The Ubuntu team is closing in on its second release. The Ubuntu project
announced the preview release
for 5.04, better known as "Hoary Hedgehog," on March 10; the final release
is scheduled for early April.
The first Kubuntu distribution
release was also announced recently, and is also scheduled for early
April. Kubuntu uses Ubuntu as a base, but with the KDE desktop and related
packages rather than GNOME. We decided to take a look at both releases, to
see how far Ubuntu has come since its inception, and to see what users
could expect in the forthcoming release.
For those not familiar with the project, the Ubuntu distribution is based
on Debian, but with a six month release schedule, much like GNOME and OpenBSD. Releases are supported, meaning
critical bug fixes and security updates, for 18 months. Ubuntu has a bit
narrower scope than Debian, however. Ubuntu supports only three
architectures, Intel/x86, AMD64 and PowerPC, and has a more limited set of
packages (the "main" and "restricted" repositories) to provide updates
for. A larger set of packages are available through the "universe" and
The release numbers may seem like version inflation, but actually reflect
the year and month of the release, hence 5.04 for Hoary Hedgehog and 4.10
for Warty Warthog -- the first Ubuntu release, from October 2004.
We installed the Ubuntu preview release on a Pentium 4 laptop with 1 GB of
RAM. The installation was completely painless, requiring minimal user input
and a bit of patience while packages were downloaded from the Ubuntu
archive. Ubuntu had no problem detecting all of the laptop's hardware. No
manual configuration or tweaking was necessary for X.org or anything
else. Mileage may differ on other hardware, of course.
To install Kubuntu, we simply followed the instructions on the Kubuntu
documentation page. After running "
sudo apt-get install
kubuntu-desktop" and choosing between KDM and GDM, we had Kubuntu,
the KDE 3.4.0 desktop and a number of KDE applications, installed.
Whereas Debian installs a fairly minimal system and then allows the user to
choose packages, Ubuntu and Kubuntu start off with a set of default
applications for typical desktop use, allowing less experienced users to
get started right away without having to decide which application they wish
to use for e-mail, spreadsheets, word processing or web browsing. For
example, Ubuntu installs GNOME 2.10, Evolution, OpenOffice.org, Totem,
Firefox, Synaptic, Gaim, the Gimp, and so forth. Kubuntu installs KDE 3.4,
Konqueror, Kontact, Kopete, Kynaptic, Akregator and other apps for KDE that
most users would (probably) want.
Overall, we like the choice of packages that are installed with Ubuntu and
Kubuntu by default. Developers and power-users will have to grab additional
packages, but for typical desktop use, Ubuntu is ready "out of the box."
Users that prefer other applications should be able to find them in
Ubuntu's universe repository. For example, this writer still prefers XMMS
to Rhythmbox. Though Rhythmbox is the default music player installed with
Ubuntu, XMMS is easily added using Synaptic or apt-get.
By default, Ubuntu does not set up a password for the root user. Instead,
the first normal user set up at install time can use "sudo" to perform
tasks, like installing software or configuring a network card, usually done
by root. This was a bit off-putting at first for this writer, but after a
few days of working with Hoary, it's become second-nature. (In the past,
this writer has simply gotten around using sudo on Ubuntu by running "sudo
su" and setting a root password and using root normally from there on.)
Though GNOME and KDE are the defaults for Ubuntu and Kubuntu, respectively,
KDE and GNOME are not the only desktops available to Ubuntu/Kubuntu
users. There are also packages for XFce, Enlightenment, Blackbox, fvwm and
several other window managers in the Ubuntu Universe repository. This
writer prefers the XFce desktop environment, and has been happily using
XFce with Ubuntu for some time.
Even though this is only a preview release, it seems exceptionally
solid. Though the preview releases contain a lot of "cutting edge"
software, we didn't find any major application bugs or problems of any
kind. We've also been grabbing updates on a regular basis since installing
Ubuntu Hoary, and it's obvious the Ubuntu team is keeping busy.
The only glitches we ran into were, more or less, self-induced. We tried
upgrading from the default 2.6.10 kernel that was installed to the 2.6.11
package that's available. For some reason, our system locked up each time
we tried to log into GNOME or KDE after installing the 2.6.11 kernel. After
going back to 2.6.10, everything ran smooth as silk. There are also 2.4.x
series kernels in the Ubuntu Universe repository for users who require the
2.4.x series for some reason, though we didn't test any of those kernels.
The Hoary release can be found at http://releases.ubuntu.com/hoary/.
Live CDs and install CDs are available for Intel/x86, PowerPC and
AMD64. Users who prefer to go the KDE route can download installation media
or live CDs from http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/kubuntu/releases/hoary/preview/.
The next Ubuntu release is scheduled for October, and has been dubbed "Breezy
Users looking for a cutting-edge Linux distribution that "just works"
should try out Ubuntu. The distribution is put together very well, offers
an excellent selection of packages and a very active and helpful user
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