When I recently bought a new desktop pc to replace my main home one, I took the opportunity to set it up as a dual boot system with Windows 7 and Ubuntu (version 10.10). I set the default operating system as Ubuntu and intended to use this as my primary so I could learn more about Linux and see if it is indeed possible to live without Windows. But I do like to play things safe, so I had Windows installed as a ‘just in case I can’t manage it and need a comfortable alternative’. In ran this setup for 4 months and then re-assessed the situation.
Firstly let me say that I’m not out to start a holy war. There will be people out there that are avid Windows fans and there will equally be others out there who are avid Linux and Mac fans. This blog isn’t intended to say that one is overall better than the other, just record my experiences with Ubuntu.
Firstly – installing Ubuntu was a breeze. I could even boot of the Live DVD first and then browse the internet while Ubuntu was being installed in the background! And there are many different options for installing Ubuntu – you can use Wubi to install it as a Windows app and fake a dual boot. You can install it as a virtual machine. You can dual boot it with other operating systems. Or you can just go cold turkey and install it with no other operating systems around.
With my install there were approximately 7 questions in total and the only marginally tricky section was working out how to partition the hard drive and where to set the root partition.
- It’s FREE – that’s right. Free. Completely, legitimately open source and totally legal to just download it of the internet, burn it to a dvd and install it on as many computers as you like. You can’t get better value for money than that.
- Internet – Firefox (my preferred browser) is installed by default and my network settings were picked up automatically. Brilliant.
- Office products – Again, Open Office is available by default and flawlessly opened all of the documents I needed to work on.
- Video – after installing the ‘restricted extras’ package all my videos and dvds played back beautifully.
A few of my favorite things:
- Eye candy – some of it doesn’t look as polished as Windows but the effects that you can customise with Compiz are awesome.
- Multiple virtual desktops – I love that it’s built-in by default. I’ve been using VirtualWin to achieve the same thing in Windows but this is so much better.
- Security – I like the way that the kernel is structured, that software is delivered and that users don’t have admin privileges that makes it a very inhospitable environment for malware and viruses to live.
- Performance and Optimisations – everything about Linux seems to be just slightly more streamlined and better thought out than Windows. The install size is smaller, the boot times were faster, the menu layout was more logical. It was nice to be using a system and think “wow, someone was really thinking when they wrote this and they’ve done a great job.
The not so good:
- Games – while the range of free games (I had particular fun with Tux racer and Frozen Bubble) is good and the attempts to allow people to play Windows games on Linux (Wine and PlayOnLinux) are also good, they don’t match the games developed for Windows. These games would probably keep the average 10 year old happy but for serious gamers, you’re going to need a copy of Windows or a console somewhere to satisfy the urge.
- When things don’t work – they REALLY don’t work. I had a few issues with my video card initially – It would display a basic picture but I had to install restricted third party drivers to unlock the full potential of my card. This took a lot of trolling through forums, entering command line instructions and editing config files. While I myself aren’t too deterred by this, it takes a lot of time and hassle for something that should be a lot easier. I had a few other cases where I couldn’t get things to work the way I wanted (like getting burg to respect my choice of default operating system and using crontab to schedule tasks) that weren’t as straight forward as they could have been. Don’t get me wrong – I love the command line and appreciate the power and flexibility it has. But it can be infuriating when things don’t work flawlessly on the first attempt.
- Website design – there didn’t seem to be any particularly awesome editing apps for html/css design work. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough but the best I found was Konkeror and I found the interface a little clunky and hard to find things.
- Hardware support – I found a few usb toys that I had that were strictly Windows only it seems and my printer (Epson Stylus Colour RX430) printed ok for me but it was shared through my computer to the rest of the network and it did some bizarre things to pages printed from other Windows computers on my network (like only printing the left hand side of the page). I think hardware support is very good but not perfect.
In the end…
I really love Ubuntu. There are so many things about it that just make it awesome. And for some people it would be perfect. But for me I need to have faster access to games when I feel like it (I do not want to reboot every time I feel like a quick Plants vs Zombies round) and I like being able to fix things a lot faster than I can in linux sometimes.
So I have left Ubuntu Installed, but changed my default to Windows 7. There are some areas in which Ubuntu kicks Windows out the back door. But there are not enough of them for me to make the switch entirely. I intend to boot into Ubuntu frequently when I have some time to do the updates, check what’s new and have a play around but for most of my day-to-day tasks, I’ll stick to Windows.
But who knows, maybe one day (especially with the current rate of development) Ubuntu may iron out all the bugs that prevented me from moving over and I’ll make the switch then.