Ubuntu 2 1/2 month review, etc.

I’ve been using Ubuntu now for about 2 1/2 months. The verdict so far: I like it. When I initially installed it, I was looking for a Linux distro with a reasonably well-integrated and user-friendly desktop environment, and Ubuntu (with GNOME) has lived up to those expectations. I really like the GNOME file manager with its built-in sshfs support, and the menu/taskbar integration works really well. When I install an app, it automatically shows up in my “Applications” menu, and the GNOME-aware apps also take advantage of the task bar. This works even with GNOME apps that aren’t provided with Ubuntu — for example, today I installed gSTM, which is a GUI interface for managing SSH tunnels. It’s not part of the Ubuntu “universe”, so I downloaded a .deb from Sourceforge and installed it (there’s a handy GUI for installing .debs too, which Firefox launched automatically). Once installed, gSTM showed up in my “Applications” menu and also added itself to the task bar when I launched it. Very nice.

The only thing I’m not quite happy with is my age-old gripe with all Linux distros: fonts. I’ve done all my requisite font-fiddling and I’ve got fonts I’m pretty much happy with now. But the font rendering in Firefox is just horrible. Text is always overflowing table cells and other stuff, and certain web sites just look, well, bad. It’s not bad enough to be a show stopper, but I really wish it looked nicer. I’m not sure what’s to blame: Firefox, X, GNOME, or whatever. But I will say that the fonts look pretty good in most of the other apps.

Linux GUI distros have to fight an uphill battle, because there are so many different apps (some 20+ years old) coded to all sorts of different GUI standards. There’s no way to get all of these apps to look perfect — it’s like herding cats. But the GNOME people have done a pretty admirable job fitting everything together. The user experience is about as seamless as one could hope for.