The six month *nix itch: How should I scratch it?

It's been a little over six months since I tested the Linux waters with Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon." Back then I found Ubuntu to be a very attractive OS with some unfortunate architectural issues (poor ACPI support leading to frequent power management-related hangs). It was an educational experience, my five days living exclusively in Linux-land, and it gave me a new, less prejudiced perspective on my previous OS

It's been a little over six months since I tested the Linux waters with Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon." Back then I found Ubuntu to be a very attractive OS with some unfortunate architectural issues (poor ACPI support leading to frequent power management-related hangs). It was an educational experience, my five days living exclusively in Linux-land, and it gave me a new, less prejudiced perspective on my previous OS home, Windows Vista.

Since then, I've discovered the joys of Windows Workstation 2008 (faster, more stable, less bloated than Vista) while watching with curiosity as the fervor surrounding "Ubuntu-as-Windows-replacement" died-out. Some of this was due to the overall bugginess of the Gutsy release (I might still be running it today if not for the myriad ACPI problems). That, plus all the anticipation/controversy surrounding Vista SP1, helped to quash what had, for a time, threatened to become a real grass-roots movement.

Now I'm faced with yet another Ubuntu incarnation: 8.04 "Hardy Heron." As a long-term support (LTS) release, Hardy is supposed to be more reliable and stable than the "experimental" releases (i.e "Edgy," "Feisty," and "Gutsy"). I'm optimistic that they've worked out their ACPI issues (though I have not tested this). And the inclusion of CFS and Gnome 2.20 should, on paper, yield a more responsive, better performing OS.

However, before I dive in and take another "Ubuntu Plunge," I'd like to solicit suggestions on possible alternate paths. As the title of this blog entry indicates, I'm itching to take another stab at *nix migration. Note, also, that I said *nix and not Linux: I've always been intrigued by derivatives of the "true" UNIX OS (SVR4) that I experimented with back in the late 80's, so recommendations from outside the Torvaldasphere are also welcome.

Here are some of the front-runners:

  • Hardy Heron - For obvious reasons. I have experience with Ubuntu, which should ensure a smoother trip. I'm also eager to see if they've fixed the issue that killed my last attempt: ACPI. I can put up with a lot of hardware compatibility issues (I am, after all, a veteran Windows NT 3.x proponent), but having my notebook hang every time I close the lid or do a manual suspend is not one of them. I'm also interested in seeing how well VirtualBox has matured on Linux. With the right fonts and libraries installed it almost works like a native gtk application ... almost. Definitely leaning towards the Ubuntu option at this point.

  • OpenSuse 10.3 - I went down this road before, and I'm disappointed to see that not much has changed in six months. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Ubuntu's rapid release cycle. I really thought Novell would have released something newer by now. However, to be fair, the majority of my issues involved nVidia drivers, so I'm curious to see if they've improved the situation since the Fall. Otherwise, it'll be another short trip through Suse-land.

  • PC-BSD 1.5 - As I mentioned above, UNIX has always intrigued me, if for no other reason than it's a true original (as opposed to a cheap knock-off). The UNIX code tree can be traced back decades. It's a tried-and-true way to manage a PC and its applications. And with PC-BSD, it's also visually quite attractive. My first attempts with version 1.4 were thwarted when I discovered that, in true BSD fashion, it didn't support one extremely common, yet also quite critical, hardware component: My Intel 3945ABG wireless adapter. Now I hear that PC-BSD 1.5 has a completely new wireless stack. Might be worth a look, though the HCL still seems a bit thin, especially for mobile users like me.

  • Wildcards - I can be forgiven for associating Linux with Ubuntu. After all, it is the leading distro (though the bugs in "Gutsy" have taken the bloom off the rose), and certainly what the typically layman thinks of when they hear the word "Linux." However, I feel I'd be doing myself a disservice not to consider some of of the other popular distros - with the caveat that I'm a Windows NT user first and thus approach most new OS from the perspective of someone steeped in Dave Cutler's original vision.

So, what do you recommend? Stick with the tried-and-true Ubuntu? Or take the road less traveled and try something more radical, like Slackware or a BSD-variant? I'm open to suggestions...

Note: I also promise that - no matter what happens - I won't slam my choice if/when the migration hits a dead-end. Unless, of course, it deserves a good slamming...like Gutsy.

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