If youre a watcher of the world of Linux distributions, youve likely been hearing about Ubuntu, a relatively new entrant thats managed to win the devotion of many Linux users by augmenting the solid and popular Debian GNU/Linux with up-to-date software components and slick packaging.
eWEEK Labs tested Ubuntu Linux 5.04 (which became available last month under the colorful code name The Hoary Hedgehog), and we can report that the buzz surrounding this distribution is well-warranted.
Ubuntu is an excellent choice as a desktop or notebook operating system: It includes the latest GNOME and KDE versions, and it requires less post-install configuration than does Fedora Core or Debian on its own. For instance, we found that, unlike with Fedora, laptop hibernation worked out of the box.
Like Fedora, Ubuntu enjoys the sponsorship of a corporate entity—Canonical Ltd., which sells paid technical support for Ubuntu. However, Ubuntu depends most heavily on its association with Debian: Ubuntu releases begin as snapshots of a core portion of the unstable branch of Debian and undergo testing and tweaking before they ship.
The Ubuntu project plans to ship a new version of Ubuntu every six months and provide security updates for at least 18 months after each version ships. Ubuntu 5.04 (the version numbers refer to release year and month) is only the second release so far, so time will tell how well the project executes on its road map.
Ubuntu supports Intel Corp.s x86, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s AMD64 and IBMs PowerPC architectures.
We tested the x86 and AMD64 versions of Ubuntu with success, but we found that Ubuntu doesnt provide as seamless an experience managing and running 32-bit code on its 64-bit version as SuSE does.
Ubuntus otherwise very good graphical software package management application, Synaptic, doesnt do a good job of supporting multiple architectures.
With the assistance of a how-to from the Ubuntu Web site, we set up a separate environment for 32-bit applications using chroot, which worked well for us.
Multiarchitecture issues aside, Ubuntus software package management is a real strength of this distribution. Debians apt-get application does a good job of resolving package dependencies, and Debians dpkg component—which underlies apt just as Red Hat Inc.s RedHat Package Manager underlies Red Hats up2date tool—provides for install-time package configuration.