Here's a brief summary after 10 days of playing. I'll add specific links later (maybe) but this will help for searching.

- The number one problem is fonts. I'll say that again, FONTS. Install the MS core fonts. Find a copy of Tahoma and install it. Add a ~/.fonts.conf file to turn off anti-aliasing for < 10 pt and enable antialiasing for bold. Go to the gnome font setup in Admin, preferences and set maximum hinting, sub-pixel anti-alias. set all fonts to tahoma 8 or 9. Install kcontrol. install GTK libraries, run kcontrol as user not root. Ignore the startup error messages. Set as for gnome.

- Firefox in Ubuntu edgy needs two tweaks. Set the keyboard handler to re-enable backspace=go back one page. Turn off the internal font engine by adding a ~/etc/mozilla/rc file that disables pango (sp?)

- The number one problem is fonts! It's irritating that Gnome and KDE have different font settings when they're both driven by X. You can run KDE apps under Gnome and vice versa but they don't pick up the font information and overrides from the same place.

- Open Office in Ubuntu Edgy is terminally borked. The fonts and font rendering generally are so bad as to make it unusable. This is an absolute show stopper if you're trying to impress people into making the switch and is unforgiveable. It was ok once but appears to have been broken for 6-9 months now. Did I say that the number one problem is fonts?

- There's some conflicting information about using Windows Shares. it's not clear if you should use smbfs or cifs and what code page to use so filenames look right. This is a key area to improve as so many Linux machines will be used in a windows environment with other windows machines surrounding it. smbfs really ought to be installed by the distro to start with.

- You absolutely will need all the proprietary codecs. In particular MP3 is the single most common format for almost anything. It's understandable but sad that it can't be installed by default. Look at EasyUbuntu and Automatix if you don't want to do this by hand.

- Amarok is an amazing app. But it has a serious problem importing large quantities of music into the collection. It has a tendency to be unable to cope with tags in certain files for no obvious reason. Get too many errors like this and it just gives up forgetting all the work it had done so far. This makes you realise just how good Winamp V5 is and its a real shame that there's no port of winamp to linux. Functionally Amarok is just about at the same level as winamp but it's not as polished. See fonts (again) you can change half the fonts in amarok's config but the other half come from KDE.

- Ubuntu does a pretty good job of finding and configuring all your hardware but it might not be perfect on old hardware. In my case the powernowd daemon needed turning off as it didn't work and was hurting performance and introducing mouse/keyboard glitches. After fonts this is the major area of tweaking with lots of fun to be had juggling ati/nvidia drivers, wifi drivers and so on. Ultimately it's up to the manufacturers to provide better linux drivers or to provide apis and specs that the community can work with but don't hold your breath.

- The number one problem is fonts. Or did I say that already? ;) You can have all the eye candy you want but if the text is unreadable you won't impress people. It's a damn shame MS don't include tahoma in their distributable pack but there's an awful lot of copies out there.

- Skype just plain didn't work. And the Skype-Linux release is now a long way behind XP/Mac. I don't have time to get to the bottom of this.

- And finally. Package, app and upgrade management is great. But it's surprisingly hard to uninstall major apps and install a later release than the one included. Upgrading OpenOffice to the latest release was a mission. As it turned out it didn't solve the OO font problem. Linux needs the functional equivalent of Installshield or Nullsoft installer so any old developer can package a new app with an install wizard.

So I think I can stop playing now. Ubuntu is not yet good enough for my needs. If and when I switch, I think I will have to have XP running in parallel either with vmware or parallels. And that probably means the next laptop replacement. So I'll come back to this in 6 months. But there is light on the horizon and the state of the art means that Ubuntu+XP+VM is very close to being an alternative to Vista or OSX for a computing professional. Ubuntu on it's own is generally slick enough, once tweaked, for most average users.

But guys, come one. An unusable Office package is just not acceptable.

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[ 05-Feb-07 8:59am ] [ , ]