3d, 7, boot, desktop effects, floss, linux, operating system, reliability, service pack, speed, time, ubuntu, vista, windows
Of course Ubuntu can go wrong but only when I mess with it. Meanwhile, Windows seems to go wrong all on its own with no help from me!
- Settings are easier to find.
Everything you could need to alter is either available through the “System” menu, or right clicking a particular object. Windows requires you to drill through multiple layers of menus.
- Boot speed.
Compared to Windows, the boot time of Ubuntu is stunning. See for yourself.
- Disk space.
Ubuntu takes at most a quarter of the disk space that Vista and Windows 7 takes. That means you have more drive space to use for your own files.
- Operation speed.
Windows soon slows down, Ubuntu doesn’t seem to ever slow down. Everything works as quickly as it did yesterday.
- Applications are easier to install.
In Ubuntu, you have the “Synaptic Package Manager” which gives you a point and click interface to choose applications to install – think of it like an App Store. Unlike Windows, where you have to hunt the internet for a .exe to download, then run it yourself. In Ubuntu, it’s an all in one operation.
- Desktop effects.
Thanks to a system called Compiz, Ubuntu has more snazzy desktop effects than Windows or Mac OSX have ever had. You can set up the combination that is perfectly useful to you.
- Regular releases.
With Ubuntu, you have the equivalent of a service pack every six months. Between those releases, on average, you’ll get bug and security fixes every week.
- The command line.
This is a controversial one as I wouldn’t suggest novice users jump right into using the command line (but I would encourage you to learn!). Although, I like how I can achieve – with a single line of code – something that would take a few minutes of point and click work. Windows has a command line, but it’s just not as useful.
- No DRM, i.e. no Windows Genuine Advantage.
Because Ubuntu is free there’s no nasty DRM to get in your way when you’re installing the system, either on your own computer, or taking your Ubuntu CD to your friend’s computer.
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3d, cedega, cli, command line, compiz, desktop, Games, gnome, gnu, gpl, linux, mac, novice, operating system, os, osx, terminal, ubuntu, windows, wine, xp
Tux, the Linux mascot
I’ve been living in Linux for just over three months, so I thought it would be interesting to report on how I’m finding it.
The first thing I need to stress is that I really do think that the GNOME desktop environment is ideal for non-techie users. You can have “GNOME Launchers” which are just the same as Windows “Quick Launch” icons. The Windows “Start” menu idea is extended more logically as you have three menus “Applications”, “Places” and “System” all self-explanatory and logical for a new user to find what they’re looking for. One little criticism here for catering to those migrating from Windows; to open these menus from the keyboard you have to hit Alt+F1, rather than simply hitting the Windows key (know as the “Super key” to Linux/Unix operating systems). I think having the Windows key launch these menus, by default, would be more useful to novice users who are used to the Windows desktop.
The Super (Windows) key
That covers novice computer users, but for slightly more advanced users, Linux of course has lots of freedom to configure your environment. So much so that the limit to which you can customise is only practically limited by your own skill and willingness to learn. Also, there are the 3D desktop effects. These can mimic those found in Windows and OSX, but there are lots more effects, more than I’ve had time or cause to explore. Some are simply for show and I have chosen to them switch off, most notably the rotating desktop cube and the wobbly Windows. Although the ones I do find genuinely useful are the “Shift Switcher” (particularly for flipping through windows on all desktops), and the enhanced desktop zoom. Other subtle effects for minimizing and maximising windows just add another layer of class to your overall experience.
A BASH terminal
Now, you can’t talk about Linux without mentioning the command line. I accept that this is not a tool for novice users, and that there is a command line interface to Windows too. Comparing the CLI’s of both platforms, have to say, subjectively, that the Linux/Unix CLI just makes more sense to me then Window’s pseudo-DOS CLI. If I were trying to do tech support for a novice computer user of Linux, it would be a last resort for me to tell them to open the command line. Having said that, I think that if you are doing your own research into a technical problem, the ability to copy and paste some code from a trusted website into your terminal is much more efficient than following some Windows guide with a long set of “point and click here” type instructions. I am neither a computer science grade user, or a novice user, I’m probably somewhere on the advanced side of a medium level user. As such, I have really enjoyed having the command line and writing bash scripts and cron jobs to automate tasks for me. During these three months, it has really made me feel like I was using a computer again rather than just a glorified internet appliance, which is what computing of recent years seems to have turned into.
It is all these things that I do through scripts that I now find Linux indispensable. If I were to go back to using Windows full time, I’d probably need to run a Linux virtual machine all the time, because equivalents all of my bash scripts would be a lot more complicated to set up in Windows.
WINE IS NOT AN EMULATOR!
Now for some negative points. I don’t game that much these days, but occaisionally enough to make it a consideration. I’m particularly partial to a game of Team Fortress 2. Now, this game even taxed my laptop in XP, but I did manage to make it run in WINE, but it wasn’t the best gaming experience I’ve ever had. A 800×600 window which slowed to a halt whenever I got into any point-blank range action. Even Cedega was a let down as it wouldn’t even let me install Steam, which is a MASSIVE over sight for a program focused on enabling Windows games in Linux.
Having said that, there are some very nice open source games supplied with Ubuntu, out of the box, which are fun to play if you just want a 15 minute distraction. My current favourite is a Lemmings clone called Pingus (yes I know, not exactly fun for all you FPS fans!)
Also, compatibility with new hardware is something that worries me. I don’t know what the current situation is, but I know my laptop is only so well supported because it is old. I am currently looking at replacing my laptop in the next 18 months. Since I want to use Ubuntu as my main operating system, I’m going to have to do more homework than I otherwise would, just to make sure the hardware is supported without me having to do a load of command line hacking that would be beyond my current ability.
So there we have it, my experience so far of living with Linux. To sum it up, I’m happy, I don’t want to switch back to Windows. The only reason I’m keeping Windows around is to run software for my smartphone, for using Chkdsk on some of my removable drives, and in the future I’ll use it again for gaming.
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