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Tales from the Dorkside
In May 14 Issue
Guest writer Ryan Garrett

As of last week I have been trying out the latest version of Ubuntu by Linux.

For those of you that don't know about Ubuntu, it is a computer operating system (like Windows, only...not like Windows) based on the Debian Linux distribution. It is distributed as free and open source software, and you can download it straight from their official website. It can be burnt to a disc and takes up very little space on your hard drive, so it is great to have on your PC as a backup operating system (or if you're like me, make it your main operating system).

If Ubuntu still doesn't ring a bell, here's a little about the system. With Windows, you have Microsoft office, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, etc. With Ubuntu, you don't have all these, but there are lots of alternatives that are available. For example, instead of Internet Explorer, Ubuntu uses Firefox as it's default internet browser. Firefox (by Mozilla) is also very popular in the Windows world as well, so you may already be familiar with it. Ubuntu comes with it's own default media player that is very similar to Windows Media. However, I downloaded a program called "Rhythmbox Music Player" that I use for my music collection and "VLC Media Player" for watching videos and movies. Also, in the latest version of Ubuntu, there is an alternative to Microsoft office featuring a program for documents, presentations, and basically everything Microsoft Office has. It's also very user-friendly much like the original Microsoft Word programs, however it still has many cool features.

As I mentioned in my last article, I write, play and record music in my spare time (or as Jeff said, I am an "audio-geek-in-training) so I do a lot of audio engineering.

However, I am entering college this year and on a fairly strict budget. Therefore, expensive recording software is basically off-limits...and unnecessary, because with Ubuntu, you can easily download Audacity straight from the Software Centre (without the security risks involved with checking out free-and often virus infected-Windows software). Audacity, much like the Ubuntu operating system itself, is free, which saves you lots and lots of money.

Now that you have an idea of the operating system in general, I'll introduce you to the latest version of Ubuntu. It's entitled "Ubuntu 11.04" because it came out last month (and 11.04 is just an abbreviation for April 2011). So this software has only been available for a few weeks, and unlike Windows, Ubuntu is constantly working out bugs to make their software as user-friendly as possible, so another version will be coming out in October. For those of you that are already familiar with past versions of Ubuntu, there are a few surprises in this one. First off, upon installing you will notice that it has became a LOT easier. If you already have Ubuntu partitioned with Windows on your computer, it will simply replace your old Ubuntu version and save you from having to re-partition everything. When installed, the changes start appearing immediately.

If you notice, the bottom task bar is gone (oh no!). You see, Ubuntu is trying to give you as much window space as possible by slimming down the task-bars. In it's place, a new sidebar that only appears when you run your cursor by the left side of the screen. This also makes it a lot easier to find your programs. If you click on the "Applications" tab on the sidebar, your frequently used programs will appear first. If the program you wish to run does not appear, simply start typing the name of the program, and it will come up.

A few other things are cool about this version. The workspace switcher is a lot more fun and easy to use than the last version. You can have 4 different desktops running at the same time (so that you don't run a million programs on one single desktop and make everything congested). Also when you have multiple Firefox windows, for example, you simply click on the Firefox tab and all of your windows will cascade across your screen, so that you can pick which one you switch to and actually see what's going on in that particular window (which is good if you are downloading or multi-tasking while watching a movie).

Something else that's really cool is that you can add frequently used programs to the magical disappearing task-bar. For example, I use Audacity a lot. So, even though it would be one of the first programs to appear when you click the "Applications" tab, I still want to go the extra step to make it even easier to access than what it already was (which was pretty easy).

So I can simply add the program to the magic task-bar simply by dragging and dropping the Audacity icon to the task-bar. That way, all I have to do is run my cursor to the left side of the screen, let the taskbar magically appear and then select the audacity icon, which should be conveniently placed...right there.

You don't have to be an audio geek like me to enjoy Ubuntu and the features. It's user-friendly and simplistic style is very likeable and easy to get used to, and its features are awesome. So for those of you that have never used Ubuntu, give it a try. For those of you that have, download the 11.04 and discover Ubuntu at its far. 

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