I have dipped my toes into the frigid waters of Penguin-world, and as I suspected, I can’t swim. Being a long-time Mac fan, with occasional forays into Windows, I have never felt the need to explore Linux or even the venerable command-line interface format. However, with the increasing noise from the open-source community about stability, ease of use and straight geek cred, I decided that I would abandon the warm blanket of OS X and see what the fuss is about. I decided to start with a relatively user-friendly version of Debian called Ubuntu. With the KDE GUI, it becomes Kubuntu. As a bonus, it runs on my Mac hardware, in this case a 600MHz G3 Snow iBook.
As a disclaimer up front, I have never been truly comfortable with command line or with instructions that look like gibberish (who are the Gibbers, anyway? Is it really Gibberese?), spelling commands that only a computer could love. An example: in my attempt to install Firefox (more on this later), it instructed me to run the install script through the Terminal. Ok, I’ve used the Terminal in OS X; how hard can it be? Famous last words aside, the command looked something like this: make install (ok, got it) -d grep -l -justinstallthedangthingalready/-man/whattheheckisamakefileanyway. That wasn’t so hard�but it returns “directory is a directory but cannot install” or something like that. So after all this, I return to the Konqueror web browser and look up instructions for installing Firefox for something I may have overlooked. Come to find out that Kubuntu is an all-inclusive distribution and doesn’t support anything that didn’t come from the initial install or a short list of supported programs developed by Ubuntu. Guess what? Firefox isn’t among them, even though it is a native Linux program. Hm. Ok. Would have been nice to know that from the start.
However, in Kubuntu’s defense, it is a fairly complete and polished distro with a good set of included software like OpenOffice, an RSS reader and a full suite of multimedia software (although the CD-burning program needs work). Bonus feature: Kubuntu is compiled to work on Apple hardware. In fact, this article is being written using OpenOffice on my iBook. It doesn’t necessarily support all the keys on an iBook laptop, however, as my multifunction F keys for controlling brightness, volume, and, inexplicably, my CD-ROM eject key are all disabled, reverting back to the single F-key functions.
All in all, if you have an old spare computer lying around and would like to see what Linux is all about, Kubuntu could be a good dip into the waters. Otherwise, in my humble opinion, Linux in any form has a long way to go to catch up to the ease of use and professional polish of OS X. [Britt Godwin]
Verdict: Tiger eats Penguin