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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gimme Some Penguin Lovin’


I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been a fan of Linux for a few years now.  I loved the concept even before I installed the software the first time.  You see, Linux is free.  (In two ways – it’s free as in “free speech”, and free as in “free lunch”.)

For those who don’t know what Linux is, in essence it’s an operating system (like Windows) that’s distributed free of charge (unlike Windows).  It used to be a fairly complicated operating system to master, but then Ubuntu came along with the goal to make Linux more “human”.  And things have indeed changed since then.  I’m going to go into detail in a few moments.  But first, guys, please forgive me; I have had limited exposure to other operating systems, so I will be comparing Linux with Windows today, and not with MacOS, or Unix, or Novell, or anything else.  Okay?  Okay.

So I recently got my hands on Ubuntu 10.04 64-bit (it’s the latest Long Term Support edition of Ubuntu that was released in April 2010) and installed it.  The first thing I noticed was the 5-minute install time.  Yes, a complete install in 5 minutes!  (And I thought Windows 7 was awesome with its 20 minute install time…)  The next thing that impressed me was its boot time.  I went from cold start-up to desktop in 23 seconds!

But since most people out there are still using Windows XP, waiting for a system to install or boot is obviously not that much of an issue for most.  So let’s look at some other features:

Firstly, I love the new theme.  The old orange / brown was really not my thing.  (No offense, I bet some people loved it, but not me.  Both colours remind me of drinking fish oil and antibiotics (the kind that looks like milkshake but tastes like vomit) as a child.  No thanks.  The new theme is quite pleasing to the eye, as you can see:


Another nice new feature is Gwibber.  Gwibber is like a central social networking program.  It can connect to your accounts with Facebook, Twitter, and many others, and update your status, as well as display all your friends’ status updates.  No more “Sannie Koekemoer is out of town but a new Hairy Cockroach was born in her InsectCity, and it needs someone to take care of it”, or “Gertjie Pretorius sent you a Slimy Leg in Random Body Parts” or such nonsense.  I think that’s great.


It also has a great multimedia package, including a new video editor.  You can listen to music, rip CD’s, and watch some movies straight out of the box.  You can also purchase music on Ubuntu One, a cloud-based network, and the music is automatically synchronized with all of your devices through the cloud.

Ubuntu 10.04 is real easy to use.  It includes most of the software you will probably need, like 3.2 with its spreadsheets, word processor, and presentation program.  And those things that you don’t get included, you can always install with the great Ubuntu Software Center. 

Software Center

I didn’t have any driver problems either.  All of my devices (including Bluetooth, and my Vodafone 3G modem) worked directly after installation.

But, in all honesty, not everything that I have to say is positive.  The first thing that bothered me was the fact that they moved the “Maximize, Minimize, and Close” icons to the upper left, instead of the upper right.  Why?  I couldn’t get any clear answer.  People are used to having them on the right; now it’s just plain confusing.  Especially in some programs, like’s Word Processor; if you have a document open, the document’s Close icon is still on the right, but the program’s close button is on the left.  I don’t doubt that you will get used to it, and maybe even like it, eventually; I’m just saying it’s a rather pointless change that irritates me.

File Browser

Another thing that troubles me somewhat is the fact that Ubuntu doesn’t include native support for MP3’s and DVD’s.  You have to download the packages to add support separately.  Though it isn’t a huge download, it’s still a bit of an inconvenience.  I can understand that the codecs involved aren’t “free as in free speech”, and so it goes against Ubuntu’s philosophy; but still, it would have been nice to get the support out of the box.  We once revived a customer’s old laptop by installing a version of Ubuntu.  It was mainly for her daughter to use to write some stories.  Later we heard that she also wanted to watch DVD’s, but when we wanted to install the packages, she didn’t have internet.  So that’s slightly irritating as well.

I also have to say that, despite the fact that Ubuntu is incredibly stable, it would seem that Firefox (the default web browser in Ubuntu) is not.  I had problems on older versions of Ubuntu, and I’m still having problems in the new release; Firefox would just stop responding for no apparent reason.  Though it doesn’t happen often, it is completely random and unpredictable.

So my final verdict:

Ubuntu has come of age.  This is by far the best version of Linux I have seen yet.  I can finally recommend Ubuntu 10.04 as the permanent operating system for most people, whether they are used to Windows or not.  BUT, if you are a hard-core gamer, stick to Windows.  Though gaming support for Ubuntu is improving, and some Windows games actually look better and perform better in Ubuntu, it’s still a struggle to get some Windows games to work in Ubuntu.  The same goes for people who use specialist software of any kind.

If you want to download Ubuntu (free of charge), go to the Ubuntu web site bly clicking here.  It’s a fairly large download though, so if you would rather like to get a copy of it on CD or DVD, please contact Renovo Computers.

I also recommend, before you switch to Ubuntu, that you take a look at to see if there are open source alternatives around for any software that you use.

So, that concludes our broadcast day.  Be blessed!

Lourens, out.


  1. After the whole post about Linux I unfortunately will comment about MacOSX...sorry. I had to switch about a year ago from windows to mac and found to my shock and horror that the maximize, minimize and close icons on the wrong side of every window (the left). The good news is however that you get use to this within a few days, just like driving on the other side of the road.
    That is until you switch to another OS ;)

  2. ahh noes, what's with the 4KB limit on blog posts? You know I like to push that limit!

  3. Ahh, time for my overtly long comment (a hopefully well thought one though). Here goes!

    Very nice review Lourens! No I don't say that just because I like Ubuntu or because I use it all the time... I like the broad variety of things you covered in this review.

    (blog of ice, shame on you :-P btw)

    I agree, Ubuntu has come of age, though it surely can do with a whole lot more maturing (and it steadily does so all the time!)

    I kinda didn't like the new theme. Liked it less than the old excessively orange-brown one. Too much magenta for my taste, not that I hate bright pink in particular, but the colours seemed out of balance. However, it seems that more users think the new theme is awesome than those that think it sucks. Fortunately for me, customizability came to the rescue and I now use the pretty great Dust theme.

    Now what jumped at me is your mild comments on the side on which the max/min/close buttons were put.


    Sigh. I was naturally enraged by the fact that the Ubuntu devs, though it was a very valid and even necessery experiment in user interface design, the devs in all their wisdom did not include some Ubuntu-ish (easy & convenient) option for changing the position of these buttons. I had to Google, then track down some cryptic key in gconf-editor and change it first. (which did make me aware of the cool fact that you can totally customize those buttons and add spacers anywhere and stuff). That change was totally against Ubuntu's design philosophy of customizability.

    The amazing thing about that however, is how absolutely insignificant that change seems overall. I mean, most of us don't spend even two thoughts a year on that little trio of buttons. Oh the little things, when it comes to design...

    About the MP3 codec issue: it's not simply against Ubuntu's philosophy to not include those codecs by default, it is downright against the law in most cases. Have you even read the agreement/notice/thingy that pops up when you install those packages, Lourens?

    Having to include something totally non-free (as in speech) into a free operating system is one thing, but having to deal with software patents is a different sticky mess [royalties have to be paid to MP3's inventors in some cases blah blah etc.]

  4. And yes, both sadly and gladly, Linux has a very special relationship with the internet. Come to think of it, the last time I looked Vista and XP also had such a ... special relationship with it.

    The only difference is that when my Windows systems gobble up 200MB or even freaking half my monthly internet capacity in two days, I don't notice ANY difference to the bloody thing. Maybe it just updates for the sake of updating stuff. So called security fixes and crap [hehe yes I know they are important in a way]. Needless to say, with limited internet access comes very hasty disabling of Windows Automatic Updates, one of the most hated and slandered features of Windows in our household.

    Now on the other hand: in my experience whenever I update an Ubuntu package, there is a good chance that I'll get to see some kind of difference right away. (heh even if it is the occasional unwelcome change!)

    As for Firefox's instability: I have been using the beta version of 10.04 for a few months now, and Firefox has not crashed on me once as far as I remember. So my experience of this Firefox is very good so far.

    Now this and the previous point brings me to this:
    I'd like to come and copy the new stable 10.04 from you some time (I'd just check with a friend first to see if he perhaps has it instead). I was also wondering if you'd perhaps be interested in splitting the costs with me and said friend for getting a copy of the DVD repo's of 10.04 from (I admit that is more appropriately asked and answered in a private message than a blog comment!)

    I've been hooked by the official repositories of the previous long term support relase on DVD discs. Fire up Synaptic, click, install and enjoy! Instantly and without having to download anything from the internet. To me, this is a major feature for internetless users in its own right.

    If you are a serious gamer, then you must totally try out the Linux realm of gaming. There many games, from a casual snow-ball-fighting-penguins RTS to citybuilding to hardcore first-person shooting games that run only on (or supported primarily for) Linux.

    The WiNE "windows emulator" can do some pretty amazing stuff too. I am now a veteran Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory player because of [wasting lots free time,] WiNE and a Windows copy of Enemy Territory from a friend. There is a Linux version of W:ET but the download is quite sizable and instead downloading WiNE made it possible to play that classic game Stronghold too!

    So if you ever want to LAN, you know who to invite ;). Grrr I think I need a crosshair and a head right now...

    Cheers :-)