I’m an Ubuntu user. I made the switch a few months ago. I like it, and I won’t be switching back to Windows. Ubuntu is great, but I’ve never been able to understand the near-religious fervor adopted by aficionados of linux (or Mac, for that matter) when they talk about their beloved operating systems.
Ubuntu isn’t that much better than Windows XP. My installation of Windows XP was always extremely stable, and I haven’t found Ubuntu to be superior in that regard. I made the switch more for philosophical reasons than anything. I was having a big problem envisioning myself running Windows Vista in the future. Vista contains nothing that I find compels me to want to upgrade, and seems to have been created mainly as a vehicle to generate sales for Microsoft. Not that there’s anything wrong with MS trying to make money, but in my opinion there’s little added value. Was I running an operating system or a marketing tool? So I decided to make the switch to Ubuntu.
First, let me say that I’m the kind of guy who can be entertained by learning a new OS. Ubuntu isn’t completely new to me–I’ve worked with Unix in the past, and the command-line stuff is mainly the same. But let’s not give people the impression that their world will be all beer and skittles after they make the switch. I’ve had to do a fair amount of research and fiddling in order to get things working to my likes. First, network adapters are *still* not a no-brainer. I did a fair amount of work to get my wireless adapters working using WPA encryption and static IP addresses. And I’m not the only one who had troubles with networking–I posted a “how-to” here on my blog, and that post has been by far the most popular. Like to watch DVDs and video on the web? Be prepared to surf the web to figure out how to install the necessary software–it doesn’t come with Ubuntu. Adobe Reader? Yeah, there’s a replacement for it in Ubuntu, but I don’t like it as much. You can install Adobe Reader, but prepare to surf the web to learn which repository to add to your software sources in order to install it. Got some specialized hardware? I was happy that I could use my Rigblaster Plug & Play with my Ubuntu system. In order to make my webcam work, though, I had to download source code and compile it. No big deal, as long as the documentation is complete enough. But if the instructions are crappy, newbies especially will have issues.
There is a ton of software available for linux, and it’s usually pretty easy to install. The good news? It’s practically all free. The bad news? It’s practically all free. It’s nice to get something for nothing, but often you get, well, nothing for nothing. The free software that’s available runs the gamut from excellent and well-supported to excellent and not documented to crappy and not documented. Linux has a reputation for reliability and stability, but much of the software written for linux is written poorly and works poorly. Much of the software has user interfaces that are really bad. And I still haven’t found a general-purpose logger that I like.
I may sound unhappy with Ubuntu, but that’s not true. I like Ubuntu. For the most part, I can get it to do what I want. But I wanted to temper the Ubuntumania with a little dose of reality. As with any operating system, expect a learning curve, and expect a little frustration from time to time. I run only Ubuntu on my desktop system, but on my notebook I can dual-boot to either Ubuntu or Windows XP. In addition, you can install and run VirtualBox in Ubuntu and that will allow you to set up a virtual machine within Ubuntu so you can run Windows (or another linux distro) if you’d like. That’s pretty cool.
For those of you who’d like to give Ubuntu a whirl, you can download a Live CD for Ubuntu from www.ubuntu.com. You can boot from this CD and run Ubuntu without actually installing it (leaving your Windows installation intact and untouched). It’s slower this way, of course, but you can at least get a taste for it. Maybe you’ll be hooked. Maybe you’ll even become Ubuntumanic…