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Feature: Ultimate Edition

Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

By Preston St. Pierre on June 06, 2008 (7:00:00 PM)

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Ultimate Edition (UE) 1.8 is a remaster of Ubuntu Hardy Heron with custom software repositories and a distinctive theme. Its claim to fame over pure Ubuntu is convenience, due to preloaded updates and software. While the name might suggest that it is a huge upgrade over its progenitor, in reality its developers have not made many improvements besides application install scripts. Due to a distracting theme, a poorly built user interface, and an incredible lack of the convenience it claims to have, Ultimate Edition falls painfully short of ultimate.

I downloaded the 1.3GB UE DVD image, burned it, and booted up to the live DVD environment. It pleased me to see that the 1440x900 native resolution of my monitor was used correctly, and initially UE's theme of white on black with some blue seemed to work well. However, a few minutes of use was enough to show me how wrong my first impression of the theme really was.

I ran the installation shortcut on the desktop, which was Ubuntu's hard drive installer right down to the logos. The installation went smoothly. The only thing that really made it unpleasant was the theme. Even though I'm a fan of dark colors and often design Web sites with black backgrounds, ivory text, and blue links similar in color to the UE theme, this theme just doesn't seem to work. In most places text is white, but some places (such as disabled buttons) have black text. This alone wouldn't be a problem, but there is a gradient going through the blue background that makes it dark in the middle, which makes black text here much more difficult to read. The background color for the paper in OpenOffice.org was a relatively light gray, which made the white text unpleasant to read for long periods. The borders were also white, even though the backgrounds for both the paper and the application window were gray, and would have been better suited by a black border.

While a lot of effort may have been put into creating this theme, it is very hard on the eyes. The worst viewing experience was Web sites designed with white backgrounds. Firefox was themed black and blue like the rest of the desktop. Form items like checkboxes and textareas matched the black, but were ugly and out of place in most Web sites, which had different color schemes. Some applications, such as Amarok, didn't follow the system scheme and were still skinned for a white background, causing them to contrast with everything else on screen.

When the installation was complete, I rebooted into my new system. After a moment, notifications in the system tray popped up informing me that I had software updates and restricted drivers available. I installed the restricted drivers first -- namely Nvidia drivers for my graphics card. After this, another icon appeared in the system tray and told me I needed to reboot to complete the installation. As if Windows weren't bad enough with its "Let's restart needlessly" attitude, I was now being asked to restart the whole system instead of simply restarting xorg. I decided to avoid a possible second restart request and ran the software updates before rebooting. After the first restart with the graphics drivers installed, I noticed that Compiz was running. Another notification of new software updates popped up too, which I installed and which required another restart.

After this bout of upgrades and reboots, I figured everything should be ready to go. However, the distribution's Web site recommends users run the upgrade shortcut on the desktop to get additional software from the repositories that couldn't be included on the disc due to licensing issues. Upon running this I was asked if I wanted to hear music during the upgrade. Given that Amarok and Rhythmbox were already installed, I assumed that the music would come from there when I said OK. Instead, I spent the next 10 minutes watching as the Timidity MIDI player was installed, a little animated graphic indicating activity repeating over and over my only indication that anything was happening. There was no status bar showing how far along the process might be, or an estimated time. The music was, as you might expect, low quality MIDIs. The first box to pop up on screen after Timidity installed was a warning telling me "Even if it appears nothing is happening please be patient. Cancelling while script is downloading or installing may have very negative and perhaps irr-reversible [sic] results, please do not close the terminal window it will be closed at the end of the upgrade process for you." How very friendly. I clicked OK.

The next window gave me three options for upgrading: Ubuntu Ultimate Gamer's Edition, Ubuntu Ultimate Edition, or Custom. The Ubuntu Ultimate Edition option confused me, as I thought I was already running Ubuntu Ultimate Edition. I gather now that it simply means it will install the software restricted by licensing issues. Initially I chose Custom, as was recommended on the Web site. However, while looking through the applications it listed, I noticed that some of the applications that were selected by default already seemed to be installed, while others weren't. I couldn't figure out if the installed ones already being checked meant the update would ignore them, or if I should go through and uncheck them, so instead of bothering with that I canceled the process and chose the Ubuntu Ultimate Edition option. Another box popped up and asked me if I wanted to "grab the default packages for the selected distribution." I still wasn't quite sure what that meant, but I clicked OK anyway.

What followed this was a glorious example of a bad user interface. The way this upgrade script is designed, each new application being installed results in a new window (the same kind as was displayed while installing Timidity). The window for each previous application closes, thankfully, but the new window pops up on top of anything else you are doing. It was a fight to try to use my computer at all during the update. Every time I tried to type something a window would pop up and take focus away from my other applications. I almost canceled by accident once when I was trying to click something else and a window popped up under the mouse. Along with this problem, there was also the issue of there being no indication whatsoever of the overall status of the upgrade -- no approximate time remaining, no indication of how many packages have been done, and no indication of how many are yet left to go.

About 10 minutes into the upgrade I ran into another usability issue. Those who have worked with Debian-based systems know that when doing an upgrade, all the packages are downloaded at one time and then installed in the proper order. That is not how UE's update worked. Instead, it downloaded and installed each application one at a time. Because of this, at several times through the upgrade process I was asked to address different license agreements, installation confirmations, and setup questions. In a regular Debian upgrade, all of these questions are asked at once. The confirmation is done before you start, and the setup questions are asked during the installation at the end. This allows the user to do something else while the upgrade is taking place. Instead, I was forced to stay at the computer and answer questions as they popped up at unpredictable intervals. This, coupled with the new windows popping up over other application I tried to use, made the update a very painful process, which lasted about 45 minutes.

After the required reboot from the upgrade, I still had to manually install the Adobe Flash player, as per Web site instructions. I spent so much time "upgrading" by installing multitudes of applications I didn't need that to have to install one of the main features I use almost every day manually was unbelievable. Having three different peer-to-peer clients installed at the same time, as UE does, doesn't help me; Flash does. So would a working spellchecker in OpenOffice.org, but that was also missing by default. For a distribution that aims to include programs to be convenient, it was sure lacking in the convenience department. In fact, it took more time and effort to install all those applications I'd never use "automatically" through the Ultimate Edition scripts than it would have taken me to manually install the ones I do use.

With all the initial upgrades taken care of, I decided to ease the pain by listening to some music. Since only XMMS handles my massive MP3 collection without lag, I tried to launch XMMS first -- but it wasn't on the menu. I brought up a terminal and typed xmms -- no luck. It wasn't installed. At this point I wondered on what basis programs are included in the Ultimate Edition upgrade scripts. Is it simply personal preference on the part of the creator?

I tried installing XMMS through APT, but it wasn't in the custom software repository that UE points to by default. Next I tried installing XMMS through the Custom selection on the Upgrade shortcut on the desktop. However, not only was it not in the list of custom applications, but when I clicked the Cancel button, the script proceeded to claim it was running Distribution Upgrade Script and popped up several new windows to that effect. Since when does Cancel mean OK? Frustrated, I downloaded the source to XMMS. However, even when I installed the required libraries through APT, the XMMS configure script claimed they weren't installed. In the end, I had to follow a tutorial online to get XMMS to compile on Ubuntu.

So what was installed, you might ask, that made Ultimate Edition so convenient? Six interactive development environments, three BitTorrent clients, three IM clients, two IRC clients, and here's the best one: Notepad! Yes, Windows Notepad is available through Wine. I know that's always essential for me when I'm using my computer -- much more important than Flash, Java, or a spellchecker. Speaking of spellchecker, I did discover the problem: It was set to use the Canadian dictionary, which doesn't exist. I'd think having it use the available dictionary by default would make the most sense, but apparently not everyone agrees with me.

One thing that is abundantly available in UE is games. Most of the available applications in the custom upgrade scripts are games. Someone who is interested in Linux gaming may appreciate the huge selection. WThere are far too many to list here, but a few of the more prominent examples are America's Army, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Open Arena (OSS content package for Quake III Arena), Nexuiz, Glest and Legends.

If you are just starting to use Linux and don't know how to install anything else manually, perhaps you might find the vast multitude of install scripts handy. For most of you, simply running pure Ubuntu and adding the custom repositories to your apt sources is probably a better solution than downloading the so-called Ultimate Edition.

Preston St. Pierre is a computer information systems student at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada.

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on Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.74.192.40] on June 06, 2008 07:53 PM
Well, I'm certainly glad I'm sticking with my vanilla Ubuntu. It works just okay.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: unknown] on June 06, 2008 08:09 PM
That theme hurts my eyes!

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 134.84.5.183] on June 06, 2008 09:38 PM
Could be M$ zealots trying to create bad experience/reputation for Ubuntu (Ultimate? Vista Ultimate? theme look like Vista's black glass? notepad? crappy website?)

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 60.49.33.143] on June 07, 2008 12:07 AM
Those boneheads are at it again, who wants to work with OpenOffice Writer when the whole thing looks black. I threw out this UE so fast even before it starts to blind me. UE guys, did you just fail your HCI class? Don't touch this crap, you will curse it so bad and you need to reconfigure many things in the 'dark'. Stick to just plain Ubuntu and customized your own package

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.8.172.23] on June 07, 2008 12:09 AM
Well.......

Vista ultimate is not so ultimate either *L*

Had a look at the first version of "Ultimate Edition" and wasn't too bad - actually!

Generally I don't like to put off people trying to make an effort, but in this case they have made their own bed. There's nothing ultimate about it. Looking forward to Hardy coming out of beta though... I put my money on that happening with 8.04.2

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 220.238.165.126] on June 07, 2008 01:08 AM
hmm looks like something touting itself as Ultimate might be a warning :P

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 87.196.192.137] on June 07, 2008 02:48 AM
While I agree that the theme is not very eye/user-friendly, I congratulate the Ubuntu Ultimate Edition for their effort and I hope they follow the example of gNewSense, Ututu and others by start removing all the proprietary junk.

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Ultimate Edition: Is OK

Posted by: ted61 on June 07, 2008 04:30 AM
It is OK. I think I spent about 4 minutes on the theme manager to find a theme that I liked. The Desktop is OK after you configure it to your tastes. It was not very easy to configure but I managed.

I installed it on a dual core and a 32 bit processor. Some games would run on one computer but not the other. It gave me fits. I still don't have Adobe working on either computer. The video capability is pretty good. I can run most videos on my dvd shelf.

I did just lend my dual core to a Mac-fan buddy of mine so he could load windows to play some ms games like Crysis and STALKER. I think an 880gts is still overkill for any Linux distribution. Maybe my computer is better off with windows and Crysis.

Ultimate was working just fine until it went to Mac-boys house.

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Ultimate Edition: So far so good.....

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 60.242.136.10] on June 07, 2008 07:43 AM
Installed UE only last night.If I'd have read the above review and comments before hand then it may never have been installed.
I write this using UE. Yes, the default colour scheme was hard on my eyes but a quick tweak to something a little easier took seconds....and as I'm new this, then anyone can manage to do this.
I read lots of reviews but have never previously left a comment, however the above comments seem to have missed the intention of UE
My take on UE was what is described on the UE site.
To paraphrase, Ubuntu with with additional software options, codecs, drivers already installed together with new art work.
This is all I was expecting, and this is what was received.
So, if you are looking for a pre-configured Ubuntu then, admittedly only 12 hours usage later, it appears you could do a lot worse.
Unfortunately Hardy had an accident and had to be removed from our PC.
With two young kids needing constant attention, I don't currently have the time to re-intall Hardy and get all the non-supplied stuff going again.
No, it is not hard, but I am time poor. UE was installed and going in 30mins with everything I need.

And no, in case you are wondering as this comment is so different from all of the above, I don't have any connection whatsoever with the folk at UE.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.10.182.144] on June 07, 2008 01:49 PM
The previous post is one of the few reasonable ones and a fairer assessment than Preston St. Pierre's was. Mr St. Pierre, it's a freaking *theme*, for God's sake! You don't like it, fine - change it to something else, including the original Ubuntu brown complete with the heron wallpaper. Just how lazy and/or incompetent are you, that you can't be bothered to find a theme you like and change your desktop to it with a few mouse clicks?

I've noticed this divide before, between fans of dark themes, who tend to be younger and maybe also gamers (most first person shooter games are quite dark-looking), and fans of traditional light themes who tend to be older and to be users of traditional productivity apps like word processing. I fall into the latter category myself, for what it's worth. I try out a lot of distros. If I don't like a default theme, I change it and move on. Suggestions for Ultimate Edition users who don't like the default theme here but aren't fans of Ubuntu brown either:
aptitude|apt-get install blubuntu-look for a mainstream blue theme, or
aptitude|apt-get install tropic-look for an interesting orange theme.
Each of these comes with a matching gdm (login window) theme and desktop wallpaper.

Getting beyond Mr. St. Pierre's silly railing about the dark theme, Ultimate Edition seems to be a nice collection of software added to standard Ubuntu, much of it geared toward multimedia-oriented users. It covers some of the same ground as Ubuntu Studio, with perhaps less emphasis on multimedia production and more on playback. I couldn't find some of the preinstalled apps in the repositories - they may have been built and installed by hand to the Ultimate Edition live DVD image, so they would be hard (but not impossible) to add to a standard Ubuntu installation. Note that I installed the 64-bit version, so my experience may have some differences to that of 32-bit users.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.64.141.9] on June 07, 2008 03:52 PM
Agreed the dark theme is a little rough on the eyes. As with the above user, just change it--it's not that hard. Additionally, you seem to miss the spirit of linux in general. It's an operating system with many different fans that allows you to "roll your own" which is why linux, good or bad, has many types of distributions. I'm a firm believer that it always easier to criticize someone else's work than actually produce something yourself. I'm sure that your "review" could have taken on a different tone such as suggestions that would make your user experience more enjoyable and provide some constructive feedback to the folks who are sharing their talents with the rest of the linux community. Perhaps in the future, you might just take a minute to reflect on what you are writing and realize that not everyone experiences installing the UE and tweaking the operating system to their liking as you do. And to be fair, if you loaded Windows on your system, how long would it take you to add all the programs that comes already included on this distribution and load your personal tastes to the user interface?

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 220.234.3.35] on June 07, 2008 05:41 PM
Thanks for the review.
Unfortunately it came a bit too late for me as i had already installed this "ultimate" edition.
This distro doesn't do the buntus justice, the custom scripts are faulty to say the least and from there it just goes downhill.

Take the ultimate website as an indication on how this experience is gonna be and walk away.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.248.89.66] on June 07, 2008 08:15 PM
This person writing this review doesn't seem to know a lot about Linux software. Notepad comes with WINE, so if WINE is included, you get the notepad app. XMMS is cool, for an classic old app. It's hardly a "standard" linux app anymore. It's uses GTK1 for goodness sake. Flash is a proprietary app, I can understand it not being there. I'm suprised they didn't have OpenJDK, I can understand not having SunJava.

Way too much belly aching over the theme. They did something different and you didn't like it, so freaking what, I think the standard Ubuntu looks like poo. Points about where theme conflicts with apps good points though.

Over all, the reviewer did bring up some good points, and convinced me not to try UE, not that I do much trying of the *buntus.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.25.138.222] on June 07, 2008 09:03 PM
aMsn causing problems again. How typical. Too bad it's the only MSN client that supports the latest protocol and nearly all the features that come with WLM.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.70.80.124] on June 09, 2008 04:22 PM
I find it ironic that you complain about the theme, but admittedly design websites with white print on black backgrounds... I had to stop reading there as I figure only more self-righteous *nix talk would follow.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 151.32.69.73] on June 09, 2008 05:34 PM
This theme looks similar to one I used on my laptop, and I find it _much_ more eye friendly than the usual hi-contrast ones. It just looks weird because we're not used to it, not every application benefits from it (admittedly the OO dark page doesn't simulate the typical white paper sheet) and most webpages took the standard black text on white background (Google).

If you mix the two it stops being relaxing because the eye fails to adapt to both themes at the same time. Themes have to be consistent on the whole interface and a low contrast/dark one is harder to implement in some contexts where black text on white bg is the standard, hence the terrible use of mixed settings which simply kills any benefits.

That theme can be really useful if applied globally to all applications (I mean *all*) in dark or semi-dark environments but I'd not recommend it in the typical office room where surrounding lights could make everything less readable, and generally where people speak in terms of documents and folders instead of files and directories. Cannot comment on the rest having not tried that distro.

Oh, and I'm over 40 and have nothing to do with those folks. I'm not even a Ubuntu user (100% pure Debian) and rarely play FPS games.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.56.60.3] on June 11, 2008 05:14 PM
Ultimate was good back when it was hard to install things like Beryl, and video drivers on Ubuntu. I just tried it on a new laptop I got, and I must say, it was much worse than a few version before, when I was a linux newb and needed the help to install such things.

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Lamest review i read in quite a while

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 92.80.231.178] on June 12, 2008 01:53 PM
You call this a review? I call it a tirade. People reading this harangue of yours will simply be put off by it and never give a second thought to this distro. Simply because you, dearest Preston, got up on the wrong side of the bed. FWIW i`m no UE fanboy, (my distro of choice is sidux, UE is my 2nd choice/dual boot) yet i believe that unlike plain vanilla Ubuntu, this fork is, well, what`s the term, USABLE?
Mind not Grinch St Pierre here folks, try it out and assess it for yourselves.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.150.114.226] on June 12, 2008 01:54 PM
"After this, another icon appeared in the system tray and told me I needed to reboot to complete the installation. As if Windows weren't bad enough with its "Let's restart needlessly" attitude, I was now being asked to restart the whole system instead of simply restarting xorg."

Erm, has this person even used Vanilla Ubuntu? The comments about restarting the entire machine after installing the restricted graphics drivers (and some updates) seem a bit odd, seeing as, last time i checked, the same was required under vanilla ubuntu (although I havn't tried under Hardy yet). I'm guessing this is mostly releated to initialisation of the kernel level module.

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Ultimate Edition: Is ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.133.71.41] on June 20, 2008 04:59 AM
I am the creator of UE (TheeMahn), amazes me how you can call it crap just because the theme is not for you even though 17 additional themes are available for you to change it to. As has been previously commented upon, a fresh install of "hardy" will require restricted drivers and a reboot & just the same for updates. Does hardy play your mp3's off the live disk? Can you browse youtube from the live disk (gnash)? Restricted manager not handle your drivers, can you fall back on envy? The list goes on...

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Re: Ultimate Edition: Is ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.41.0.95] on June 23, 2008 03:16 PM
That's more like it Theemahn

-Vinca

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.124.204.121] on June 27, 2008 06:21 PM
Hey GENIUS you can change the frickin theme if it bothers you so god damn much..... I like UE it has excellent compatibility with all of my hardware out of the box witch is something a lot of people take for granted. Coming from the days where you had to spend ages doing command lines to install drivers and programs this is by far the most user friendly distro I have used besides pardus linux. My only gripe is that a beta of firefox is installed but the rest of the preloaded apps are great for me and it also can open any media format I throw at it witch is something else people take for granted.

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Ultimate Edition: I have had good luck with UUE

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.227.116.159] on June 27, 2008 08:02 PM
I go through distros like Britney goes through red lights. I'm a fan of Ubuntu. I've used it since the first version (what was that?).

Anyways, my "Linux Only Computer" is a Dell Vostro 1000 Athlon 64. I had problems getting my wifi to work with Hardy. Trust me, I know all the workarounds and tricks but, it never worked right. On Gutsy it did. Go figure. I tried UUE and it recognized my Broadcom card even as a Live DVD. Hardy never did that. I have no idea why or how but, it did. I installed it and quickly got rid of the default theme which gave me nightmares of Ballmer in a negligee. I have usually had to tweal each distro with regards to apps but, UUE, again, did fine. Eveything from Quicktime Trailers, Flash, you name it, works. I shut Compiz off due to my machine's specs but, I for one am very happy with UUE. It's Ubuntu all they way and looks it too. I stick with what works and UUE does it for me. At least until the latest, greatest distro comes out again (and I've tried SUSE 11.0....it didn't cut it for me). Hey, if whatever distro you use works then stick with it. My Vostro with UUE is rock solid and runs like a champ. I would urge others to give it a go and just change the theme right off. It's got a thumb's up for me which is more that I can say for OpenSUSE 11.0, PCLinuxOS, Mepis and others. I'm sure I'd have better success with a more powerful laptop but, for my needs, I'm happy.

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Ultimate Edition: Not so ultimate

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.52.69.117] on June 29, 2008 07:50 PM
i ma really happy to watch comment about ubuntu ultimate...now noob can actualy try toget somting to say about ubuntu linux unix environement!!!!!!! the way i see ultimate is a trying on the fly distro.... as live cd

for all the bad comments i need to say try ur own rep then dive away ur distro!!!!
ist a goog way to leave far away m$ =(microsoft k for noob or just for the few day linux user
so ... for new in linux i recomend ubuntu ultimate and for real one linux why ubuntu? gentoo mean nothing?

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