Free, easy to install and backed by a lot of money

"Oh no, another Linux flavour!"
I hear you brothers and sisters, I hear you. I have stopped taking notice of daily announcements from groups of overweight and pale script kiddies who think it would be cool to have a Linux distro with the name of their pet-canary, with themselves as benign demigod reigning over a group of adoring users. Just check out Distrowatch and check out the plethora of crummy distros floating around: there's more Linux out there than you can shake a stick at. Setting up a distro is of course much more than collecting a set of applications, writing an installation script and designing your own logo: you need appropriate support, good community backup and an actual reason to launch another flavour than just to satisfy your l33t hackz0r ego.

Ubuntu is fortunately different: the chap that launched Ubuntu is South African billionaire and Space Shuttle veteran Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Thawte, philanthropist and general all-around good guy. Based on the principle of Ubuntu, an African concept meaning "humanity to others" (read the excellent node by Strawberryfrog on Ubuntu to gain knowledge and brownie points). The principles of Ubuntu Linux are:

  • Every computer user should have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, share, change and improve their software for any purpose, without paying licencing fees.
  • Every computer user should be able to use their software in the language of their choice.
  • Every computer user should be given every opportunity to use software, even if they work under a disability.

Distributed by Canonical Ltd, you can get a CD of the latest Ubuntu release for free, sent to your home anywhere in the world. Based on the unstable version of Debian, the lovely named "Sid", Ubuntu gives you plenty of applications on one CD including a nice and clean Gnome desktop. Shuttleworth made sure to hire some of the best codeheads in the business to work on the distribution, so the installer is absolutely painfree and takes literally only minutes. After the initial copying of data to the HD, the distro updates itself and off you go. The desktop is quite tastefully set up in earthy pastel colours and the control panels are extremely easy to use, even for a Linux eejit like me. Main apps included are the Open Office suite, Firefox, the impressive mail, calendar and adress book app Evolution and plenty of other, easy to use tools.

As the software distributed under Ubuntu is free and open, proprietary software like Flash or Realplayer is not included, but I found adding these easy via the terminal window. After trying only KDE based distros like Suse, Mepis and Knoppix, I was impressed by Gnome's simplicity and well designed GUI. Ubuntu was the first distro I tried that didn't need any tweaking after installation, and I was able to give my girlfriend the machine 10 minutes after the final installion step, which was entering the SMTP and POP adresses. Since then she (a Windows-only user of 10 years) has embraced the OS wholeheartedly and is delighted with performance, ease of use and stability. The current Ubuntu release supports Intel x86 (IBM-compatible PC), AMD 64 (Hammer) and PowerPC (Apple iBook and Powerbook, G4 and G5) architectures.

Mark Shuttleworth and his merry band of geeks have certainly done a great job: a well layed out, stable and easy to install OS that listens to it's users via the Ubuntu Wiki and an extremely active mailinglist, it has been running in my household on two machines now and so far hasn't shown the merest glitch.

In my first opinion, this is the first Linux that can make it onto the Desktop.

And stay there.