Last night was my first foray into the Ubuntu distribution and I must admit to being surprisingly impressed. I’ve installed various versions of Linux with varying degrees of success since their was a “Linux”. My most recent distro of choice was Open Suse, but while it was fun to explore and learn on, it was definitely not polished enough to recommend for the generic consumer desktop. Ubuntu represents the first distro that I could seriously recommend to the average user as a Linux solution that just works. Here’s why….

1) Installation was a breeze. If you can install Windows or Mac OS X you can install Ubuntu. Linux distros have come a long way in recent years with regards to installability, but Ubuntu is the cleanest experience yet.

2) Common problems in other distros were absent in Ubuntu when installing on the same hardware. When I installed Open Suse on the same laptop I had a few plaguing issues I had to seek help on; a) the display resolution did not set correctly resulting in black bars on each side of the LCD; b) the wireless network card would not work. Both issues were eventually sorted out on Suse, but not without some work and outside help. On Ubuntu, neither was an issue and I got a fully functional machine right out the gate.

3) Common applications just worked and plugins were automated and fully functional in minutes. All the common consumer apps are there and easily accessible. Browsing, email, opening office docs, playing music and movies. When I first encountered a flash site I was prompted to install Flash and the experience was similar to what one would get on Windows or OS X. When I tried to play my Internet radio stream, I was prompted to install the codec and then it just worked. All hardware seems to be recognized and audio/video playback works like a charm.

4) The graphical user interface is both pleasing and intuitive.

The installation on Ubuntu on this Sony Vaio laptop has breathed new life into this machine and given me a very powerful and extremely portable Linux box to travel with. If I had my druthers, I’d load Mac OS X on it, but installing Ubuntu is the next best thing.