Long gone are the days of having to compile your own kernel in order to run the open-source operating system. Ubuntu, a free Linux distro from Canonical, provides a near Microsoft Windows-like experience for those new to Linux. We're reveiwing this particular Linux distro because PC manufacturer Dell now ships some new models with Ubuntu already installed. But before we extol its many virtues, we should note there are also steep trade-offs when using Ubuntu. Linux is not Windows, nor is it Mac. Programs written for those other operating systems will not run under Ubuntu. Instead, be prepared to abandon your Microsoft applications in favor of equally fine although less well-known open-source products such as OpenOffice (included within Ubuntu), Evolution (e-mail), and Ekiga (VoIP). That said, some popular software, like Firefox and Opera, are written for Linux as well. If you only use your computer to check e-mail, surf the Web, and maybe view the occasional YouTube video, and are program agnostic, Ubuntu might be just right for you. And if you're an advanced computer user, by all means, try Ubuntu; Linux is designed for you. But if you're an average computer user who is partial to a specific applications, say, Apple iTunes, GarageBand, or Adobe Photoshop, then you'll need to pass for now. In general, we came away impressed with the Ubuntu package. For a free operating system, Ubuntu 7.04 is solid and extensible, although not without fault.
When installing a new operating system, especially on an existing Windows machine, we recommend first running a disk partition program such as Norton PartitionMagic. On a Mac OS X system, we recommend using a virtual system such as Parallels.