Some Ubuntu fans out there may remember Automatix, a tool for Ubuntu that allowed easy access to many popular non-free applications and commonly-used audio and video codecs. It debuted a few years ago, and got negative reviews from Ubuntu developers and experienced users due to the risk of breaking dependencies, but it offered an easy solution for beginners who weren't familiar with the way deb packages worked. Automatix was discontinued in March, when its developers moved on to other projects. Now Ultamatix hopes to continue where Automatix left off.
Ultamatix 1.8.0 was released in July, 2008, with versions available for Ubuntu 8.04, Ubuntu Ultimate Edition 1.8, and Debian Unstable. Both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures are supported. Linux newcomers will be pleased to know that installation of Ultamatix is purely point-and-click. It doesn't require the use of terminal commands unless you don't have a graphical deb package handler installed on your system. For most configurations, all you have to do is download the deb package, double-click it, and follow the prompts. An icon for Ultamatix will then appear in your Gnome or KDE applications menu.
When you first start Ultamatix, you must accept the license agreement, because the codecs it installs are not legal in all parts of the world. It's up to you to be aware of the laws in your country. Ultamatix developers take no responsibility for any lawbreaking you do with their software.
If you've used Automatix, the interface will look familiar, since Ultamatix is based on it. Like Automatix, the software list is broken down by categories, such as Chat Clients, Email Clients, Codecs and Plugins, Eyecandy, File Sharing, Games, Media Players, and more. Each category contains several options. To install software using this tool, browse through the lists, check off everything you would like to have set up, and click "Start." Ultamatix takes care of the rest by downloading the selected software and all dependencies.
There are more applications available through Ulitmatix than it is feasible to list in one article. However, some of my favorites include Google Earth, VLC multimedia player, and Anjuta for development. In addition, the Games menu contains quite a few of my favorites, such as Frozen Bubble, Neverball, Wesnoth, Bzflag, and many more.
Ultamatix gets even better. For those who use Ubuntu and would like to experiment with other flavors of the distro, you can use Ultamatix to install Edubuntu and Kubuntu as well. If you want additional tools to administer your system, you can use Ultamatix to install Ubuntu Tweak, Bootup Manager (BUM), and Sysinfo. You can even use it to set up things such as NTFS support -- with full read and write access.
Ultamatix also takes care of uninstalling applications that are no longer needed, and even goes as far as to remove the unneeded dependencies as well.
On the downside
There's not much to dislike in Ultamatix. Yet, with thousands of great Linux applications out there, it goes without saying that it can't possibly include all of them. A few noteworthy apps that are missing are the Opera web browser and Thunderbird email client.
For advanced users, there isn't much benefit here -- most pros already know how to install any applications they want on their own. But, even so, they may still appreciate the convenience of having them all available in one place.
Finally, I had already installed some of the applications Ultamatix offers, yet there are no uninstallation options for those programs, only for ones that I installed through the tool. It would be nice if Ultamatix recognized that those programs were already installed through another mechanism, and gave me me an uninstall option for them.
The real value of Ultamatix is in making the Linux experience easier for new users, and any steps taken to ease the transition into the Linux world is definitely welcome. Time will tell, however, if Ultamatix will also inherit the controversy that surrounded Automatix or even if it will be as popular. Still, all in all, this is a great application -- and an easy way to install some of the most popular programs that Linux has to offer. And, best of all, in my tests, Ultimatix did everything it was supposed to do without a single hiccup.