This is no joke: Since last Thursday, I’ve done anywhere from 22 to 30 Ubuntu 8.04 fresh installations on three different machines, plus two Gutsy-to-Hardy upgrades (and one Dapper to Hardy upgrade, but I want to try that again). At least five of those 22+ were full Ubuntu desktop systems. Two or three were netboots. The remainder were minimal installations or lightweight graphical desktops built up from command-line installs.
After that flurry of building and rebuilding, installing and blanking, tweaking and poking, I can sum up my biggest problem in three words:
It’s too easy.
No, really. It’s not fair. I started with Breezy two years ago, and I can only imagine the immense amount of work the Hoary and Warty veterans must have suffered through to get things installed and working. Breezy was bad enough, and I won’t be going back to that any time soon.
But Hardy is what Breezy users dreamed of. You want Flash, Java and mp3 support? Click, it’s installed. You want firmware for your wireless card? Click, it’s installed. You want the proprietary driver for an ATI card that gives you solid acceleration on the erstwhile infuriating Radeon XPress 200M, a card that was released (as I understand it) as three different versions all under the same name and distinguishable only through cryptic BIOS settings? Click, it’s installed, and working like a dream.
I know what you’ll say next, and you’re probably right. “Well bully for you. My (insert component name here) doesn’t work and there’s no help on the forums and you guys all SUXXORz and Ubuntu does too and I’m going back to WinXP while I wait for Fedora 13 with USB hair dryer support.”
Okay, it’s true. The machines I used are not very new (they’re the Sotec before it quit, the Inspiron and the Pavilion, if you want to know specs). The “freshest” is already about four years old. There’s nothing that even approaches a dual core in there, and the best video hardware I’ve tested thus far has been that 200M I mentioned already. I don’t ride cutting edge, and that’s by choice.
But I’m not just talking about hardware compatibility. I’m talking about ease of use, preprogrammed user-friendliness (like command-not-found, which is sometimes annoying but for the most part a nice touch), accessibility and automation of routine tasks. So many things that were relegated to the command line two years ago are now accessible from two-click menus. You want an example? In the old days if you wanted to switch servers for repositories, you had to edit sources.list by hand to select a different one. Now? You pick it from a nifty list of options, all nested in a wonderful array categorized by nation.
My hat is off. Ubuntu has come to a point where the things that irritated or annoyed me the most — and that statement does include hardware compatibility — are gone or smoothed over to where I don’t notice them any more. There will always be rough spots, or hardware that doesn’t work quite right. But from where I stand, the fun, beautiful and easy-to-use Linux system I wanted two years ago … arrived last week.