Also good for web design, web hosting, e-mail serving, non-silverlight based stream movie viewing, chatting, video conferencing, presentations, switch programming/debugging, and so forth. If only it had Direct X. Of course, mac doesn't offer Direct X either.
For years now, I've been tinkering with dozens of Linux distros trying to find the perfect match for my free OS needs. Admittedly, I have had neither the patience nor the skill to use solely Linux and have always used Mac or Windows as my "main" OS.
The newest distro of Ubuntu, cleverly named "Lucid Lynx," is quite a few steps closer to becoming a true replacement for the big guns, and I was pretty impressed in the time I spent with it.
Lucid Lynx installed on my first gen MacBook without a hitch. Aside from a few boot lockups, it worked perfectly. Unlike other distros I have tested in the past, I was able to instantly detect and set up my WiFi connection and download all appropriate updates immediately, without the need to tinker with network settings.
Even on an outdated machine, Ubuntu 10.04 ran quite smoothly for me - and booting was fast. Really fast. 10-20 seconds was about all it took, if not less. When you're used to the ultra-slow Mac OS X bootup time or Windows, this lynx seems as fast as a bullet train in comparison.
Applications load quickly, and the OS is loaded with convenience-oriented features and shortcuts. My favorite is Command-W (on a Mac machine) which opens an Expose-like view of all open application windows. Nice!
In my opinion, this is one of the areas where Ubuntu really took a giant leap forward from pervious versions. The new theme featured in Lucid Lynx, called "Ambience," features elegantly textured windows, beveled Apple-like window controls, and slick visual effects. This is the closest I've ever seen a desktop OS come to the beauty of Mac OS X, and I love it. Note that I am biased, as I tend to prefer "darker" themes - so if that's your thing, you'll love Ambience.
Of course, you can change the theme to something more "standard" if you wish.
This version of Ubuntu comes out of the box with pretty much anything any normal computer user would want to use as a basic setup: an email client, Firefox, FileZilla, music and video players, OpenOffice, a BitTorrent client, and the list goes on. This means that without even entering the software installation interface, you're ready to go almost instantly.
Installing Additional Software
Thankfully, Lucid Lynx makes it really easy to install new apps through the Ubuntu Software Center. Even first-time users are bound to feel comfortable with the way it's presented here, and applications (and their dependencies) can be installed easily and automatically. The file repositories are also automatically included - something n00bs might not be familiar with adding if they weren't.
Canonical's answer to Dropbox, Ubuntu One is an integrated synchronization and online cloud backup tool. 2GB accounts are free, with an upgrade to 50GB available for $10 a month (a very reasonable fee.) It integrates with the file system just like another drive on your desktop, as well as synchronizing bookmarks and other data automatically.
Lucid Lynx also incorporates Gwibber, a multi-client social networking tool, which allows you to post to Facebook, Twitter, and other networks as well as IM through one application. It's integrated in the status bar and is a super slick way for Ubuntu users to stay connected while using the OS. The client has some usability and polishing issues, but overall it does the job, and is a great effort on their part to make the OS social networking friendly.
Honestly, I didn't have very many. For *free* Ubuntu performs majestically, includes everything for basic use right out of the box, looks beautiful, and runs fast - even on older machines. Integrated social networking features and Ubuntu One cloud storage (also free) is the open source cherry on top.
I did have some issues with my MacBook, like freeze-ups on boot, occasional graphic garblings, and an inability to adjust display brightness via either software or hardware. I'm not surprised since it is Mac hardware, and am assuming that other machines would be better supported by Lucid Lynx - but it seems a grave oversight due the multitude of Mac users out there.
Overall, I'm extremely impressed with the newest version of Ubuntu. Do I think Linux is ready to replace Windows and Mac? No. The issue is that there are still so many applications (and games) that Linux won't support, and most users won't know what to do if there's a problem with their Ubuntu setup should one arise.
However, Lucid Lynx is a huge improvement over past versions and would be ideal for anyone looking to build an extremely functional, fast, stable, low-cost desktop machine for Internet browsing, document creation, social networking and other basic functions.
As long as they're not afraid of opening a Terminal window from time to time, or living without their favorite Windows or Mac app, that is...
Fueled by obscene amounts of coffee and a love for all things 8-bit and shiny, Pete wants to share his experiences with you. He'll try not to twitch and fidget too much, so as to not distract you from sharing his Apple vs. PC thoughts and comparisons, wistful yearning for a return to classic gaming, and focused spout-offs inspired by a life circling around computers, video games, and gadgets.
Meh, if I didn't know any better; I would have thought you just copied and pasted the pros of Ubuntu onto this page.