Right out of the box Ubuntu is easier than XP on a Windows Workgroup.

Samba on UbuntuThis is no exaggeration. Tonight I loaded Ubuntu Desktop 7.0.4 for the first time. After so many rants abouts its superiority on Digg I finally decided to give Ubuntu a try. I loaded it on my Dell D610. Here’s how it went:

First I downloaded the ISO from Ubuntu.com to XP desktop. Then I used Alex Feinmans ISO Recorder to bounce it to CD-R. This creates a bootable image of the OS that you can actually run from the CD for a thorough evaluation before deciding to install it. If you chose to go it’s as easy as clicking the “Install” icon on the pseudo desktop.

The install is completely automatic. This is probably true for most newer Dells (built in the last 3-4 years) since it is offered on the newest models straight from the factory. The only option that has to be selected is the time zone and the some simple information about disk architecture (use some of the disk or all of it?). Type in an initial user name and password and you’re off.

For most Unix-like OS versions I’ve installed on laptops in the past at least one hardware component has failed because of the lack of driver support. Without exception this included the Wireless LAN adapter which always required the use of ndis-wrapper to accommodate the Windows driver. Not this time. All I had to do was click on the wireless LAN connection, a drop down list of available wireless LANs was displayed, I clicked the one I wanted to connect to and put in the WEP key. Bang, I was on the LAN. This was the first thing that was easier than XP.

You see, under XP this same laptop continuously tried to connect to my neighbors unsecured wireless network by default. I actually had to let it connect, disconnect it and then agree to the “warning” that Windows would not attempt to connect to this foreign network again. That’s what it took to get it to keep from overriding the connection to my own preferred, secure network.

So, speaking of networks, the next thing I was going to do was install Samba so I could see shares on my local Windows workgroup. But first I went to the very obvious “Places”, “Network” option on the Ubuntu panel menu and whaaaaa? There’s my Windows workgroup displayed right in front of me. Damn are you kidding? Sure enough I can browse the shares and write files directly to them. When XP was on the exact same laptop I often had to put my right thumb in my left ear, hop on my right foot and restart Windows Explorer three times before I could see the shares on the other machines.

Now before Windows Fanbois go screaming that I just don’t know what I’m doing I need to lay two cards on the table: First, I build and administer enterprise Active Directory domains for a living. I have for over 12 years, check the balance of this blog for details. And second, I actually own the URLs windowsfanboy.com and windowsfanboi.com (and I may be pointing them both to www.ubuntu.com after this experience). Anyone with any tenure in Windows networks knows that Microsoft peer-to-peer networking is intermittently unreliable at best, even under the correct configuration conditions.

The fact that an easy, downright simple to install Linux OS now lives in the desktop market ought to scare the crap out of any company that just released the likes of Vista. No, I won’t be playing Halo on this D610 but with a full blown install of Open Office, Gimp, Samba right out of the box I am not lacking a single component to get to work on this system. It even has a Terminal Server Client right in the Application, Internet menu option. So I can manage my AD networks right away from this Ubuntu desktop.

For once I can agree with all the hype presented by a segment of the user base at Digg. Compared to every other free OS available Ubuntu is, in my opinion, the best. This is coming from a long time FreeBSD fan. This OS brings hope that unified file systems may ultimately “win” the desktop marketplace after all.

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