Monday, June 7, 2010

The joy of Ubuntu

Few decades ago, most of my work was done on a SUN hardware running Solaris. The Université de Rennes I, France, was providing the Internet access and Mosaic, followed few times later by Netscape, was my favorite browser. At that time, I was preparing a PhD and most of the online discussions were conducted in newsgroups and emails.

One week ago, I definitively switched the OS of my Thinkpad T61 from Windows XP to Ubuntu Lucid Lynx (10.04). In some ways, the Ubuntu environment is not that different from the Solaris I used to work on. For example, I was very pleased to use again an efficient Virtual Desktop system and to benefit from the native Compose key mechanism that allows me to type any crazy sequences producing foreign characters.

Having been pushed on the Microsoft side by my various employers, it seems I forgot all the good sides of the Unix environments. Microsoft marketing has been very brilliant: as many others, I accepted the PC environment limitations! Do you remember the "cooperative multitasking" of Windows 3.1? Do you remember that changing a registry key transformed your Windows NT Workstation in a much capable Windows NT Server? Do you remember that Windows 7 is really the first shiny interface with transparency and gadgets? (Sorry: Vis-what? I don't know ;)

To be honest, let's recognize that the Unix environments did not progress much. On the open source side, the Linux distributions provide a very fragmented offer. The success of some shiny distributions like Knoppix and Ubuntu is fairly recent.

As a geek, I would say that the most impressive feature in these distributions is the 3D rendering engine Compiz and its Cube plugin! It's just amazing.

When I decided to switch to Ubuntu, I wondered if I would lose some features. So far, all have their counterpart for the Linux environment, sometimes with many additional benefits. I did not have to even install Wine, the Windows emulator! Here are the tools that were important to me and I carried over:
  • Dropbox: has Linux/MacOS/Windows distributions.
  • Keepass: had to convert the database to 1.x format and now use KeepassX which has Linux/MacOS/Windows distributions.
  • Aptana/Android SDK/App Engine SDK: equivalent Java packages.
  • Firefox/Chrome/Add-ons: have Linux/MacOS/Windows distributions.
  • Skype (for VOIP calls and screen shares)...
  • OpenOffice.
  • VirtualBox.
  • git.

I am so impressed with the system that I've also switched my old Toshiba M40 (one P4 core and a NVidia card) and now my kids have an easy access to many free games and educational tools!

A+, Dom


  1. Dom, thanks a lot for these small demos. Can't wait to try it on my home box this evening :)

  2. @Anonymous:

    You're welcome. Clarification: I did not produce these videos, someone else had already done an excellent job ;)

    On day-to-day basis, I use only few Compiz features:
    - Ctrl+Alt+(left/Right): to switch between my virtual desks,
    - Win+A: to view all apps whatever their desks.

    At one point, I've installed the "Compiz Fusion Icon" to be able to restart the Window Manager. It appeared that coming out from the screen saver mode failed sometimes to restart it (or broke it). A simple restart of the WM restores the environment, which is better that rebooting the machine ;)

  3. Another update:

    I'm the happy user of a ThinkPad T61 and it works very well with Ubuntu 10.04 (as report at:

    The only issue is related to occasional kernel panics when browsing! I've tried to replace NM (Network Manager) by WICD but I could not have this one connecting me to my WPA-2 encrypted network...

    So still some tuning required on the network side.

    A+, Dom