Ubuntu 8.04 – What makes it so good

In an earlier post I wrote Ubuntu 8.04 / Xubuntu 8.04 – Probably the best Linux distribution yet. At the time, it was recently after the distro was released and I’ve now had a bit of an opportunity to try it some more. Here is a bit more explaining why the latest version of Ubuntu is so good.

Although I have installed Ubuntu on 2 different laptops, upgraded it on one (in a Virtual Machine on VMWare running under Windows Vista) and installed Xubuntu on another, the majority of this is based on just one of these.

The one that I’ve been using primarily is Ubuntu 8.04 on a HP Laptop DV6000 Entertainment series (DV6285eu). This is the 64 bit version installed dual-boot with Windows Vista. Unfortunately there is still some software that means I have to boot into Windows Vista, but the experience when booting Ubuntu is better is just about every way.


The installer works better first time – previously I have had to break out of the GUI to install the Nvidia drivers on the command line, but I had none of those problems this time. Everything just worked after it was installed. This includes the Wireless Networking (although it had to be temporarily connected to a wired connection).

Multimedia buttons and remote control

This laptop is an entertainment model so is geared towards home / entertainment use. One of the things that I didn’t really expect to work is the soft quick launch buttons and the remote control. In particular the remote control is a infra-red control that fits into the Cardbus slot. It does not use the standard IrDa interface used for normal infra-red communication, however with Ubuntu it worked without any configuration required.

Upgrading from Ubuntu 7.10 in a vmware session on Windows Vista

One of my installs is a upgrade from Ubuntu 7.10. This is on a vmware client, running Ubuntu AMD64 on a 32Bit Windows Vista Host System. The upgrade was done by clicking on the “Upgrade Button” in the “Update Manager”. It really is as simple as clicking upgrade, then all the required files (about 1GB worth) is downloaded over the network and installed. On my broadband connection this took about 1 hour for the downloads and about the same to upgrade all the packages. I left the install running overnight, but when I returned I had to answer a question about whether to keep my existing smb.conf (which I did). Then it took about 15 minutes more before it completed the install and then rebooted.
There was a slight issue when rebooting, in that the GDM login screen came up at the wrong resolution. This meant that I had to enter my username and password blind for the first time. This was fixed by reinstalling the vmware tools – from the VM menu in the VMware host, and then running the install script in Ubuntu.

Apart from that little problem the upgrade appears to have been a complete success. Everything appears to be working fine so far. I’m happy with how the upgrade went, so I’m looking at upgrading my web server next.

Unfortunately it still takes a long time to launch due to the sluggish nature of Windows Vista, but once running it is responsive enough.

Multi-head screens

One thing that did need a little work on my behalf, is getting Ubuntu to work on two screens. The laptop obviously comes with it’s own screen, but I wanted to use this with an external screen as well. The steps required to get this working were not particularly difficult. The standard screen-resolution applet allowed the selection of a second monitor, but did not detect it on the Nvidia controller. All that was needed was to install the Nvidia Configurator Applet. Once installed it was just a case of using that instead of the standard Gnome applet and then it worked fine, with the option to clone the main screen or to use it as an extension of the desktop.

Other software

A noticeable change is the inclusion of the Beta of Firefox 3 as the main browser. Firefox 2 is still available if preferred, but Firefox 3 seams to be stable enough. The only problem is that some plug-ins no longer work.

Some other major applications have also had an upgrade including 2.4 and Gimp to 2.4.5.

Codec support including MP3

Another of the things that is greatly approved is the support for codecs such as MP3. These are excluded from most distributions due to the patent issues. Fortunately in Europe software patents are not legal. There is even a moral argument that it should not be allowed for companies to control freedoms of using data that is legitimately purchased.
Whatever your stance the codecs are easily installed after asking whether you would like to proceed with the informed choice.

Software not available

The one application that I look for that is not available is a good Video editor, and modern games are a bit limited but other than those almost everything else is available.

Visual effects

The visual effects that are available, including 3D desktop, transparency and application preview are all included (and have been available on Linux for longer than Vista), and they don’t have the negative effect in performance that Vista suffers from.


In summary the operating system is more polished than ever. Linux and Ubuntu is almost certainly ready for the desktop. It’s far more responsive than Windows and a pleasure to use.