Ubuntu – All other versions of LINUX aspire to be this successful

Ubuntu is the LINUX distribution that divides opinion the most.

Ubuntu is innovative, forward thinking and the most likely LINUX distribution to have any hope of taking on Windows, MacOS and ChromeOS on the desktop. Ubuntu also has aspirations of taking on the mobile and tablet market dominated by Apple and Google.

So many other distributions are derived from UBUNTU including the distribution that is competing for the honour of top dog in the LINUX world, MINT.

Ask most people in the LINUX world which distribution they would recommend to people who are thinking of trying LINUX and UBUNTU would be the first word out of their mouths.

Ubuntu was the reason I started using LINUX full time and was the first distribution I felt comfortable enough with to ditch Windows at home forever. I would think a lot of the people who read this post will say the same thing.

I have said all this yet Ubuntu is criticised in equal measures. I think one reason for this is that they are deemed not to listen to their users. An example of this is the Unity interface. It flies in the face of everything the Ubuntu user base was wanting but Canonical continued on anyway. Now Unity divides opinion as much as Ubuntu itself.

This is a review of Ubuntu 12.04. I have downloaded it and installed it onto the Samsung R20 laptop.

The above is a screenshot of Ubuntu 12.04. I have changed the wallpaper to one of the stock wallpapers available.

Two things to notice here. The first is the block of icons down the left hand side and the second is the task bar at the top.

The one thing you will realise as you run Ubuntu is that it has a heavy use of icons. For me this is no surprise as the world has become accustomed to little blocks of icons. It is a symbol of the iPod generation. Every tablet and smart phone uses icons to symbolise applications. Menus are a thing of the past.

Before we worry too much about the desktop and look and feel lets start with the important stuff.

The first thing I do when I install a new operating system is to connect to the internet. So how well does Ubuntu do this? Well it is a breeze. Ubuntu has become so popular because it does just work and love it or loathe it you can’t argue with it’s completeness or its ease of use.

Clicking on the wireless network icon near the clock in the top right hand corner brings up a menu that shows both my Orange livebox and my Three mobile broadband. I was able to connect to both just by entering the security keys.

The browser installed by default is Firefox which isn’t my favourite. Installing a different browser is as simple as going to the software centre and searching for the required one. (In my case Chromium).

The next thing I like to do is to test whether Flash is installed or not. Now I know from experience that to get Flash, Java and all the MP3s etc working I need to install Ubuntu Restricted Extras. I find it annoying that I still need to go to the software centre to do this. I think this is a problem for new users as there is no indication that this needs to be done and if you read forums, quite often the forum posts direct you to the command line which is a new user’s nightmare especially if they are used to Windows and have never used a DOS window in their life. Maybe they could place the Ubuntu Restricted Extras in a more obvious place or show a message the first time you run Ubuntu asking if you want to install it.

To run the software centre click the appropriate icon on the left hand side.

One thing you will notice when you click applications is that they open to the right of the icon bar. This loses a bit of real estate when it comes to screen space.

The Ubuntu Software Centre is a great tool for searching for both free and paid for applications. It is very comparable to the Android Market Place. The software centre is very slick and it is easy to find the application you are looking for.

Having installed the restricted extras you can now watch videos on Google or run Rhythmbox to listen to your favourite MP3s.

The icon bar on the left can be amended to include other applications but by default has the following options.

1. Home (This is like the Windows start button)
2. Files and Folders
3. Firefox Web Browser
4. LibreOffice Writer
5. LibreOffice Calc
6. LibreOffice Impress
7. Ubuntu Software Centre
8. Ubuntu One
9. System Settings
10. Workspace Switcher
11. Rubbish Bin

If you install a new application it tends to pin itself automatically to the icon bar. You can remove it from the icon bar by right clicking the icon and then selecting unlock from toolbar.

Ubuntu comes with a premium set of software installed as standard including the LibreOffice suite, Rhythmbox for audio, Thunderbird for email,  Shotwell photo manager and Brasero for CD/DVD burning.

To access applications that aren’t in the icon bar click the home icon

This is probably the bit that takes some getting used to but once you do it is actually very intuitive.

The unity interface is a modern take on a tabbed window. If you look at the bottom of the screen there are five icons which are virtual tabs.

  1. Home
  2. Applications
  3. Files
  4. Music
  5. Movies

The five icons determine the main block of icons that appear. The Home icon will show you a list of all the recent applications and files that you have viewed.

If you click the applications icon a new window appears showing recently used applications, installed applications and applications available for download.

Obviously you can’t see every application that is installed on this one display. To expand the list of installed icons click the link next to the text “Installed” which says “see all n results” where n is the number of applications installed.

The applications available for download appear to be a random selection.

Now if you choose to view 81 installed applications the view can get quite cluttered. To get around this there is a filter menu in the top right hand corner which enables you to filter the categories you see.

You can select just one category or a selection of multiple categories. You can also filter by rating and software sources.

If you still can’t find what you are looking for there is a search bar at the top and it works very well. Just start typing and the application you need is sure to appear.

One thing you will notice as you open applications is that they add themselves to the icon bar. If you try and open another version of the same application by left clicking on the icon then you are taken to the application that is already open. For example open the text editor and then try and open another one by clicking the text editor icon and you will just be shown the original editor. To open a second version of the application you have to right click on the icon and select to open a new window.

If you have multiple windows open for an application and you click the icon for that application in the icon bar then a nice little screen effect shows both windows or all windows (if more than 2 are open) and you can select the window you want to open.

If you don’t like the order of the icons in the list then you can drag them around to put them in the order you want them to be in. If you want an application to constantly pin itself to the icon bar find it by clicking the home icon and searching for the application and then right click the icon and drag it to the icon bar.

Recently I have reviewed Zorin 6 and I think that Zorin 6 is a great distribution for Windows users who want to move across to LINUX as the look and feel is the same.

Ubuntu is great for new users for a different reason. It really is easy to use. It looks great and the performance is very good. I trust Ubuntu like no other distribution. It is the operating system that you can depend on to just work.

Unity clearly divides opinion and some people clearly hate it but I’m not sure what the fuss is about. It works very well. It might not be as customisable as other desktop environments (For instance it is not possible to move the bar from the left hand side, however you can resize the icons) but you can get very familiar with it in no time at all.

If you are still using Windows and you are unsure whether Ubuntu is a good fit then I really would recommend giving it a go. You can run Ubuntu as a live CD without affecting your Windows install or run it alongside Windows.

What are your views on Ubuntu? Is it still number one? Thanks for reading.


Download Ubuntu 12.04
How to install Ubuntu

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  1. I hated Unity when it first came out. Now I find it's not so bad. That's partly because Unity has improved in the last couple of Ubuntu versions and partly because GNOME shell is horrible for anyone who wants to use a keyboard and mouse to navigate or wants to switch between multiple windows easily.

    I see Unity as an honest attempt to address the deficiencies of GNOME 3 (Mint's work with MGSE and then Cinnamon are another), and it is much better than the default GNOME 3 interface.

    By the way, you can install ubuntu-restricted-extras during installation; it's just not clearly labeled. If I recall correctly, the installer asks you if you want to download certain proprietary software and codecs during installation, or some such wording. Unless, that is, a slightly different installer ships to UK users.

  2. Ubuntu – All other versions of LINUX aspire to be this successful

    No they don't. Nor should they. Just because Mr Shuttleworth wants to be the next Steve Jobs, doesn't mean others feel the same.
    Many distros seek to occupy their little niche and are happy to remain there. There is nothing wrong with this.

    One of the reasons why Linux is such a breath of fresh air is its lack of Corporate branding, lack of patronising names, lack of decisions made for you and Ubuntu are reversing all of this. Linux does not need to be dumbed down. Part of the reason it has done so well is that is has steadfastly refused to dumb down and Ubuntu seem to be going down the road of "everyone must walk at the pace of the slowest".

    Not for me.

    Give thanks for Slackware

  3. Yes, KR Smith, you're right about installing ubuntu-restricted-extras during installation, and it is the same in the UK.

    Also, instead of right-clicking an application icon to open another instance, you can just shift-click or middle-click it just like in Windows 7.

  4. @Anonymous: "One of the reasons why Linux is such a breath of fresh air is its lack of Corporate branding, lack of patronising names, lack of decisions made for you and Ubuntu are reversing all of this."

    No Ubuntu is not reversing any of this at all in any sense. The existence of Ubuntu doesn't preclude the existence of others. Slackware is simply not useful for a lot (a lot) of people, and Ubuntu is there to solve that. It's not destroying Slackware at all (that simply can't happen).

    I agree though that not all other versions of Linux aspire to be as succesful as Ubuntu. But many certainly do.

    • No Ubuntu is not reversing any of this at all in any sense.

      The Ubuntu logo is all over the place in their products – this is corporate branding.

      Ubuntu chooses stupid names for each release (many distros do, they're all absurd).

      Ubuntu makes many decisions for its users, many of which they discourage you to go against – this is "making decisions for you".

      You are simply wrong to deny this.

      Ubuntu is there to solve that. It's not destroying Slackware at all (that simply can't happen).
      I agree. though quite why you said this is beyond me. I did not say, or allude to, or imply that Ubuntu was "here to destroy slackware". What I said was "Ubuntu is trying to provide an OSX/Windows like Linux equivalent" and that this was missing the point about Linux, by trying to turn it from what it is, an OS that gives the user total freedom, into a locked down, we know better than you, Corporate style OS.

      I agree though that not all other versions of Linux aspire to be as successful as Ubuntu. But many certainly do.

      RedHat doesn't. OpenSuSE doesn't. In fact Linux Mint is the only that does and that came into existence because of Canonical's stupid decisions regarding Ubuntu.

      How useless do you have to be as a company, to mess up your own product so badly that a rival starts up offering a product that is yours prior to the mess, and yet the first company, instead of realising what this says about them, go on to enforce even more stupid decisions?

      Canonical are worse than Apple and Microsoft. They never claimed to be open, free and community oriented, they just went for the money straight away. Ubuntu claimed to something different and have turned into just another deaf, blind staffed by idiots, Corporate nonentity. How long before you can have the cut back, driver free, restricted extras free Ubuntu, for free, but must pay to get the rest?

  5. "The one thing you will realise as you run Ubuntu is that it has a heavy use of icons. For me this is no surprise as the world has become accustomed to little blocks of icons. It is a symbol of the iPod generation. Every tablet and smart phone uses icons to symbolise applications. Menus are a thing of the past."

    I just stopped there. This is one of the most stupid paragraphs I have ever read. Icons have been with desktop computing for around 30 years. They have been there along with menus, which are exactly the same today, including Ubuntu 12.04 itself (and Windows, and OS X).

    Launchers such as Ubuntu's are mimicking the OS X dock (pre-ipod) or the Windows taskbar. They have NOTHING to do with the ipod. Of course you've heard Unity "is a tablet interface" somewhere and are just repeating that idiotic meme. Unity is a keyboard and mouse interface. It's probably the most keyboard friendly interface out there.

    Maybe you're talking about the list of applications on a start menu. That's the only menu that has been ditched here, but it hasn't been replaced by "an ipod-like interface", as you are trying to suggest, but by a launcher and a search bar with filters (called lenses and scopes).

    You might consider going back to coding. Blogging is definitely not your forte.

    • you say, ask anybody what they recommend an they will say ubuntu, You have got to be joking, ubuntu is not on my top 10 list, Why is ubuntu so well know? Money advertising and publicity from idiot writers such as you can't stop shouting about it. Ubuntu is all you know when it comes to Linux distributions, I discourage anybody that says they are going to try Ubuntu, I give them the full List of don't use ubuntu because of.

      You gave Zorin a brief mention well that puts ubuntu in the shade, it works out of the box and for it ease of use, Ultimate Edition is far better than ubuntu everything works out of the box, with it's 3D animated graphics desktops,

      At the end of the day it's only your opinion nobody else's, your writing an article trying to convince others you believe, this is better than that. when it is far from the truth,

    • you really think zorin which 99.99% ubuntu plus a windows7 makeup a better solution? strange how dumb users like you are comfortable under the shade of windows7 wannabe ubuntu derivative like mint or zorin while lambasting ubuntu,really you think you escaped ubuntu that way ? stupid!

  6. I think some people are just taking the author wrong. I have tried a lot of distros before settling on Zorin, an Ubuntu derivative and Lubuntu, lightweight Ubuntu. It really has the best installer, and most everything works right out of the box. If there is going to be a new contender, I think it will still be Debian based. I tried SolusOS and it seems a great OS. It is professional looking and has Mints ease of use. I have tried Xandros, PC Linux, Puppy and it's derivatives, AntiX, Mint and Vector. None are as easy to start with as any Ubuntu or Ubuntu derivative. The next best is still Debian, at least for new people to Linux OS's. It is not other distros are not good, they just will not win over Microsoft users right away.

  7. Ubuntu Restricted Extras can be installed along with OS install, there is a check mark which is by default not checked to install Ristricted software.

    If you check that box while installing, installable will install it along with OS.

  8. The only positive thing i read that came out of this article is the author uses and is a supporter of ubuntu. Therefore comes across as being biased in my view of the article. Not mentioning the list of other great linux distro's a windows user can try. Sorry the first word out of my mouth is not ubuntu to a windows user.

  9. Its "Ubuntu", "Linux", and "Mint", not "UBUNTU", "LINUX" and "MINT". They aren't acronyms. It reminds me of when I see people write "MAC" when they mean "Mac".

    And the statement that all other "versions" of Linux aspire to be as successful as Ubuntu is just asinine. It isn't always a popularity contest.

  10. Whilst the title of the article is a bit provocative especially to those who maybe do not like Ubuntu this article was written to review the features of Ubuntu and the Unity interface.

    The title of the article is "Ubuntu – all other versions of linux aspire to be this successful". This does not equate to Ubuntu being the best. With so many derivatives however spawning from Ubuntu and being consistently top of the distrowatch download list must be something that other distros would like to achieve.

    With regards to reviewing distributions I tend to take a positive view. If people are spending their time putting effort into providing great operating systems and software, I think it is good to state all the positive aspects. Of course if I come across an issue I will point it out but in general I think it would be discourteous to slate the developers, testers and all the other people who work hard to produce these products that we take for granted.

    Is this article bias towards Ubuntu? Yes, for sure. It is an article about Ubuntu. I have written a number of reviews about other Linux distributions including various versions of Puppy, Zorin and Peppermint. Feel free to read them by following the links on the right hand side.

  11. I installed Ubuntu 11.10 when I first got started with Linux, and I've uninstalled it, reinstalled it, uninstalled it again, and so on. I've tried Unity, don't like it, and I've moved on. HOWEVER, despite all that, I believe Ubuntu has made a fantastic contribution to the Linux world in one very important way. It's easy to install. In fact, after six months now of looking at other distributions, I can attest to the fact that only Ubuntu and its derivative distributions have an installer a novice can use without having to wade too deeply in the hard drive partitioning waters. I've seen some that come close (openSUSE and Fedora, for example), but even they can quickly become too technical for the user who just wants the system to install itself so he can get on with USING the computer. For the folks who take pride in their technical expertise and skills, there are plenty of options out there (and they can even demonstrate them to their heart's content with Ubuntu), but the secret to getting more people to use Linux is making it super-simple to install. Most users don't care how it works, why it works or how wonderful the coding may be. It doesn't matter how good your mousetrap is if the user is intimidated by its installation process.

  12. "If you are still using Windows and you are unsure whether Ubuntu is a good fit then I really would recommend giving it a go. You can run Ubuntu as a live CD without affecting your Windows install or run it alongside Windows."

    Ubuntu can also be installed as a program within Windows (via wubi) or run from a USB stick (much faster than a CD / optical drive). In fact, if Ubuntu is installed to USB with persistence then one can save settings and additionally installed software. My preferred way of doing this is with Universal USB Installer (Windows app from pendrivelinux – http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3/ ). This choice now supports the latest Ubuntu v12.04.1 and it derivatives.

    I too use Windows at work and Ubuntu 12.04.x at home. I recently found "Drawers" which enables me to somewhat mirror my typical Windows setup of hiding desktop icons while using the "Desktop" menu from the task bar. I really like this adaptation of Unity's Launcher as it's a blend of menu driven and category related options with additional right click functionality. I also like creating my own icons which personalizes my Ubuntu install.

    iloveubuntu provides install and use info:


    Please note that they instruct you to restart your computer in error. Drawers only needs one to log out and back in (I believe that the terminal command "unity –reset" without quotations will also work).

    You titled can be construed as provocative, but that has already been address well, particularly by Anon. It seems much of the Unity hate has subsided. My outlook since 11.04 was that Shuttleworth is bringing forth functionality with great opportunity for innovation. Thank you for a well written article.

  13. Anything that's 'new' takes getting used to. Ubuntu has already fixed up Unity in 12.04, and by the way have you 12.10 yet. If anything it's even better..
    Naysayers are everywhere so don't pay to attention to them. You writing is fine as is your choices. I might add the toughest part of what your doing here is opening up yourself to criticism. I'd like to see some the above 'critics' do what your doing…

    • Thanks for the comment. One thing I've learned in the short term I have been blogging and that is to take negative comments with a pinch of salt. What is good by one person is nonsense to another. The point of this blog is to provide as much information as I can to people about everyday uses of Linux as an operating system. For me everyday use is connecting to the internet, chatting, listening to music, watching video content, office work, maybe a bit of graphics editing, a small amount of development and of course my favourite… playing games. If just one person gets something new out of reading this blog then I have succeeded in my aim. There is no money made out of this blog, no advertising, no selling of any kind. By writing this blog I am learning new things myself everyday and that is what I get out of doing this.

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