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From here on, Heron

Today, the new Ubuntu Linux version—8.04 the Hardy Heron—will be released. I have been using the beta or test version for the last two weeks and have found Ubuntu to be easier to use and install and its whole computing experience better than ever.

I had initially decided to stay away from using the beta version—the amount of updates you have to download on the run-up to the final version can be huge. I had several urgent tasks and didn’t want to deal with regularly updating my laptop.

Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron HARDY HERON running on my MSI S260 laptop. Click to enlarge photo.

But Chin Wong made me do it. The devil, in turn, made him do it, or at least that line kept playing in his head as he installed the beta version in his desktop computer. During the installation, he had problems with sound in his system.

A day later, however, he posted a fix to the problem.

That broke my resolve to stay away from the Hardy Heron beta and proceeded to install it, as opposed to upgrade, in my MSI S260 laptop.

Clean install

I’ve never upgraded Ubuntu in my laptop. What I do is perform a clean install of a new version. This is a habit carried over from Windows and retained because I hate to wait for downloading of files to complete while doing an update to a new release over the Internet.

A new install, after all, takes just a few minutes and I take pleasure at customizing my installation all over again.

I downloaded the beta version of the desktop edition via Bittorrent and burned the ISO file. Installation was a breeze and after just a two-stick cigarette break, Hardy Heron was already running in my laptop.

The first thing I did upon logging in was check for updates. The update manager listed 287 files to download, amounting to a whopping 128 megabytes. At least two more update queues had more than 200 megabytes of files each.

Ubuntu Hardy Heron updates UPDATE QUEUE. When you install the beta release, be prepared for frequent application updates. If you install the final release, you won’t have to download huge file updates. Click on photo to enlarge.

What I did was I left the laptop on and worked either on my office desktop or my Asus Eee PC.

If you want to go over the details, including the minutia, of the new things in Ubuntu Hardy Heron, just go to the Ubuntu website. Hardy Heron is a Long Term Support (LTS) release, this means it will be supported for three years.

Desktop eye candy

Compiz, with all its snazzy desktop effects, is installed by default in Hardy Heron but not its configurations manager. It’s easy to add it, though, through the synaptic package manager, just look for compizconfig-settings-manager.

The network manager applet has improved compared to when I last used it in Feisty Fawn and I saw no need to install wicd, my manager of choice for LAN and wireless connections. Firefox 3 beta was installed by default but then removed in one of the updates. I just reinstalled it after a few days.

Avant Windows Navigator GET YOUR DOCK HERE. Avant Windows Navigator, a cool applications launcher dock, can be easily installed from the repository. Click on photo to enlarge.

Avant Windows Navigator or AWN, a cool Mac OS X-like dock, is now in the repositories and can be installed easily using the package manager. If you want to start AWN, just include it in the list of startup programs in System > Preferences > Sessions. The command is avant-window-navigator.

Using Bluetooth also seems so much easier in Hardy Heron. In previous versions, I had to wrestle with using the command line to detect my Bluetooth USB dongle. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I gave up (what can I say? I’m lazy). With the Bluetooth tools in Hardy Heron, pairing is easier. I haven’t tried sending files from my Sony Ericsson P1i, though, because I encountered an error that I had no time to check yet.

Hardy Heron also comes with the latest stable version of Open Office, which is 2.4. If is a full office software suite for writing documents, creating presentations, managing spreadsheets, among other tasks.

JDarkRoom

But while Writer is a good writing software, I’ve always preferred to write my first draft on the minimalist and full-screen editor JDarkroom.

JDarkRoom on Ubuntu Hardy Heron NO-DISTRACTION WRITING. I write my drafts on JDarkRoom, a minimalist and full-screen editor.

It’s easy to install JDarkRoom in Ubuntu. Just go to this site and download the jar file. To start the application, just open up a terminal and navigate to the folder where you stored the jar file and then type java -jar JDarkRoom.jar.

To save myself from the tedium of having to do this every time I needed to write something, I created a batch script using instructions in this forum post. In my case, I saved the JDarkroom jar file in its own folder in my home directory so my script is:

#!/bin/bash
cd /home/max/jdarkroom
java -jar JDarkRoom.jar

After that, I CHMODed the file, again using the instruction in the forum post. I could now start JDarkroom by typing jdarkroom in the terminal. But, as I’ve repeatedly said, I have a terminal case of hatred for the terminal and so I created a panel launcher using whatever icon I could find in the system that had a pencil on it.

Web development tools

With my writing tool installed, I proceeded to add other web development tools. The first program I added was Bluefish, a really good text editor that I use alternately with gedit, depending on my mood. I then added Filezilla for my FTP needs.

Since I use versioning for some of my work, I installed the SVN Nautilus scripts via the package manager but couldn’t get it working. I just installed RapidSVN, taking time to say a short prayer for the emergence of a Linux tool akin to what TortoiseSVN does in Windows.

With all the other tools installed, I then went on to download Aptana Studio, a really good IDE for web development. Aptana is my HTML and CSS editor of choice and I use it extensively for initial work with WordPress themes.

I installed Aptana Studio last because I thought I’d encounter problems with it. It turned out installation was as easy as just unzipping the downloaded file. I then created a launcher for Aptana using the icon from this site.

The Hardy Heron beta did not come with Wine, a software that allows you to run Windows programs in Linux. I wrote about installing Adobe Photoshop 7 in Linux previously. The current Wine version allows you to install and run Adobe Photoshop CS 2 in Ubuntu Linux smoothly. I had to install Photoshop because I still haven’t gotten around to learning how to use Gimp (soon, I know, soon).

Photoshop CS 2 using Wine in Ubuntu Hardy Heron
Adobe Photoshop CS 2 running in Ubuntu Hardy Heron using Wine.

Overall, Hardy Heron is a great release. With its ability to be installed in Windows, I’m sure more people will be trying out Linux for the first time using the Hardy Heron release.

I told a colleague, who is about to embark on a career-changing project, to use Ubuntu for the computer component of his program. He agreed and I’m excited for it to start.

Since I started using Ubuntu last year, I’ve never encountered major problems in my laptop. Maybe I’m just lucky with my MSI S260 hardware since I still read posts trashing Ubuntu hardware support.

The only thing that’s not working in my laptop is the built-in card reader. I tried looking for fixes last year but just gave up and bought a cheap USB multi-card reader.

Part of me keeps saying Hardy Heron will be the last version in this laptop. I don’t know whether its specifications can still meet requirements of coming development releases. But let’s see. Six months from now. But from here on, it’s Hardy Heron.

By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.