About two months ago, I decided it was time to revisit Linux in general after sitting down and reading through some of the new features offered by XGL with Compiz or Beryl. I installed Ubuntu 6.10 on a spare laptop late in march upgrading to 7.04 shortly after that, and I have been using it as one of my primary workstations since. In case some of you may not know, I recently found out myself, the decimal number following the Ubuntu version, denotes the month it was released: 7.04 refers to version 7 released in April. Linux has definitely come a long way since I last used it in 2004, at least in terms of being a feasible desktop operating system for the masses.

A little personal history

I am a fairly new Mac convert; I made my switch about a year and a half ago after being exposed to OS X at work. I have always been a *nix fan, but I think my decision to switch was largely influenced by the clean and elegant User Interface offered by OS X combined with the power of having a console at my disposal. Up until recently, the Linux User Interface has been behind the curve, and is my main reason for staying away. Sure, you could install different window managers and use different themes, but I found that for the most part they were all a bit quirky. Maybe I didn’t install them right or take the time to really figure them out. That in itself is a another problem of Linux and why it has not hit the mainstream yet: the command line better be your friend if you want to take full advantage of the system.

Ubuntu 7.04 - First glance

This new release of Ubuntu seems to take Linux one step closer to being in the mainstream and I have faith that it will soon be there. Installing Ubuntu was a cinch as usual, but setting it up was even easier. Before this, my previous experience with Ubuntu 5.04 was somewhat painstaking, especially when trying to set up my wireless card. Of course it wasn’t impossible and it took some reading and time to get the job done, but I have worked with computers for many years now. I hardly doubt nor do I expect the average use to be able to do this. Heck, most of the documentation and tutorials are online, so the process assumes you have a second machine available to figure things out.

XGL and Beryl

Other than the easier setup, I am amazed with what XGL and Beryl have to offer as a window manager. It really makes Linux, for me at least, a much more enjoyable experience. I have always been a fan of tweaking the environment I work in because heck, if I am going to stare at a computer all day, I might as well enjoy what I look at. Beryl certainly does that for me, and although some of it may be purely eye candy such as the rotating cube, I still enjoy it. So for now, Linux, namely Ubuntu, feels almost complete to me. The next thing I hope to see are more polished applications as there are for the Mac.

Still Lacking

As a PHP Developer, Scream, and PHPedit just don’t cut it, so I resort to Zend Studio which is a complete IDE rather than being a powerful text editor as my previous examples, and while I prefer the IDE, it would be nice to have a selection to choose from. This is only one example of Linux and what I feel is its lack of good user applications, but there are more. To clarify, I mean to say that Linux needs to focus more on the general user rather than on the computer savvy. I believe, the next few iterations of Ubuntu will fix this; I understand fully well that Ubuntu is only one distribution of Linux, but I believe that it is the furthest along to providing the ease of use consumers need. Hopefully, Linux application developers will pick up on to the needs of consumers and provide the necessary experience to make Linux a real desktop competitor.