Friday, December 7, 2007

Becoming Windows-free: first impressions of Ubuntu.

I posted on here a bit ago about the future of the OS & the web. Time to take my own medicine...

When my old PC met it's maker last week in a grinding hard-drive failure, I figured it was an opportunity to free myself from the $100 Microsoft surcharge I pay every time I get a new computer. Time to see what all the Ubuntu buzz is about...

I looked at building my own PC - never done that, but heard it's pretty easy. Then I realized Dell was selling Ubuntu, which I could order without a monitor for $350. I wanted to hook this up to my HDTV... so took a risk that it would work. I have to say, getting the nvidia drivers to play nice with the DVI out was a hassle (besides the fact that the drivers weren't properly installed when the PC arrived). I've basically resolved it by stretching some toolbars(panels) on the sides of my screen to offset the overscan. Seems to do the trick well enough.

So what are my impressions from this experience? I've been a Windows user all my life (except for a few comp. sci. classes in college). I am tickled by the fact that I'm using free, open-source everything. That makes me part of a community which supports the philosophy that computing should be accessible to everyone.

As for the Ubuntu operating system. There's some pros & cons:

Pros
  • It's super fast! I can't emphasize this enough... Windows is a resource hog, especially Vista from what I've heard. I can run more applications at once now without feeling the drag.
  • Available software o' plenty. I was immediately impressed with the amount of quality software available for Ubuntu (for free!). I researched it a bit before taking the dive... but I think the only software I'll have to do without is TurboTax.
Cons
  • More command lines than many would like. I'd say Windows is pretty good at letting a user avoid this completely. A user could use Ubuntu out of the box & never need a command line... but in all likelihood, they'll need to go there once they start customizing or installing new software.
  • Using the forums. This could be a pro AND a con... but the point is that you're going to have to rely on google to find solutions to your questions (this is also true with Windows, just not to the same degree). It's not entirely bad - in fact, I haven't had a single issue yet I couldn't resolve this way.
Would I recommend Ubuntu? Yes & no. I wouldn't recommend it to a non-technical person who's comfort-zone is already Windows. I would recommend it to anyone who's got a little extra time & curiousity to learn something new. I'd also say it's great for anyone learning a computer for the first time... (from square 1, the learning curve is not much steeper).

Later versions of Ubuntu will only get better as more people try it out & it gets more attention. Like I've said before - I think that will happen as the web becomes a central computing platform & people will realize the $100 Microsoft tax isn't necessary.

1 comment:

Steve said...

You can often run windows apps on linux using wine, the windows emulator. It won't work for really complicated stuff, but I never had a problem with stuff like Picasa. And there's always VMWare or Virtualbox to run a Windows virtual machine.

Fixing overscan is a real pain.

I've used linux for over 10 years, let me know if you ever have any questions.