Saturday, April 26, 2008

Get yourself Ubuntu 8.04

Ubuntu 8.04 is out!

Canonical rules and Shuttleworth rocks! These guys made me feel like I am back to high school again, I believe the last time I was this excited was whenever Windows NT 4 and the latest OS/2 were about to come out. I urge my Russian comrades to reimburse Mark the millions they had him pay for his Souiz spaceflight: come on, how can you take money from the guy who's been so relentless at pulling all our computing experiences out of the current medieval cave we stuck in?

Is Ubuntu Ready?

You cannot possibly be serious if you ask this question. I mean come on – most of the world's population is using five year old XP, which cannot even be installed on a typical laptop without myriad of drivers and custom patches directly from Dell or Lenovo. I can't even think of anything of this size with such a painless installation process: network, video with 3D accelerated desktop, audio, wireless, printers and surrounding Windows servers – everything got detected and works like a charm with default settings. The thing only asked me about my name and which time zone I was in. Most Windows applications are harder to install than this. And hey, I am dealing with an operating system here. Even the most historically problematic area of power management works great: my ThinkPad suspends and resumes like a champ without any configuration tweaking and consumes fewer watts than before. When was the last time you heard someone say “I upgraded my operating system and got a longer battery life?” Yes Ubuntu 8.04 is that good.

Got some Windows-only software that you absolutely must keep? Check out VirtualBox - the first easy to use Linux-based virtualization software built for users, not just geeks: you'll be running both OSes at the same time. Virtualization is the only sane way to run Windows anyway, so you can take snapshots and roll back if it starts acting crazy and blasting you with popups and ads. VirtualBox even automatically maps your Linux home folder to a Windows share: you see, someone thought about this.

And did I mention that Ubuntu handles Windows networking better than Windows itself? Just imagine your life without waiting forever for a list of shares to appear (if you're lucky to find your Windows server in your "Network Neighborhood", it's not always there, isn't it? ;-)

What's New in 8.04?

Most of online media reports the exact same list of new features with Gnome 2.22 being the most important thing. Yea it's cool and all, but I don't think it's that interesting: you don't make money using Gnome so why should you care if they introduced a new “virtual file system layer”? You see, that is one of the problems with Linux: it always gets crappy press coverage, i.e. press does not target you when they talk about Linux. I bet Apple added a bunch of “virtual layers” all over Leopard too, but you hardly ever heard of them. That's right: leave that to programmers. Instead, they should be reporting about applications that we actually use. For one, you'd be happy to hear that new Ubuntu finally, after years of waiting... are you ready for this? ... comes with usable Open Office! That's right – you can actually use it now for reading and typing text because they finally managed not to screw the font rendering. Open Office now uses default system settings for fonts, like every other application in the world. And those fonts are the reason big enough to ditch Windows: even my Mac-loving wife is envious of my “beefy and tasty” fonts that make everything so much more readable, especially on a high-DPI display.

Besides, forget about the new: the “old” Ubuntu had plenty of treats to eat for millions of starved windows users, such as painless application installation and removal, nice UI and 3D-accelerated desktop, total absence of junkware, no-nonsense security and speed. Then there are thousands of high-quality programs and many more less polished ones than you can play with and uninstall in seconds without headaches.

What's wrong with Macs?

Nothing, really. I have one. It's very nice and works well. But I urge you to give Ubuntu a try anyway: you may like its font rendering better, just remember to switch it to slight hinting and sub-pixel smoothing in “Appearance” menu in Gnome. You may also discover how flexible everything is and you'll keep discovering little gems of adjustment here and there, ultimately ending up with something that fits your work flow much better than the default Steve-knows-it-all world of Apple. And if you're a programmer, you'll just find a bit more power available to you. Heck, you may even enjoy having decent screen savers that you don't have to pay for. Finally, Ubuntu runs on a hardware where OSX can't: there are some finest pieces of computing machinery out there such as Thinkpads: the Laptops from God.

What's wrong with Windows?

Nothing, really. But there was nothing really wrong with candles and horses too - lots of folks used to think that way - but that didn't stop nerds of old from switching to electric bulbs and automobiles anyway. Besides, if enough people ditch Windows, Microsoft may be forced to lay off thousands of wasted programmers and some of them will inevitably decide to build meaningful things, maybe creating a true AI, affordable personal jetpack or something. By using Windows you are personally slowing the pace of innovation in the world. Evolve already – get Ubuntu. Help us all get closer to Singularity :-)

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