by August 14, 2006 0 comments

According to distrowatch, Ubuntu 6.06 is the most popular Linux distribution
today. While writing this article, Ubuntu is running with a download of 2845 and
is leading SUSE (the second most popular distro) by 879 downloads. This time, we
have reviewed both the commercial versions of SUSE Enterprise Linux (elsewhere
in the magazine) and Ubuntu. In this article, we will discuss what we found and
will also try to understand why is Ubuntu on the top of the Linux popularity


Support cost: $250 (Desktop), $750 (Server 9×5) per year

Meant For:

Linux users

Key Specs:

Single CD distro. Top ranking in


Small Size, easy to use and install


Text based installation


Ubuntu is basically a debian-based distribution and uses .deb based packages.
The installation is completely text-based, but the good thing about the
installer is the less number of options it asks you for. When you insert the
installation CD and boot the machine, you will notice it has just two primary
installation options — Server and Desktop. The difference is that Desktop is a
full installation (without any server applications) while Server is a minimal
installation with low GUI support. Basically, the server consists of basic
applications such as a File and Print (Samba), Web Server (Apache), DNS Server
(Bind), etc., which are not installed on the Desktop version.

Whereas, in case of the Desktop installation, you will find all those games,
media players, etc. and of course, the rich desktop which was absent in the
Server version. But what I would recommend is to use this distro for Enterprise
workstation and that too only there, where you need just a basic set of
applications. This distro is not a wise choice for deploying as an Enterprise
Server. The reason is it lacks development platforms and compilers, which can
make it very difficult to compile and run new or customized apps. But still, if
you want you can download .deb files from the net and install them on top of it
to customize your needs.

You need to answer about a dozen questions during installation, but all of
them ask details like Host name, type of network, etc. However, it didn’t even
ask for a package selection and does a standard full installation on every
machine. The only place where you can get stuck is where it asks for
partitioning. But if your machine doesn’t have any other partition or at least
has some un-partitioned space free, then the Automatic partitioning works
perfectly and doesn’t need any user intervention.

Vital statistics

  • Linux kernel 2.6.15-18 PREEMPT
  • 7.0
  • gcc 4.0.3/glibc 2.3.6
  • GNOME 2.13.94
  • Firefox web browser
  • Evolution 2.5.92 email/groupware
  • OpenOffice 2.0.2 productivity suite
  • Gaim 1.5.0 instant messenger
  • Gimp 2.2.10 image editor

So overall, in spite of a text-based installation, we would give it good
marks for lesser number of questions it asks, which is a boon for new uusers.
Also note that just because it does a full installation on every machine, don’t
assume it will eat up your whole hard disk. It’s a small distro that comes on
just one CD and has selected necessary applications. That could be one of the
reasons for Ubuntu being so popular.

First look
After installation, when the machine reboots into the OS, the first thing you
will notice is a very clean desktop with no icons. Even the trash icon lies on
the task bar instead of the desktop. The only icon you will see on the desktop
is either the CD or any removable media (only if present). After clicking on the
Applications Menu (the start Menu), you will see the standard menu system such
as Accessories, Games, Internet, Graphics, office, etc. But, on opening, you
will notice a number of applications in them. Ubuntu has done a great job on
reducing the number of apps in the distro and tried its level best to keep just
one application of its kind. That drastically reduces the confusion of app sele
tion for newbies and makes it a user-friendly distro.

Just next to the Applications Menu, you will notice the Places menu, which is
essentially the list of all drives (local and network). The other noticeable
thing is the Shutdown button, which hangs from the top task bar, just next to
the clock. That makes it easier to lock or shutdown the system when you are in a
hurry. Also the plug and play feature of the desktop is pretty good. It easily
detected my pen drives and USB-based wireless keyboard and mouse in just one
shot and worked without any problem.

No root
One more interesting feature you find in Ubuntu is the absence of the root user
by default. After the first login screen comes, if you try to login with the
root user, by default it will not allow you. Even if you try logging in from a
shell or a virtual console as root, it would still not allow you. Even the su
command won’t work. This makes Ubuntu much securer than other distros, in
which a new user can log in as root and mess up with the system. But, as you
cannot log in with root, Ubuntu people are kind enough to have made available
some of the common commands like ifconfig and iwconfig and some configuration
commands, even for the normal user. But while running the dhclient command to
get a dynamic IP to our wifi card, it showed an error “Permission Denied”.

To overcome, there was only one way out – to use the sudo command. So
remember, if you are an Ubuntu user and are not able to run some command because
of the non-availability of the root login, the “sudo” is your only chance.

Connectivity options
As per the connectivity, the OS is pretty much like any other Linux
distribution. It can easily connect with ADS network using Samba 3. The network
connection wizard is also quite easy to use. All you have to do is to click on
the Network icon on your upper task bar and then go to the Support tab and click
the “Configure” button. This will open up new windows, from where you can
configure all your wired (LAN), wireless and modem/dial-up networks.

Service and support
The support for Ubuntu comes in two types. One is the standard Linux style, in
which you get all the free information about the OS from Ubuntu’s
site/knowledgebase and other sites. And the second is the commercial way. A
company called Canonical, which is the biggest sponsor of Ubuntu, provides the
commercial support. The company offers different schemes, which vary from
Desktop Level Support to Enterprise Support and can annually cost you from $250
to $1200 USD, depending upon the type of scheme you choose. You can get more
details about the support
plans from /support/paid.

Bottom Line: If you are not familiar with Linux but still want to
shift to it completely, Ubuntu is your best bet. It can be a good first step if
you want to give your users a taste of Linux at the desktop.

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