Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon and Linux on the Desktop

I’ve been using Ubuntu Feisty and waiting to get Gutsy when the release comes out. However my curiosity got the better of me and I could not resist upgrading from the beta repositories. The first thing I noticed after upgrade was the amount of polish and attention to detail. Everything looks slick (thanks to Compiz).

Instructions to upgrade from feisty.

Compiz Fusion

After trying one of the earlier versions of Compiz and then Beryl, I came away quite unimpressed. It looked like eye-candy for the sake of eye-candy. “Wobbly Windows” was touted as an exciting feature. I did not want to burn CPU cycles for something as worthless as that!

Come Gutsy, come Compiz Fusion and its legion of plugins, the true potential of XGL has come out. The “Wall plugin” is better than “Desktop Cube” IMHO because it gives a better sense of spatial arrangement of the windows. This coupled with the “expo” plugin is plain brilliant.

Another effect I found useful was the ability to group windows. I am working on a website and have three windows open (HTML Editor (Screem), GVim for editing a cgi and firefox for preview). These windows belong to one logical group. So I grouped them using the “expo” plugin and marked them as “Tabbed windows” and voila – Super+Tab key now flips through the group back-to-back, very much like the ‘i’ button on a MacOS X Dashboard widget to edit the widget details. This is a great way to reduce window clutter.

“Negative” plugin helps to invert colors of a window which makes reading syntax colored text files sometimes. “Annotate” plugin lets you write on the screen, perfect for product demonstration.

If you are a fan of iPhone’s / iTunes’ “CoverFlow”, then the “Shift Switcher” plugin is your friend.

Compiz Fusion screenshots


Where is the freaking printer?

I have a bad bad memory. I tend to forget things [period]! I just cannot remember the ip of the damned network printer at work and usually have to hunt the Admin down for it. Having heard about improved printer support, I fired up the printer config and asked Ubuntu to find all the printers on the network and bang pops up a list of found printers. This is great and if you are like me, you will love it. I agree this is a small thing but attention to detail is always good.

No more jumping through hoops to play videos

Many a person I had recommended Ubuntu to, came back disappointed because videos would not play. What is the point of an operating system if the videos don’t play?, I get asked. Hmmm…. It was not Ubuntu’s fault that the video did not play. The codecs to play “MPEG4″ videos have to be licensed and that is why Ubuntu cannot ship them. People have been using a nifty app called Automatix to get the codecs. In Gutsy even this is not necessary. Click on the video – Totem opens – finds codecs – asks you – you say yes – downloads – installs – play!

Is linux ready for the desktop then?

The answer to this depends on who you are. Linux (through Ubuntu) is great for me. I don’t have a Windows machine at home. But if you want to use Photoshop, play the latest games, Linux is not there yet. But …. It sure is getting there very fast. Dell’s offering of Ubuntu pre-installed computers is heaven-sent for Linux. Finally hardware vendors are paying attention. This means that the road to mainstream adoption is open and that hardware support will continue to improve fast.

The “Linux Driver Project” is a great idea. Basically companies interested in getting drivers written for their hardware put in a request and Linux developers contribute their time for writing them. One of the biggest problems Linux has been facing is hardware support. If this initiative works out Linux hardware support will at least rival Windows if not surpass it. The Linux driver project has the official backing of Novell now.

Most of the computer users know Linux as a hard-to-use, geeky operating system. This image is changing thanks to recent advances in Desktop Linux. Recently New York Times featured Dell/Ubuntu combination on it’s front page helping to drive this image to more minds.

As the hardware prices fall, the cost of the operating system (say Windows) begins to stand out more and people will start wondering why they have to pay so much. Linux is free and the equation changes. This coupled with the disappointment of Windows users over Vista will help drive more users towards Desktop Linux.

I am looking forward to the exciting times ahead.

Try Ubuntu now

If you are a Windows user and are frustrated about it’s limitations, give Ubuntu Linux a try. Ubuntu has a service called “ShipIt” through which you can request a free copy of Ubuntu Linux. Just pop the cd and reboot. Ubuntu will boot right from the CD without installation. If you like it, you can safely install it beside your existing Windows installation.

While you wait for the CD to arrive, you can check out this excellent collection of screencasts about Ubuntu.

5 Trackbacks

  1. [...] * Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon and Linux on the Desktop – Prashanth Ellina talks about his experience of upgrading from Feisty to Gutsy beta, commenting that “the first thing [he] noticed after upgrade was the amount of polish and attention to detail.” The ability to group windows with Compiz Fusion allowed him to greatly reduce window clutter. Easy installation of codecs mitigates the problem of playing videos for new Ubuntu users. Prashanth says with hardware prices dropping, the cost of software will stand out, and coupled with the disappointment with Vista, users will be driven to Linux. http://blog.prashanthellina.com/2007/10/06/ubuntu-gutsy-gibbon-and-linux-on-the-desktop/ [...]

  2. [...] The black theme is the same used by Ubuntu studio. Apart from looking great, it might just save a few more watts! I used Compiz’s “Negative” effect to make the terminal’s title bar blend in with the body of the window (Super + N) is the shortcut when focus is in the terminal window). To learn more about other Compiz effects go here. [...]

  3. [...] here for [...]

  4. [...] version Gutsy Gibbon d’Ubuntu et Linux dans un environnement de bureau. Prashanth Ellina décrit son [...]

  5. [...] read more | digg story [...]


  1. I think Gutsy is a good step forward, but not “the big answer” just yet.

    The latest upstream changes to XORG didn’t make it in. Video setup is still screwball. I’m running a laptop with Intel945 video and the new “Screens And Graphics” tool ain’t ready for prime time. It’s improving – in Alpha4/5 it was brain-dead and producing “broke xorg.conf setups”. It seems OK with single screen now but it can’t do multiple – it can’t reliably isolate which screen is internal and when I did jigger it to get a desktop extended across two screens, it couldn’t get the laptop screen res to 1280×800 (stuck on 1024×768). The new “experimental intel” driver is junk and the old i810 has issues.

    That screen layout/config tool, and ending the need to edit xorg.conf, is *important*.

    Posted October 6, 2007 at 10:42 pm | Permalink
  2. I did have an issue with multiple monitors too. But I am not too worried about this. When Network Manager came out first, it was not stable. But now it is great. I expect “Hardy” to iron out remaining issues with “Screens and Graphics”. What is important is that progress is being made.

    Posted October 6, 2007 at 11:41 pm | Permalink
  3. ThinkpadUser

    On the hardware support front, the developers made an interesting choice in switching to the brand new SLUB allocator in the latest kernel. Since this is a new kernel feature and hasn’t had quite all the bugs worked out yet, this seems a little premature. This breaks suspend/hibernate when running ATI’s proprietary fglrx driver (the machine locks up hard as suspend/hibernate starts). The only solution if you need 3D acceleration for an ATI card but want to have functional power management is to compile your own custom kernel. This seems to affect all laptops with an ATI card, and may apply to desktop systems as well.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 3:10 am | Permalink
  4. Will Brown

    I agree with some of your comments on Beryl and Compiz, but I haven’t tried Compiz Fusion yet. I tried upgrading to Gutsy but computer says no. :)

    Anyway, just thought I should point out that Beryl (which I’m using on Feisty right now) offers all of the options which you pointed out except for the wall – I have tabbed and grouped windows, the expose functionality, the possibility to use the negative effect on windows, screen annotations and the ring switcher on Beryl.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 3:36 am | Permalink
  5. ThinkpadUser, I use a Dell 700m and have not seen this problem. The SLUB allocator is welcome performance improvement, but I feel Ubuntu should roll back to “slab” until ATI resolves the problem. I’ve had these annoying Hibernate/Suspend issues before and it was very painful. Power management features are indispensable for laptops.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 9:20 am | Permalink
  6. Enzo

    So why isn’t the open source community working on an open source standard for video so we can stop worrying about which fucking codecs to download?

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  7. There is an open source video codec comparable to mpeg4. It is called “Theora“. This does not solve our problem because a lot of videos out there are encoded using mpeg4. We can help by encoding videos whenever possible with Theora.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  8. Victor

    Can you tell me how to do the compiz things you mentioned? Is there a guide somewhere? All I have figured out is CTRL-ALT+ the arrow keys.

    Thanks for the help!

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  9. Super+E for “expo”. For grouping windows for tabbing. Select windows using Super+S and tab group them using Super+T. To toggle between the tabbed windows, use Super+Left, Super+Right. Use Super+N to negative a window or Super+M to negative everything. For coverflow, Super+Tab.

    Super is the “Windows” key. You can change or discover more shortcuts by opening Compiz configuration manager (ccsm).

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  10. pops


    Try installing Compizconfig-settings-manager from synaptic.
    You should find things a bit easier to get the head round.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  11. Thanks for sharing

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
  12. rk

    “But if you want to use Photoshop, play the latest games, Linux is not there yet.”

    Actually, Linux is there and has been quite capable of running these applications for a *long* time. You should say that these applications are not ready for Linux.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  13. GFahey

    I’m using the Beta Gutsy right now on VMware on my MacBookPro. I am unable (due to the VM) to try out Compiz/Beryl.

    But….this is quite a nice distro. I’ve pretty much stuck with Ubuntu the past 2 years along with Debian Etch, LinuxMint and the extremely nice Sabayon 3.4.

    Whenever I hear and read stuf that Linux is “not quite there yet” I am amused. I read countless nightmare stories of Vista and the hours spent getting drivers. I see people having no trouble calling MS support and then go under the hood of their computer rather than actually USING it and it boggles my mind. Read Jim Louderback’s story on Vista and even he has had it with Windows.

    Now try Ubuntu and compared to Vista, there is NO doubt that it’s “ready”. In fact, that goes for Sabayon and LinuxMint as well as others. I have set up computers with Linux for many elderly folks. Trust me, the elderly are the forgotten users here. They are baffled, confused and frustrated with Windows. They run Norton and countless other resource hogs all to meant to protect them. They wonder why, after all the $$ spent on software, they are still nailed with viruses, trojans, adware, malware. I put Ubuntu on their machines and then give then some instructions. Everyone one of them love it. They only have need of email and web browsing along with DVD playback and viewing photos. I put Google Earth on as well and they have need of nothing. So, I don’t get the argument, when compared with Windows, why Ubuntu or any recent Linux distro is “not ready”.

    As far as I can tell, and in my experience, it is WINDOWS that is “not ready”.

    BTW, I use OSX primarily and Linux too. I have 3 kids, a wife and my mom all using Linux and they love it. No Windows in this house and we don’t miss it at all.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  14. I have tried Ubuntu several times before (like many other linux distros) but the fonts are a major down site. Actually I hate how the fonts look like, and don’t tell me that I could use windows fonts. ;) How come that only Apple and Microsoft is able to offer decent fonts?

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 6:37 pm | Permalink
  15. rk, I agree with you. The applications are quite important. Linux however can improve is areas like standardization of UI across applications, responsiveness of the UI ( I find XP quite responsive ) etc.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 7:57 pm | Permalink
  16. GFahey, for basic needs, linux is quite ready and is better a choice than Windows. But the utility of the operating system lies to a large extent in the applications that is hosts. This is an area where Linux and it’s ecosystem have to progress.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  17. Blog Oh Joe, I have no complaints about Linux font rendering. Infact I find Ubuntu’s rendering of fonts better than Windows. If you talking about the availability of good fonts, I am with you.

    Posted October 7, 2007 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  18. Jeff Little

    >You should say that these applications are not ready for Linux.


    or the Commodore 64

    Posted October 8, 2007 at 2:24 am | Permalink
  19. Jeff Little

    >How come that only Apple and Microsoft is able to offer decent fonts?

    Because they are Real OS’s not something hacked together with a billion people with none of them caring how the other guys projects work with his.

    My God just getting the simple stuff like Cut and Paste to working would be a small miracle.

    Posted October 8, 2007 at 2:28 am | Permalink
  20. GTLC

    I can’t address the Photshop issue as I don’t use any Image-manip progs, but on the games side I have to say that, based upon the only comercial game I currently own that runs natively on Linux, UT2004, there is NO reason for any game not to be running happily on a Linux system. UT2004 runs equally as well in terms of Frame-rate, but Linux seems to handle the memory management side better than Windows, loading levels and closing the game in seconds, completely avoiding that irritating minutes-long XP process of loading in the desktop GUI from the swap file while you watch the desktop painfully rebuild itself.

    And the fact that UT3, released end of November, using Epic’s latest and shiniest graphics engine will also support Linux natively, leading me to break my ‘never pre-order’ rule, speaks volumes! Epic seem to think it is a platform worth supporting, so should everyone else.

    Posted October 8, 2007 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
  21. GTLC

    And Jeff, I don’t know what system you are using – but none of what you’ve contributed so far reflects my experience with any of the Linux Distro’s I’ve experimented with over the last 18 months – try one from *this* century.

    Linux is ‘there’ as a desktop for me already, as it has been my primary OS for several months now.

    Once you go Tux; Windows just sux.

    Posted October 8, 2007 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  22. Could someone delete Jeff’s comments?
    It seems they are just spam as they have no hold in reality.

    Linux’s fonts: Excellent. I always install them on Windows whenever I have to use the system, because they just look better. And Linux’s font rendering is much prettier than Windows.

    Linux’s ability to run modern applications and games: Well, just look at what we have – Firefox, OpenOffice, Gimp, VMware, Doom 3, UT2004 (and UT3), even most Windows programs run just fine through Wine.

    Copy & Paste? Please, that has been working for years, and Linux has copy-paste history ;)

    Posted October 8, 2007 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
  23. Good article. I agree with the thoughts about the eye candy.

    Posted October 9, 2007 at 6:17 am | Permalink
  24. Spitfire

    I’ve been a great fan of Ubuntu ever since the starting of the project, mainly because it is based on Debian & they keep the updates rolling out consistently. But like ThinkpadUser, I face a lot of problems when it comes to suspend/hibernate; it never works correctly. And, regarding games and applications in Linux – I would agree with rk; and please check out Cedega – it rocks!
    Finally, regarding fonts in Ubuntu – I love them; however, most of the fonts that I run on my machine are from the Apple domain :) I love monaco! There are numerous tutorials in ubuntu forums for patching up the font rendering engine, and install cool fonts; once that is done, I can guarantee that everyone would fall in love with Ubuntu.

    Posted October 12, 2007 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  25. Cedega is definitely cool. However, I wish more games are released natively for Linux.

    Posted October 12, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  26. sinewalker

    Enzo: Ogg Theora is a very capable open standard.

    However, try getting media producers to use it. There isn’t even a proprietary standard. Yes, you could say “MPEG4 is on all DVDs” but that’s being replaced for BluRay and HD-DVD. Also, how many freeking codecs do you need to download, even in Windows? quicktime/dixv/xvid/wmv (latest version) and so on…

    This is not a Linux/OSS (or even Windows/Apple) problem. The video “industry” actually sees advantages in proliferation of different codecs.

    Posted October 14, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  27. Sukri

    Ubuntu – The Gutsy Gibbon is the best thing that has happened to Linux till date!

    I have been using it since a month and I am bidding adeu to Windows … voila! I love Ubuntu!
    Let’s get more applications running with the advancement of Wine..

    Cheers to Ubintu and all the hard working people behind it!

    Posted November 6, 2007 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
  28. Chris mankey

    “Because they are Real OS’s not something hacked together with a billion people with none of them caring how the other guys projects work with his.

    My God just getting the simple stuff like Cut and Paste to working would be a small miracle”

    Gee, I didn’t have any problems with it. So what the HELL are you talking about?

    Posted November 16, 2007 at 9:39 am | Permalink
  29. Chris, I’ve had no problems with cut and paste on recent distros. But I can imagine the mess it would have been in very old versions of Linux. Look at the state of audio on Linux now. Fragmented, incoherent, incompatible. I guess the good thing is we have seen many problems being ironed out and this I believe will go away. It is a matter of time.

    Posted November 16, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink
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    Posted January 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink