Thoughts about linux (ubuntu 8.1) from a new user

After my macbook fried and my xp box got infected beyond repair, I decided to start all over with linux. I’ve never used it before, so here are some initial reactions from a long time computer user, both in windows and mac environments, starting fresh:

  1. It’s the most user-friendly environment I’ve tried. It combines the best of windows and mac in one interface. Open folders and files along the bottom (the tray?) is such a natural thing that I always liked about windows. The intrusive dock is something I’ve always disliked about mac. Everything is crisp, the system fonts are legible, and working in it from a gui standpoint is very satisfying.
  2. I love discovering how it works. At first, it’s annoying to deal with package installations and terminal commands, but after a while you get a feel for how and why they work.  There are strange icons nestled into the various static bars on the top and bottom of the screen (menu bar? task bar? Again, I need to learn the lingo), that do cool stuff when you click them.  For instance, in the lower left is an interesting one, that nicle hides everything on your desktop when clicked. I know os x does this and much more with the f9 f10 f11 keys, can’t think of what they call it at the moment. But all I ever really need regarding windows is a quick way to see my desktop. Each time I find something new in it, I feel a sense of accomplishment (wow I am a geek).
  3. It seems no faster or slower than osx or windows at the moment (maybe a little bit faster, I’m using a dell 4600 with 1.5 gb Ram).
  4. I wish the windows were anti-aliased. Probably a memory saver, but I’d turn it on if I knew how.
  5. It came with some interesting apps. So far, I’ve used gimp (graphics), rythmbox (music management), firefox (web browser), picasa (photo manager), and Kino (video editor). Some thoughts:
    • Gimp sucks. Gimp is such a horrible name for software anyway; it connotes a crippled, inferior entity, which Gimp unfortunately seems to be. I need shape layers, I need precision zooming, and I can’t imagine Gimp has Photoshop’s anti-aliasing prowess (see my previous post), so I’ll do my icon work on my old mac for now. If you don’t have an old mac with photoshop 7 on it to use, then I guess gimp is for you.
    • Rythmbox with built in lastfm is cool, and I’d love to get better at it. Unfortunately, my ipod/iphone centric life would need some hardware adjustments.
    • Firefox is fine, although one of my sites looked weird, maybe due to font issues, which I’ll address in a future post.
    • Picasa is really critical. I have every photo I’ve taken in the last 10 years on the second drive of this machine, and it was all managed via picasa running on xp before I wiped the first drive and installed ubuntu. It seems that picasa won’t recognize the 2nd drive. I briefly checked for answers via google and hit the wall (future post). You would think it would be easy for picasa to pick up where it left off, but no luck yet.
    • Kino imported the .mps files from my camcorder, but made them look weird. Need to investigate.
  6. I miss Georgia, more than anything. Nothing reads like that font. Please, Matthew Carter, if you ever read this, get me some Georgia on Linux.
  7. Using Linux makes you feel free, in general. But Inkscape and Gimp just ain’t Illustrator and Photoshop.
  8. FTP is perfect. I don’t know why OS X doesn’t build it in like linux. FTP programs are pointless when you can just mount a remote server like any disk.