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Ubuntu 8.04 / Xubuntu 8.04 - Probably the best Linux distributions yet

Yesterday saw the release of the latest version of Ubuntu, version 8.04.

I've been eagerly waiting for this new version as I'd been playing with the beta versions. I downloaded and installed this version straight away. Download speeds were a little slow, due to the large number of users trying to download at the same time. A sign of how popular this download was.

If this is a sign of things to come for Linux then I think we have an exciting time in front of us. It seams well polished and installed a treat even on laptops which have caused problems with other operating systems.

Install from Live CD for Ubuntu and Xubuntu

I have tried 3 different versions on very different hardware. Xubuntu on an old IBM Thinkpad T22 with a Belkin PCMCIA (PC-Card) wireless network card, Ubuntu (i386) on a (fairly old) Dell Inspiron laptop and a Ubuntu (AMD 64 bit edition) on a fairly new HP AMD 64 based Entertainment DV6200 (dv6285eu) laptop.
The installation process worked well on all of these. They all booted directly into the Live CD so the install could be done from a running operating system. There was a slight problem with Xubuntu installing from the Live CD due to a problem reading the CD, but when rebooted into install mode it worked fine.

The HP laptop includes a Nvidia graphics card, which was installed and worked fine. Although there may be some criticism from some people about the use of proprietary drivers from Nvidia I think this is a real positive step forward. It's removed the problem that existed before where the graphics did not load on some computers.

Ubuntu / Xubuntu and Wireless Networking

Wireless networking worked straight after the install on the IBM Thinkpad with the Belkin Wireless card. It took a little more work on the others, but not much.
For the others both had a built-in Wireless card based on the broadcom chipset. For the Dell laptop this is in the form of a mini-PCI card inserted into the laptop (bought as an optional extra). At first the wireless network did not work due to the lack of firmware drivers. This was easily remedied by connecting the laptop to the Internet (using the ethernet port), and performing a software refresh (after selecting all the online sources from the Sources option on the menu). Then launching the Hardware Driver (proprietary hardware manager) panel prompted for the install of the wireless drivers. This downloaded the firmware from the Internet and then worked a treat.

Although this seams to go against having a wireless card in the first place most people should be able to connect to a non-wireless network initially whilst installing. Also it's unfair to put this as a criticism of Ubuntu as this is really due to broadcom refusing to release the specs of the hardware and not creating linux drivers. As a result the proprietary firmware that had to be loaded.
I'm not sure whether the problem I had with ndiswrapper not working on Ubuntu beta version has been fixed as I did not need to load that. Everything else works so well that I'm fairly confident that most issues were ironed out during the testing.

Even works where Windows XP does not

The HP laptop that I have will not run Windows XP. See: HP laptop dv6200 doesn’t support Windows XP, as there is a lack of drivers that make it usable. It will however run Ubuntu 8.04 (aka Ubuntu Hardy Heron). Even more, whilst the laptop ships with the 32bit version of Windows Vista, it installs with the 64bit of Linux for free, and runs much, much, much faster.

Ubuntu Vs. Xbuntu

All in all I'm very impressed with Ubuntu so far, but I've not really had too much opportunity to stretch it too far. I've also not been able to test the new multiple screen handling which I'm looking forward to trying. My suggestion to everyone is to give Ubuntu or Xubuntu a try and see what you think, as so far it's very impressive.
I just need an alternative to Adobe Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements (or just a better user interface to the GIMP), and I need hardly ever boot Windows again.

If you have an old machine with 512MB of memory or less then give Xubuntu a try, which is far less taxing on the hardware. If you have more recent version then Ubuntu, or Kubuntu will fit the bill.