One day while testing the beta of Windows7 a message appeared: “This beta will expire in 6 hours”, or something similar. I had been thinking about making the switch to Linux, in this case Bill left me no choice. I downloaded the latest Ubuntu version, formatted my hard disk and installed the “Jackalope”.
I had tried Ubuntu a couple of years ago, and it took me two weeks to figure out how to install my video card drivers. Irritated I gave up backup then, because productivity was down to zero while struggling with an unknown OS. Luckily most Linux distro’s have come a long way since, including Ubuntu. The installation went smoothly, a pop-up appeared telling me that “proprietary drivers were available”. Even more, it told me that these drivers weren’t open source, and I would be depending on the manufacturer for updates, so the Linux community marked them as a “security risk”.
They worked fine nevertheless. I was relieved that most of my hardware worked “out of the box” with the new Ubuntu. Only my web cam didn’t, but I never used it anyway.
Since Ubuntu I have tried a couple of Linux distro’s on several computers in my home. Now I’m not a real expert, I only have a couple of months experience with Linux, but here are my findings:
Ubuntu 9.04 “Jaunty Jackalope”
Very easy to install, graphical installer (but that goes for the other distro’s mentioned here as well). Most hardware works out of the box. Missing codecs bring up a search function, and most can be installed effortless. Very calming interface & colors (when I went back to XP for an hour, I got real nervous and agitated). Great desktop effects with Compiz Fusion, including Desktop Cube.
All in all a very stable OS, great looking, needs a little tweaking and post-installing. Why is my wireless re-enabled after each restart? I have to switch it after off every boot!
Linux Mint 7 “Gloria”
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, and it looks like a bunch of Ubuntu users got together and decided what to remove and add. The results are fantastic: a new menu with favorites, a better software installer with ratings and reviews, full-screen pictures and so on. All codecs are pre-installed! Flash, Silverlight, mp3, video codecs, plugins, addons, you name it. This saves me an hour or two after installing. Linux Mint has a color scheme that makes you question the Ubuntu-brown. There are many other improvements and changes, all in all I favor Mint over Ubuntu.
After installing this OS, it feels like you don’t have to do anything yourself.
Linux Mint Xfce Edition
Now this is a version that uses the Xfce Desktop Environment (instead of KDE or GNOME). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with KDE and GNOME, but when I tasted the more lightweight Xcfe desktop, I was sold instantly. To this day this is my favorite distro: a perfect balance between usability and speed. Faster than KDE, not too bulky, but also not stripped down like Fedora (Fedora it isn’t called “Core” for no reason). I just love its simplicity and stabilty.
Now some Linux pro could probably prove me wrong on all points, or show me a distro that’s even better. No really: please do!
But that depends on what you are looking for: for me the best mix between an easy install, a light-weight desktop and a feature-rich OS has been Linux Mint Xfce. Maybe when I’m better used to Linux I will run that mighty fast Fedora again.