Can System Builders Turn to Ubuntu?

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2008-05-26 Email Print this article Print
Late last month, Ubuntu 8.04 arrived on the scene, right on time, right on its six-month refresh cycle and readily available via a simple ISO image file download. While that may have been big news for the Linux community, the question remains, what if any impact will this latest release have on mainstream computer users? For the majority of PC users, the impact will probably be nil. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity here for solution providers and system builders. But first they have to contemplate Ubuntu being a viable alternative to Microsoft’s family of Windows products. And that may be a big leap for many to make.

While hundreds of case studies, articles and training sessions have all shown that Linux can be a viable alternative, the simple fact remains, users are not flocking to it! Can this latest Ubuntu distribution change that? Probably not! But, the ranks of Windows users are becoming more and more disenchanted every day! There are those that shun Windows Vista (in any form), there are those still investing in Windows XP, and there are those that are just plain trapped by Windows Operating Systems and associated line of business applications. And that may be where the opportunity is for solution providers looking to think outside the box!

A little more about Ubuntu

One of the biggest misconceptions is that Ubuntu is a desktop Linux operating system, but in reality it is a lot more than just that. The Ubuntu distribution of Linux comes in many flavors, each tailored for specific markets. First off, there are two main categories of Ubuntu, desktop and server. As the names imply, Ubuntu server is for server class solutions, while Ubuntu desktop is aimed at the desktop user. Now, wouldn’t it be great if it was just that simple? But, both desktop and server have many sub-versions, which further complicate issues!

Luckily, the server side of the equation here is aimed at technically savvy network administrators and integrators, meaning that the issues that would confound desktop users (and even some system builders) won’t come into play.

The story is a little different when it comes to the various desktop editions of Ubuntu, desktop users and those supporting them have to deal with a variety of choices when it comes to selecting the right edition. First, there is a question of which of the three flavors of desktop environments to choose, there is GNOME, KDE and XFce. What’s more, there is an educational version (Edubuntu) and a version that only uses free software distributions (Gobuntu). Beyond choosing which distribution and interface, installers will need to decide if they want to use a 64 or 32bit version. Arguably, the most popular choice here is Ubuntu 8.04 32bit with the GNOME desktop, with KUbuntu (KDE) 32bit following closely behind.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at

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