Feast your eyes on Ultimate Edition Linux

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Ryan Jorgensen, 123RF

Ryan Jorgensen, 123RF

The Linux Ultimatum

With its awesome look and feel and bundled point-and-click apps, Ultimate Edition 5.0 is as easy to use for newbies and gamers as it is for hardened developers.

While there is no shortage of derivatives of Ubuntu, the release of Ultimate Edition 5.0.1 is worthy of mention. Most importantly, the operating system (OS) is a Long Term Support (LTS) release as it was built from the Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerius tree and will continue to be supported until 2019.

What is especially impressive is that the developer Glenn "TheeMahn" Cady built Ultimate Edition 5.0.1 using a mixture of his own programming skill and his very own tool Tmosb (TheeMahn's Operating System builder), which also has received an overhaul in honor of the latest release [1].

In fact, TheeMahn, who has been coding for over 30 years, has been developing Ultimate Edition Linux since 2006. In December 2006, he created a special edition of Ubuntu known as Ubuntu Christmas Edition . Its successor was named Ubuntu Ultimate , but after a polite email from Canonical regarding trademark issues, this was changed simply to Ultimate Edition .

Since the initial release of Ultimate Edition 1.8, which was based on Ubuntu 8.10 (Hardy Heron), the project has branched. In addition to the full install, there is now a Lite , Gaming , and Server edition. Although the releases are based on the biannual stable versions of Ubuntu, Ultimate doesn't follow a fixed release schedule, which TheeMahn claims is to allow for more extensive beta testing [2].

At the time of writing, the Lite 64-bit and 32-bit version of the OS has been released, based on the 4.4.0-25-generic kernel with MATE 1.14.1 ; there are plans for a Full and Server edition. Currently, the only way to install Ultimate Edition is by downloading the 2.7GB ISO directly from SourceForge. The Ultimate Edition website also has a direct download of Unetbootin to allow the OS to be run from a USB stick without burning to disk [1].

Ultimate Eye Candy

One of the main criticisms of Linux is that the graphics sometimes look rather dated. Consequently, it's pleasing to hear that Ultimate Edition's stated intention is to create a complete, seamlessly integrated, visually stimulating, and easy-to-install OS [3] (see Figure 1). The installation wizard is the same for Ubuntu, but it is much more visually appealing out of the box. The wizard is readily customizable with tweaks for icons available via the ACYL (Any Color You Like) Icon Theme Manager. Desktop themes are managed by Emerald Theme Manager . There are a number of preinstalled themes from which to choose, including one that makes the desktop resemble Windows 7 and four that resemble Windows Aero. The cursor set for the default theme is particularly impressive, with a rotating loading icon and mouse.

Figure 1: The default desktop has stunning electric blue icons, a revolving cursor, and transparent windows.

If you have a compatible video card, CompizConfig Settings Manager will also allow you to enjoy more 3D desktop visual effects, such as wobbly effects on Windows and Desktop Cube (see Figure 2). CompizConfig is disabled by default, but it's possible to use the Live version of the OS to check if your machine's video card is compatible by going through the steps outlined in Ultimate's Release notes [4].

Figure 2: CompizConfig allows for some spectacular effects in Ultimate Edition, such as making your desktop rotate as a cylinder.

The Caja-Actions Configuration tool (formerly know as Nautilus-Actions Configuration tool) also allows you to create new context and location options for items in the File Manager. Ultimate already has put this to good use. Right-clicking on files shows extra options under Scripts not usually integrated into MATE, such as the ability to automatically mount an ISO or convert an image to PNG.

Ultimate Hand Holding

Ultimate gives the impression of an OS attempting to seduce both Mac and Windows users to move to Linux. Aside from the desktop themes to parallel Windows, the NTFS Configuration tool is available to provide read/write support for NTFS drives in a single click, a feature unavailable in vanilla installations of Ubuntu.

The Caja-Dropbox application can also be launched with a single click to install and launch the proprietary Dropbox daemon. Clicking on the app takes the user straight to the Dropbox sign-in screen without the usual warning about closed source software.

The bundled gtkpod application allows for managing iPod playlists, photos, and videos without installing additional software. The inclusion of VLC Media Player v2.2.2 (Weatherwax) also means that DVD playback is supported out of the box along with a multitude of video and audio formats.

Ultimate Edition Version 5.0.1 no longer includes support for Ultamatix, which allowed for single-click installation of software programs. However, it is possible to install additional software from the command-line application Terminator, which allows for multiple Terminal windows. By default, the restricted and multiverse repositories are enabled, and Ultimate maintains its own repositories for apps and games [5].

Conveniently, Wine v1.6.2 is preinstalled, allowing for installation of certain Windows programs. It's not clear why a more recent version of Wine isn't bundled instead, as the latest version (1.8.3) includes support for a much broader range of Nvidia graphics cards [6], but this can be solved with a simple update.

TheeMahn also claims that the Full versions of Ultimate Linux have been accused of being overly large in the past due to having more than one type of the same application (e.g, three music players). A number of proprietary drivers, particularly for wireless cards, are supported out of the box in the name of convenience, but they also increase the overall size of the OS. Nevertheless, TheeMahn maintains that what others call "bloat" he calls "choice" [7].

The bloat issue seems to have been addressed in the Lite version, as its installation footprint (around 4GB) is much smaller than that of previous Full versions (around 8GB). Nevertheless, some of the bundled applications still seem superfluous. For instance, Kodi Media Player (formerly XBMC) is installed along with VLC Media Player. There also doesn't seem to be a preinstalled email client, as Mozilla Thunderbird has been removed since version 3.6 [3].

The trend of software working out of the box also continues for Ultimate Server Edition, which is still in the testing phase. The software was created using uecorebuilder , a subprogram of Tmosb ; it can be downloaded from the Ultimate Edition website. Step-by-step instructions are available to set up the server on a dedicated VPS to avoid issues with your rig. Once successfully installed, the server includes Secure Apache2, an FTP server, PHP and SSH support, and even Wordpress.

For those with no virtual private server (VPS), Ultimate Edition 4.2.1 Minimal Server LTS, based on Ubuntu 14.04, can be downloaded as a compact ISO of just 712MB from either SourceForge or Os-builder.com [8].

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