Ubuntu 9.10 offers the kind of efficient operating system that should, in theory, give Microsoft a run for its money with Windows 7. That won’t happen, of course, but given the relative ease of use of Ubuntu as a Linux variant, it surely deserves wider exposure than it currently enjoys.
We opted for a full install rather than testing a live CD, and thus instructed our PC to boot from our optical drive, where our Ubuntu disc was ready to go. The installation routine then, as is increasingly the case with many Linux distributions, was happy to shoulder the bulk of the work without troubling us too much, although it certainly lacks the gloss of a Windows installer.
That said, it covers the necessary basics. It can deal with partitioning a hard drive if you’re looking to dual-boot operating systems, and it takes you through setting up a user account and password should you so desire.
It also does a terrific job of auto-detecting hardware. Linux has been strong at this for some time, with both our wired and wireless network connections a breeze to get going. What’s particularly interesting is that we plugged in quite an old Creative MP3 player, that requires the download of proprietary software to get working on Windows XP, and it was accessible with no trouble whatsoever. Ubuntu also detected a Blu-ray disc that we’d left in our other drive, although there was never any chance of it reading it.
Most things Ubuntu can handle from the off, although DVD and WAV file playback weren’t on the list. To be fair, in the case of the latter we were offered the option to search for necessary plug-ins, and this was then a simple matter to choose and download the required software. Ubuntu then seamlessly integrated it and we were good to go.
That’s an indication of how Linux works, though. Ubuntu comes with an abundance of software – including OpenOffice 3.1 – that means it’s effectively a workstation straight out of the box, and if you need something else, you just head for the in-built repository and choose what you need from a broad range. Ubuntu, once more, then does the rest.
This particular release of Ubuntu has also been designed with netbooks in mind, although it’s the Desktop edition we’ve been looking at here. But it certainly accounts for the slightly faster and generally lighter feel of the operating system as a whole.
For this version of Ubuntu manages to retain the usability and polish of the main operating system, but makes some performance economies as it does so. It’s still, perhaps, not the choice for the more experienced Linux user, but there’s little arguing with the effectiveness and efficiency of Ubuntu, nor with its comparable simplicity. Version 9.10 keeps that ethos going loud and proud, and even though Microsoft will be dominating the operating system headlines, Ubuntu really does deserve a chance.