Posted in Computers on Sunday 26th September 2004 at 7:27pm

For a long time now, I've been wondering what to do about updating the two machines here. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the things I'd heard about Fedora Core 2, and the thought of following the current trend and installing something like Gentoo was not encouraging. My biggest limitations being my time, and utilising as much of the knowledge and as many painfully learned lessons from the last five years as possible. I also need my computers to be working, not 'works in progress'.

Enter Ubuntu. I'd read more and more intriguing reports of this Debian based distribution. I was attracted by its reported simplicity, the up-to-date GNOME installation, and the strong Free Software ethic at work. Today I finally threw caution to the wind and set about downloading and installing Ubuntu.

First off, I am amazed how much is crammed into the single installation disk. For your 510mb download you get a fully functioning GNU/Linux system, running GNOME 2.8, with Evolution 2.0, OpenOffice, GIMP and lots of other applications enabling immediate productivity. The install was pretty near flawless and didn't expose too much of the packaging system, or the complexities of the setup. There is, however an 'expert' mode which I didn't try. My two problems were easily tracked down - firstly a very old ISA network card which didn't like being asked to 'plug and play', and secondly some confusion caused by Fedora's previous partitioning. On a well set up computer which hasn't been messed around with by the likes of me, neither of these are likely to cause problems.

The default settings are usable but conservative. No unnecessary services are started, security seems pretty tight, and the boot straight into GNOME via GDM works perfectly. The default GNOME setup is somewhat modified from the standard, but in pleasant and useful ways. Having the 'Computer' icon and its contents collapsed into a menu is strangely usable, and the presence of gnome-system-tools made several of the tweaks I wanted to do much simpler. More packages are available via apt or the helpfully installed 'synaptic' GUI frontend. I added a couple of essentials (for me) such as nfs-common and ssh-server.

So, early indications are promising. If my experiences continue to be positive I'll spend a little time getting used to Ubuntu and then upgrade my desktop machine too. If you've got a spare couple of hours and a machine that needs an upgrade, I'd certainly recommend trying it out.



I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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