Friday, February 25, 2011

What version of Ubuntu is right for me?

So you want to dual-boot (or maybe switch to) Linux. And you have been convinced that Ubuntu is one of the best and most documented distros out there. But when you go to the Ubuntu website, there are so many editions available. Which one should you choose?

Here's help for you.
What Edition?

Ubuntu comes in three editions, as of now, and as it will be for the foreseeable future. Each one has a different download size. Choose one that you need.

Ubuntu Desktop Edition
This is the most popular edition that Ubuntu comes it. It is focused towards powerful machines, rather than ultraportables like netbooks. If you have a standard laptop or desktop, go with this version. You should be fine running it even if you install it on older computers.

There shouldn't be any problem as long as the computer has at least 256 MB of memory. More is recommended. For low powered computers, see the next edition.

Ubuntu Netbook Edition
This edition of Ubuntu is built for lower-end computers. It comes with the Unity interface rather than the standard GNOME, which comes on the desktop edition (will be discontinued from version 11.04 in favor of Unity). If you have a netbook, or a really old computer, it should run perfectly on it.

Ubuntu Server Edition 
Ubuntu also comes in an edition that is built to be run on web servers. You'll probably not want to use this as a second operating system on your standard home computer. Chances are that it won't work as intended, and it surely won't have all those features that you will need for your home use.

What is LTS?
Ubuntu is updated to the next big version every six months. Regularly, there is an LTS edition released. LTS stands for Long Time Support. It will be a relatively bug-free and good enough release that will get support for upto three more years. You are absolutely free to download the next edition when it comes out, but you can stick to an LTS release if you like to.

Currently, the version 10.10 is the latest, and 10.04 is the LTS release. 11.04 is the next version coming out, which will use the Unity interface. But 10.04 will still be supported until the next LTS.

If I were to install Ubuntu today, I'd choose the 10.10 version, because it has new features from 10.04. And I suggest you do exactly that.

32-bit or 64-bit?
Ubuntu is available for 32-bit and 64-bit systems. 64-bit may be called AMDx64, just because the architecture was built by AMD initially and used to work with AMD CPUs only. But you can choose for yourself now. I'm currently typing this article on a 64-bit version of Ubuntu running on an Intel Core i3 processor.

One major benefit of 64-bit is that it will be able to use 4 GB and higher amounts of RAM. If you install the 32-bit version on your computer that has 4 GB of RAM, it won't utilize the whole thing. The downside is that you won't be able to run it on really old computers that don't support 64-bit OSes anyway. Also, I've seen (very few) programs that don't run on my 64-bit system. However, most 32-bit programs work in 64-bit, and not the reverse.

If you are installing Ubuntu on a new machine and you won't be using this CD for really old computers, download the 64-bit version.

That should help you select the version of Ubuntu that is right for you. If you have any more questions or if you have suggestions for me, write it in the comments and I will answer.