A new release of Ubuntu has just come out, so let's put it through the paces in Virtual PC 2007!
First of all, the old install problems (chronicled here) still exist. The Ubuntu installer boots up into 24-bit color, which is not supported by Virtual PC. If you start with the Start Ubuntu in safe graphics mode option, you will be able to see the installer screen just fine (with some ginormous icons), but unfortunately, the mouse is not recognized at all. I really had hoped this would be fixed!
That's fine... Mike has the fix here: http://blogs.msdn.com/mikekol/archive/2007/08/06/making-ubuntu-7-04-work-under-virtual-pc-2007.aspx
Once Ubuntu finishes booting, the graphics will be... completely screwed up.
After doing the above, Ubuntu is actually quite usable! Out of the box, it is has OpenOffice, GIMP, a PDF Reader, and some games. What more could you need?
I noticed that Thunderbird is not included, in favor of the Evolution Mail client. Normally, I prefer Thunderbird, but my work email lives on Exchange, and Thunderbird only works with POP/IMAP. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to see that "Microsoft Exchange" was listed as a server type. I entered my username and the Outlook Web Access (OWA) URL, and hit Authenticate. After typing in my password, I hit "ok", and Evolution disappeared. I've tried twice with the same result... must be a bug. Oh well.
Strangely enough, Thunderbird is not even available under "Add/Remove Applications". That having been said, "Add/Remove Applications" is REALLY slick. It is an installer for various packages that live on the internet. The UI is very intuitive and well laid out. I wouldn't mind having an equivalent to this program in either Vista or OS X.
I spent some time in GIMP, which works fine, although I was somewhat overwhelmed by the options. Maybe it would make more sense after spending a few hours with Gimp for Dummies ;) In the meanwhile, I MUCH prefer Paint.Net, the best free photo editor out there.
I also tried the new Desktop Search feature (which you bring up by clicking the icon in the menubar that looks like a magnifying glass with an arrow coming out of it. The search results are more focused towards finding web results (which are at the top) than programs or files on the local computer. I happen to prefer the Vista search results in this regards, as Vista Search is the quickest way to launch a program via the keyboard.
I also happen to notice that the Linux distribution of "Freedom" and "Choice" does not have Live.com as a search provider. Too bad... with the recent refresh, I actually prefer live.com to Google or Yahoo...
You have several options you can setup regarding indexing speed, ignored files, etc...
There is also an RDP client included out of the box, which would be great for connecting to my Windows Home Server box. For some reason, just like Evolution, when I hit the "connect" button, the Terminal Server Client just disappeared. Weird!
All-in-all, this is quite a solid release. OpenOffice works just fine, although it is not in the same league as Office 2007. Much nicer/snappier/usable than Google Docs though... some things work well in AJAX, and other things do not. Office applications are much more usable as fat clients. Add in the ability to save to "the cloud" and have versioning/collaboration, and you have a killer combo. We'll see who gets that out the door first. But I diverge... this is the first version of Ubuntu that I find to be quite usable. As I am running in a Virtual PC image, I can't try out Compiz, but I hear good things. I also have Kubuntu downloading right now (Ubuntu with KDE), and we'll see if there are any changes in that version worth talking about. It happens to weigh in at 4.3 GB (compared to Ubuntu's 712MB), so we'll find out what KDE does with that extra 3.5 Gigabytes of space. :)