Thursday 27th October 2005
If you haven't heard of Ubuntu by now, I'd be rather surprised - it sits happily on the top spot on Distrowatch, has done for months, and shows no signs of budging. If my maths serves me correctly this is only the third release of Ubuntu, making it relatively young considering the six month release cycle.
Before we even start installing Ubuntu, we can say a few things about it. Firstly, it is based on Debian, which already gives it a positive glow in my mind. I will try and be unbiased, and as such I won't love Ubuntu simply because it is Debian based. However, Ubuntu does inherit one of Debian's greatest strengths: Apt. I'll talk a bit more about how it is implemented in a little while.
As said, Ubuntu has a six month release cycle. The good thing about this is that it allows Ubuntu to stay up-to-date with the latest software, including Gnome 2.12, meaning many of the packages it contains are newer than Debian's. Although package compatibility between Ubuntu and Debian has been the subject of many a debate, now is not the time to discuss it - I'll be reviewing Ubuntu on its own merits.
The last observation I'll comment on is the size of Ubuntu - 1 CD. This is both a good and bad thing. It is a good thing because I never like having to download more than 1 CD of a Linux distribution, with the first CD containing the vast majority of packages (in terms of size at least) that I'll use. However, there is a downside. Some people may want to have the distribution on more than 1 CD - there are only so many packages you can fit on 1 CD, and Ubuntu's online repositories certainly contain more than a CD full of packages. If you use a lot of packages that are not on the CD, you could be waiting a while for the rest to download - especially troublesome if you're installing on multiple computers. There may be ways to solve this, but it would be nice if you had the choice of downloading more CDs.
This argument can also swing the other way - the first CD still contains packages that some will not use, so some would want a minimal boot CD, with almost everything being downloaded from the internet. To sum it up, I would prefer the choice of CDs that Debian offers - you can have any number of the full CDs so long as you have the first, or you can just have the internet installation CD. Biased? I don't think so - Debian offers a wide choice, which I believe other distributions would be wise to learn from.
Why oh why, you may ask, am I now writing a third paragraph on the number of CDs that Ubuntu comes on? Well, first of all, it takes that many paragraphs to explain my point. More importantly, the number of CDs can affect who downloads the distribution. In this case, I think 1 CD is better than lots of CDs (I really hate having to download 4 CDs just to test a distribution), but some people prefer to have a nice collection in front of them. I know I've picked distributions to try before based purely on size; that's the sole reason I'm testing Ubuntu now rather than SUSE. That, and SUSE prefers KDE.