Ubuntu first impressions

Today I finally got fed up with Windows at work and installed Ubuntu on my desktop.

The Ubuntu CD images are live CDs as well as installation media, so I was able to boot up and make sure all my hardware was supported before committing to the installation. It auto-configured everything, including my sound card, which is more than I can say for Windows. At this point I proceeded with the installation, by using the “Install” icon helpfully placed on my desktop.

The first thing the installer did was ask me how I wanted to handle my existing Windows installation. As much as I wanted to nuke-and-pave the whole disk, I chose the default option: resize my existing Windows partition and install into the free space. Modifying the partition table on a disk with data on it always makes me a bit nervous (make backups!) but this also worked perfectly. Now when the system starts up I have an option to select Windows before Linux boots. I normally dislike dual-booting — it’s a pain to have to reboot to do anything in the other OS — but my work computer doesn’t have enough RAM to run VMware at a reasonable speed. I don’t expect to use Windows much though, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I can always add more memory and go the VMware route later if I have to.

The installation finished quickly. I wasn’t paying attention to the time but I’d guess it was only around 20 or 30 minutes before I had a working desktop system. As expected, everything pretty much “just worked”. This is the first Linux desktop system I’ve used since I left Earthlink in 2004 and it seems the bar has been raised quite a bit since then. RedHat 9, the distro I used there, was fairly problem-free, but Ubuntu has a level of polish that it didn’t even come close to. I can’t make an apples-to-apples comparison between distributions over two years apart, of course, but mention it just to illustrate where my expectations were.

I did this in mid-afternoon and so the system was still downloading and installing updates when I left work for the day. Tomorrow I’ll have a chance to really start using it.