February 03, 2010, 8:13 AM — by James Gaskin - This insider tip comes from Ryan Troy, co-author of Ubuntu Unleashed from Sams. Troy started with Ubuntu in October 2004, and started up the Ubuntu Forums Web site for the community. As a computer consultant, he regularly sees Ubuntu at customer sites.
While desktop Ubuntu shines as the leader among Linux distributions, with analysts estimating their share up to 95 percent of the Linux desktop market, Ubuntu's server version lags. Expect huge advances in Ubuntu server installations during 2010 as a result of Ubuntu improvements, customer concern as SunOS comes under Oracle control, and restlessness among the Red Hat user base. Unlike Ubuntu server clients, Red Hat server clients must pay license fees, necessary because many applications remain Red Hat specific. Troy expects the Ubuntu server to make substantial advances attaining more application support and certifications.
In the ease of use department, desktop Ubuntu rates high. Live CD versions that boot Ubuntu desktop on a PC without changing a byte on the hard drive make it easy for Windows users to test Ubuntu. Ubuntu 9, the current version, includes the OpenOffice productivity suite (comparable to Microsoft Office), Evolution e-mail client (comparable to Outlook), and the Firefox Web browser. Unlike Windows, Ubuntu 9 has two versions: 9.04 offers long term support of three years for the desktop OS and five years for the server OS. 9.10 support lasts 18 months on both servers and desktops.
[ See also: Ubuntu help: Finding answers fast ]
On the server side, Troy hasn't seen an IT tech in the last several years that needed to be educated on using Linux servers. Ubuntu's latest version streamlines patches and updates. In addition, Landscape, now available directly from Canonical, performs patch management on Ubuntu servers and desktops, and manages Ubuntu images running in Amazon's EC2 utility. First among Linux distributions in the cloud interface race, Ubuntu's latest server included multiple back end improvements to leverage Amazon's cloud services.
Unlike Windows and other Linux flavors, Ubuntu software updates come regularly at six month intervals. Internal modules like Apache, Perl, PHP, and the rest get a version refresh at the same time, keeping everything synchronized. In fact, one of Troy's pitches for consulting clients is that Ubuntu patches and updates "almost always work," which can't be said about other Linux distributions and Windows.
[ See also: Usability and the Ubuntu desktop ]
Ubuntu Unleashed devotes seven chapters to server issues, and six more to system administration and user management. This book isn't aimed at consumers but IT admins ready to explore Ubuntu as a server and a desktop. Automating tasks through shell scripts, something new for many Windows admins, gets a thorough explanation and treatment. Need security? Ubuntu desktops are nearly invisible to hackers, and Ubuntu servers make outstanding Web servers, proxy servers, firewalls, and secure e-mail servers.
Yes, you can play games. Instructions for installing DOOM 3, Unreal Tournament 2004, Quake 4, and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory are included in the book. Lock and load.