honest, because I have this perceived notion that it will still be too techie, and I'm too busy with Google Sites projects to allocate time for this.

I originally downloaded Ubuntu 10.10 as a bootable USB for both desktop and notebook. The primary reason I did so was because our small EeePC laptop was already crawling to a standstill and I suspect Windows XP was no longer stable. Time to change. The Ubuntu conversion was a success but after installing, I set the laptop aside and did not open it again.

Wanting to try out the desktop version, I started trying to test running Ubuntu from the thumb drive a couple of weeks ago. But for some reason it does not want to continue. Sure, I was able to choose between Ubuntu and Windows from a menu after rebooting, but the screen just shows the word Ubuntu with the "progress bar" moving... but after half an hour, still nothing. I suspected it should take much less time than that. After a couple more tries I gave up.

When I visited the Ubuntu website last Friday, I learned that 11.04 was out! So I downloaded that. And yesterday, I was able to run it off the USB drive. And I liked what I saw. Very clean interface. We do not use the desktop for any special application anyway, and if we have a browser (preferably Chrome) and editing software working, then that's fine. Word processing would be a bonus (I use Google Docs).

Now that I know Ubuntu will run on our desktop, I felt excited to be using Linux again. I feel so relieved it's now easier than ever to install! Well, technically speaking, I will do the installation this coming weekend but to see it running off the thumb drive and with the internet connection recognized and running, it was just so easy to make the decision. Although I think I will install it alongside Windows for this time... my wife might not be comfortable with the interface (although she does use this computer mainly with a browser, so I do not see any problem with Ubuntu adoption).

Of course, it also helps a lot that the Ubuntu website has instructions on how to install the OS, and explains it in a very understandable tone.

As I planned on writing this, I started searching for the screenshot of Ubuntu 11.04 I made yesterday.  Unfortunately it seems to have disappeared and so I started searching for one on the Net.  I discovered that there were as much people who hated the new interface (called Unity) as those who liked it.  The interface is merely a bar with icons at the left-hand side, so you click on the app you would like to use.  No "Start" menu like the one in Windows.  I have yet to read on Unity is not well-liked, but decided to skip that and just see for myself!

The screenshot above is from DarkDuck, who talks about an alternative from the controversial Unity interface... revert to GNOME!  So I'm linking to that article.  Oh, and thanks DarkDuck for the above screenshot!

Until then, why not give Ubuntu a try yourself?  You can run it off the thumb drive (or CD) if you would just like to give it a try and not decided on installing it yet.  Until then, I'll share my adventure this coming weekend!

Related link: Ubuntu website

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