Ubuntu Linux has been one of our favourite products for two years running. Why? It's completely free, it installs easily from one downloadable CD, and it focuses on user-friendliness.

Since Ubuntu releases come twice each year, changes tend to be evolutionary. Ubuntu Linux 7.04 (nicknamed "Feisty Fawn") has a few major new features and distinguishes itself mainly with its continued focus on usability, especially for newcomers to Linux.

The installation CD boots not to a setup program but to a fully functioning Ubuntu environment. This is your chance to kick the tires, to make sure audio, video and networking are okay, to check to see if your peripherals are recognised and so forth.

To put Ubuntu Linux 7.04 on your hard drive, you need to double-click the Install icon on the desktop. Ubuntu Linux shrinks your Windows partition, making room for itself. A migration assistant scours that partition, rounding up your browser settings and bookmarks, your document, music and image files, and even your wallpaper files, copying everything over to the new Linux partition. The most vexing questions you'll be asked have to do with the language you speak and the time zone you reside in.

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After rebooting your PC, you select Ubuntu from your new boot menu, and shortly you're greeted by the user-friendly Gnome desktop. OpenOffice.org 2.2 is on hand and waiting, as are the the Firefox web browser the Evolution email client (a worthy Outlook imitator), the F-Spot photo manager (think iPhoto for Linux), the Gimp image editor, and Rhythmbox, Gnome's answer to iTunes and the Windows Media Player. Other available Linux distributions don't offer such a wealth of software. An experimental "Desktop Effects" feature adds whiz-bang interface bling that should make Vista and OS X users take notice.

Some Windows power users may prefer the KDE desktop, which more closely resembles Windows. The Kubuntu variant of Ubuntu Linux Feisty Fawn replaces Gnome 2.18 with KDE 3.8.5 as the default interface. (Another variant, Xubuntu, instead provides Xfce 4.4, a lightweight environment that is perfect for an old PC you thought was no longer of any use.)

Ubuntu Linux 7.04: Specs

  • Ubuntu is available for PC, 64-Bit and Mac architectures. CDs require at least 256 MB of RAM. Install requires at least 4 GB of disk space
  • Ubuntu is available for PC, 64-Bit and Mac architectures. CDs require at least 256 MB of RAM. Install requires at least 4 GB of disk space

OUR VERDICT

Many people, for years now, have predicted the rise of Linux on the desktop. Feisty Fawn is exactly the sort of polished, friendly release that is necessary to make the dream a reality.

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