As I’ve ranted on my blog in the past, I’d love to use Linux, but I still find the user experience, especially the look and feel, to be a long way from cleanliness and professionalism of Windows XP. And from I’ve seen of Vista, it’s nowhere even close.

But I have a buddy, Rodney, at work who swears by Linux, especially Ubuntu. So much so, he has it installed on his laptop as his main work environment. Of course, I keep bugging him about how ugly I think it all looks, and he fires back with the cool 3D/alpha blending environment of the latest experimental extensions to X and Gnome. It’s all good fun, but at the end of the day I’m happy to walk back to my desk and sit at my Windows machine.

I’ve been playing with the beta release of VMware Workstation 6. I’m a big fan of vmware from way back and every new major release seems to bring something new that makes me like it even more. This release brings a new UI that makes running vmware full screen a lot easier to use and more Windows friendly. The performance seems to be a bit better too, but then lately it’s been pretty good anyway. I use vmware to run the x86 target of our Neutrino RTOS for testing with a target. And, of course, I use it to experiment and test with a Linux host.

So to get up and running on the vmware beta, I downloaded the latest Ubuntu 7.04 release. Rodney’s been raving about it so I had to give it a try. The Ubuntu install experience is the best I’ve seen with any Linux distro. You boot up into a full Linux/Gnome environment off the CD, and then double click the Install icon to launch the installer. Just coming up cleanly off the Install CD gives you confidence the real thing is going to work. After that, it’s just a matter if making sure all the packages you need are there. This is still a pretty harsh task that’s not intended for the weak. But the package manager helps install those things quickly (once you properly guess at the names of the packages you need, like sun-java6-bin ?).

The look is still not up to Windows standards, but it seems to get better every time I try a new distro. Maybe I’m just getting more open to the idea of using Linux. Certainly if you’re an engineer who knows a lot about *nix already, like taking advantage of Linux’s features for embedded development such as mounting files as disks, then I think you’d be happy with the latest Ubuntu. But if you’re my Mom, sorry Mom, stay on Windows. At least for now…