Ubuntu Remains Best Linux Distribution for Desktops - Page 2

Conversely, as a server operating system, Ubuntu 8.10 doesn't stand out in the Linux distribution crowd in the same way that it does on the desktop. For server implementations, Red Hat's Enterprise Linux and its all-free clone distribution, CentOS, loom larger than Ubuntu.

Red Hat's enterprise distribution, as well as the company's technology vanguard distribution, Fedora, is well ahead of Ubuntu in security facilities, including the well-implemented SELinux security framework. Ubuntu does ship with the Novell-led AppArmor security framework, but Ubuntu's AppArmor integration work is proceeding much more slowly than are Red Hat's SELinux efforts.

What's more, the new compiler-based security enhancements included in Ubuntu 8.10, such as compilation of certain network services as position-independent executables, had been integrated into Red Hat's distributions some time ago.

Similarly, Ubuntu's firewall efforts, which have seen modest improvement in 8.10, with the introduction of service-aware port opening for the system's Uncomplicated Firewall (ufw), still lag behind Red Hat's and Novell's Linux firewall facilities.

Red Hat's distributions also lead Ubuntu in virtualization capabilities-the vibvirt and KVM systems on which Ubuntu's virtualization tools are based are developed at Red Hat, and the company's distributions tend to offer more up-to-date versions of those components than does Ubuntu.

However, the Ubuntu server scored a notable win recently when the Wikimedia Foundation, purveyors of Wikipedia and that site's massive architecture, announced its decision to standardize on the Ubuntu server.

Also, the Ubuntu server now allows administrators to interact with system services from the command line using the same "service <service> start|stop|status" syntax employed by Red Hat, which should make administration a bit more familiar to those accustomed to running Red Hat's distributions.

Ubuntu 8.10 ships with the latest versions of the GNOME desktop environment and Linux kernel (2.24.1, and 2.6.27, respectively). GNOME 2.24 was a fairly minor update, highlighted by the addition of a tabbed browsing feature in the project's Nautilus file manager. From a user perspective, Linux 2.6.27 is significant primarily for its additional driver support, which is outlined here.

Ubuntu 8.10 does not include October's OpenOffice.org 3.0 release, which came out after the feature freeze deadline for the release. However, OpenOffice.org 3.0 is available all packaged up and ready to install through Ubuntu's Personal Packaging Archive service here.

I upgraded from Ubuntu 8.04 to 8.10 on my primary work machine, a Lenovo ThinkPad T60 notebook with 3GB of RAM and an ATI Mobility X1300 graphics adapter, first through the Ubuntu update manager and later (after testing Fedora 10 for a few weeks on that machine) performed a clean install of Ubuntu 8.10.

I was pleased to find that the display errors I'd encountered in Ubuntu 8.04 with the default open-source driver for my X1300 graphics adapter had been resolved in 8.10.

On the clean install that I conducted, I was disappointed to find that the standard LiveCD-based Ubuntu installer continues to lack any option for installing Ubuntu with encrypted partitions. To install Ubuntu in this way-which is vital for notebook systems-I still had to install the system from Ubuntu's alternate install disk.

In my tests with the CD drive-less MSI Wind U100, I installed Ubuntu from a USB stick and was annoyed to find that the installer placed the bootloader on the master boot record or the USB stick, rather than on my system's hard drive. As a result, I had to boot the system with the USB stick inserted and then reinstall the GRUB bootloader from the command line.

eWEEK Labs Executive Editor Jason Brooks can be reached at jbrooks@eweek.com.