I just don't like being an "early adopter" for a new operating system because this role can morph into being a "beta tester."
As much as I enjoy trouble-shooting computer software and hardware problems, my laptop is something that I want to "just work" and not be an experimental project most of the time.
Last night work life, church life, and home life all allowed me to upgrade my laptop to the latest Ubuntu release.
I have been using Ubuntu Linux on my laptop full-time since June 2007 -- having gone from version 7.04 ("Feisty Fawn) to 7.10 ("Gutsy Gibbon") to 8.04 ("Hardy Heron").
Ubuntu's philosophy is to provide a totally free and open-source computer when installed with the default selections.
However, there are multimedia resources (sound and video) and data file formats that many computer users outside the open-source community use daily. Philosophical purity may conflict with real-world interoperability.
For these practical considerations, one needs to be able to use the wide range of multimedia data available online even if it involves proprietary software.
The "Ubuntu restricted extras" package will allow you to play most common multimedia formats, including MP3, DVD, Flash, Quicktime, WMA and WMV, including both standalone files and multimedia content embedded in web pages.
Any other multimedia content requirements can be satisfied through the Medibuntu Project web site. The "how-to" instructions on this page will walk you through the steps needed to play commercial encrypted DVDs on your Ubuntu Linux computer. I've also installed the VLC video player for use with DVDs. I watched a few minutes of Battlestar Galactica Razor DVD last night to confirm commercial encrypted DVD operation.
These multimedia resources take care of nearly every multimedia requirement that was formerly provided to me through Automatix -- Automatix and EasyUbuntu were automated install tools for these multimedia options for earlier versions of Ubuntu Linux.
Both Automatix and EasyUbuntu are now unsupported orphan software or "abandonware" at this time. However, their ease-of-use multimedia features have now been replaced by the incorporation of the restricted extras and Medibuntu resources available to all Ubuntu users.
To ensure that I can open any Microsoft Office 2007 documents sent to me, I installed the "odf-converter-integrator" package -- this allows me to open any Microsoft Office 2007 file (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) using OpenOffice. Instructions for installing these Office 2007 converters can be found here.
For those who are not familiar with Ubuntu Linux, here's a brief description adapted from the Wikipedia article text on Ubuntu Linux:
Ubuntu is a computer operating system. It has consistently been rated among the most popular of the many Linux distributions. Ubuntu's goals include providing an up-to-date yet stable Linux distribution for the average user and having a strong focus on usability and ease of installation. Ubuntu is a derivative of Debian, another free operating system.
Ubuntu also emphasizes accessibility and internationalization, to reach as many people as possible.The amazing thing about Ubuntu Linux is that one can take an older computer that would be considered "obsolete" for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office use and keep it useful through more efficient and leaner software. This is an advantage for churches and other non-profit organizations that depend on cash and used property donations to meet their needs.
The most recent version of Ubuntu comes installed with a wide range of software including: the OpenOffice.org productivity suite, the internet browser Firefox, the instant messenger Pidgin, and the raster graphics editor GIMP.
When a church member or community non-profit supporter gets a new computer, he/she should consider asking if the church or non-profit can use the older hardware as a potential Ubuntu Linux workstation.
The gift of an "old computer" may mean the difference between a volunteer or staff person having or not having a computer in some cash-strapped churches or non-profits.
Ubuntu Linux provides the same functionality that Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office provides (web surfing, email, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc) on older hardware that would not support or would poorly support Windows XP or Microsoft Office (not to mention the resource hogs Microsoft Windows Vista or Microsoft Office 2007).
Ubuntu Linux is available for PC, 64-Bit and Mac architectures. The alternate installation CDs require at least 256 MB of RAM (the standard installation CD requires 384MB of RAM). Install requires at least 3 GB of disk space.
For example, my son's homework/web surfing computer is a used Compaq Pentium III (800 Mhz) with just 256 megabytes of RAM and 20 gigabytes of hard drive storage. It provides enough power for light word processing and web surfing. All of this is done with a "free" operating system that isn't susceptable to the many computer virus and spyware threats that plague Microsoft Windows.
Tonight, I updated my congregation's web site to reflect next Sunday's worship service info and I also prepared last Sunday's sermon podcast audio using Audacity and the LAME mp3 encoder on my laptop's new "Hardy Heron" setup -- so far everything is working as advertised.
My next two "Hardy Heron" installs will happen in the next few weeks -- updating the sermon podcast digital recorder computer and a spare loaner Pentium III computer that we provide to congregation members or staff who need a computer for home use (this loaner computer is identical to my son's computer).
Then I'll update my congregation's part-time chaplain's computer (yet another Pentium III identical to my son's computer).