24 Apr 2008

Ubuntu 8.04 ‘Hardy Heron’ released today!

Ubuntu has been my primary OS for more than 2 years.

I’ve been using Hardy Heron for about 5 months now (since alpha 1).

Depending on your hardware, Linux can be the best, fastest, most stable OS available, or it can be a nightmare.

Now that I have used it for so long (and used it on all 5 of the laptops and 2 of the desktops I’ve owned, I know exactly what sort of hardware you should get if you’re ever planning on trying out linux.

Why should hardware matter?

Well, when a company releases a piece of hardware (like a graphics card or a wireless card etc..) they have to provide a driver for it, which a way for your software to communicate with their hardware.

Obviously, when a company releases some hardware, their top priority is to provide a driver for Windows (as most users are running that). Often, either they’ll provide a driver for linux, or at least provide detailed information about their hardware so that someone else can write a driver.

For the most part, this works pretty well.

Unfortunately, certain companies seem incapable of providing drivers for linux:

  • Creative Labs (makers of sound cards)
  • ATI (makers of graphics cards)
  • Broadcom (makers of wireless cards for laptops) and
  • Seagate (makers of hard drives)

In part it could be selfishness (not wanting to write an open source driver that could give insight to potential competition), but, for the most part, I think it’s because they lack the vision of the future of linux. The more popular linux becomes (Micro$oft’s disastrous Vista is only helping the situation 🙂 ) the better off those companies who have linux drivers will be.

It should be noted that ATI (now owned by AMD) is trying very hard to improve their linux drivers, even helping in the open source community. The problem is that this is a long-term goal, and ATI card still work very poorly right now.

What’s the biggest flaw in companies not providing drivers for linux?

This is clearly just my opinion, but, as usual, I’m pretty sure I’m right.

Okay, so here’s the deal.

What do geeks use?

A lot of them use Linux.

What hardware do geeks buy?

Hardware that’s compatible with Linux, obviously.

Who does Joe Schmoe ask for advice when buying a computer?

A geek, obviously.

What hardware is a geek going to recommend?

Probably something similar to what he’s using himself, which just so happens to be Linux compatible.

So, even though Joe Schmoe doesn’t need linux compatible hardware, he’ll probably buy it anyway.

I don’t understand why large companies with more than enough money for driver development don’t see the value in this. It’s like free advertising from all the geeks!)

So, what sort of hardware should you all buy?

Right now (this is always subject to change) as of April 2008:

Intel CPU with an Intel Motherboard.

NVIDIA graphics card (or Intel for low power laptops).

Intel wireless for laptops. Atheros wireless card for desktops.

Never buy broadcom wireless. THey usually comes with laptops that have AMD CPUs.

Broadcom is often rebranded as a dell wireless card. (make sure it specifically says Intel or Atheros)

Well, those are the main things.

Laptops that tend to work well on linux include Lenovo (formerly IBM) Thinkpads and Dell’s line.

So, even if you don’t plan on running linux, you may as well support the companies that give you the choice of which Operating System to run.

Back to talking about Ubuntu 8.04.

The reason for Ubuntu’s success is its frequent release cycle.

It took one of the most respected linux distributions (Debian), used its fantastic package manager, and gave it a frequent release cycle.

In the open source world, things move really fast.

Whereas Windows took 5 years to write the new vista kernel, the linux community comes out with a new kernel every 80 days. By releasing a kernel so frequently, they can improve, fix, change stuff very quickly. In Windows, a mistake often means you have to wait for a new version of windows (windows update creates as many bugs as it fixes).

Ubuntu releases a new version precisely every 6 months.

GNOME (a linux desktop environment) gets releases every 6 months, and releases about 6 weeks before each Ubuntu version.

They usually jump 2 or 3 linux kernel releases and include the new xServer,, Pidgin, Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC etc..

So, the good news of being Open Source is that even if ubuntu developers do nothing, they still grab the latest and greatest from related projects and include them.

In the case of Ubuntu 8.04, they include

Linux Kernel 2.6.24 (a huge improvement over the 2.6.22 included in 7.10)

GNOME 2.22.1 (a marginal, but consistent improvement over the 2.20.1 included in gutsy) 2.4 (a welcome few memory/speed improvements over 2.3)

Pidgin 2.4.1 (doesn’t seem like much has changed)

Firefox 3 beta 5 (Firefox 3 is a huge improvement over Firefox 2. It include better memory management, reduced memory leaks, fast javascript parsing and better theming.)

So, there you have it. It can’t possibly be worse than past releases, so go and try it right now.

The benefit is this new version includes Wubi, a windows installer. This makes things really trivial. You download it, burn it, and (in windows) click install in windows. It does all the magic behind the scenes, and you don’t have to worry about it screwing up partitions etc..

When you boot up, you’ll be given the choice of either Windows or Linux to run.

Should you (heaven forbid) dislike Ubuntu, you can load up windows and go to add/remove and remove Ubuntu just like a regular application!

So try it risk free!

Here’s a screenshot of my desktop running Hardy with a dark (ubuntu-studio) theme.

Admit it, it looks way cooler than either Vista or Leopard!

Shown is the new world time, pidgin, nautilus and firefox 3.