Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Ubuntu Experience...

Ubuntu has become a very popular Linux alternative to Windows. And having finally had 1st hand experience with it, I can see why it has gained much popularity. There is very little that can't be done in Ubuntu that you already do in Windows. And it doesn't require 3rd party software to strengthen its web browsing security, such as AntiSpyware or Antivirus utilities.

What is Ubuntu?

About Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need - a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more.

The Ubuntu promise
  • Ubuntu will always be free of charge, including enterprise releases and security updates.
  • Ubuntu comes with full commercial support from Canonical and hundreds of companies around the world.
  • Ubuntu includes the very best translations and accessibility infrastructure that the free software community has to offer.
  • Ubuntu CDs contain only free software applications; we encourage you to use free and open source software, improve it and pass it on.

Sounds good huh? It did to me too, and I figured it was worth checking out.

The Good

Installation on my hardware was easy. As easy as any Windows installation I have ever done. This doesn't mean it will be so for everyone, so I would recommend searching on the Ubuntu forums to check if your HW is supported or what not to get if in the market for new HW.

I chose to install Ubuntu Studio 8.10 64bit. The installation interface is a text interface that sort of reminded me of the old DOS software install days. But the on screen instructions were easy to follow.

Once the installation was done, the system rebooted to a graphical login screen. And i must say the process is MUCH faster than it is when installing XP. Once I logged in, the update manager utility checked for updates and it found quite a few. It asked if I wanted to install them and I chose yes... it then asked for the admin pw, and it was off to install the updates.

This part took longer than the initial installation, but if you have done Windows Updates on a fresh XP installation, then you are no stranger for having to wait for the updated to finish. HOWEVER... Ubuntu did all the updates in 1 shot. Unlike Windows which requires multiple reboots with its updates. Already I am liking this OS a lot!

Once the updates where done, another reboot and the system is up to date. Naturally I was ready to see what was pre packaged to start using my computer.

The 1st thing I noticed is the speed in boot up times. Noticeably quicker than XP. Also the speed upon login in... that really blew me away cause I didn't have to wait for anti virus to load, or spyware protection tools, or any other stuff that is usually setup to start up once you log into Windows. Amazing!

The speed and multi tasking ability of Ubuntu is great.

Having seen many screen shots of other people's desktops, I knew that the ability to change the look of Ubuntu obliterated anything you could do in XP, even with 3rd party applications.

So I dove right in after a considerably amount of time I am ashamed to admit, I had changed my fonts, Icons, wallpaper, login theme, window theme, application launchers etc... what's the point? Total control... simple as that... Changing the look has become a bit of an obsession, and I partake on monthly threads where you show off your latest desktop creations... its FUN!!!!


Ubuntu comes with all the essentials for almost any Windows user to pick up where they left off. For example, all my word & excel documents are compatible with the OpenOffice suite of applications. And finding support for other MS Office type documents such as power point was as easy as starting up Add/Remove applications and searching through the abundant selection of free apps available in the Ubuntu repositories.

For my music files I was using Rhythmbox, but later found that Banshee was a better music program that is updated often. Totem is the video player that came bundled with Ubuntu and that seems to handle all my video without any problems. Gone are the days of being held back because I couldn't find a suitable codec for Media Player in Windows, the codec for Linux are easy to find and free.

I didn't have any trouble getting my laser printer to work (HP Laserjet 5M) or my flatbed scanner with SCSI card (Epson Expression 836xl).

But not all has come together for me the easy route.

The Bad

The transition wouldn't have been realistic if there weren't a few things I had to adjust to.

While Linux has its fair share of games, playing your old Windows favorites might have you jumping through hoops. There are some ways in which you can get to play your Windows games. But they are not 100% guaranteed to work. And that may have you doing some on line research and trying a few things if you can't find anywhere if the game works or not. That said, there are a ton of games that DO work and are documented to work through WINE or loading XP in VirtuaBox.

Color management in Linux while possible, definitely has a bit of a learning curve. I don't have this yet working with my colorimeter, but it is documented to work. My problem seems to be with the fact that I have chosen the 64bit path with my choice of OS.

I did run into some HW issues with my on board ATI video GPU. It turns out ATI drivers for Linux are not up to par with NVIDIA. This is only an issue if you want to use some of the eye candy features the X window environment offers and if you play games that require 3d HW acceleration. I eventually got it to work, but it took some trial and error. In the end having an older system with an older NVIDIA card perform better to compare to, led me to purchase a newer NVIDIA card for my setup... and my problems were solved.

There seem to be some wireless networking issues too, while I can't offer much input on that front, I can say that expecting everything to just work out of the box isn't a very realistic approach. By all means do some research 1st, and know what you may be getting into.

The Ugly

Well there is one thing I have not managed to be able to do. And that is find an application that can open my old visio files. Not that big of a deal, but it is worth mentioning.

These I will likely have to recreate myself if I need to.

Would I recommend Ubuntu to others?


I don't see any reason why anyone wouldn't in the very least setup a dual boot XP\Ubuntu configuration to see if Ubuntu is something you'd like to switch to. It's only some sweat of your brow, if that.

I have been using Windows since the late 80's. And currently make a livng supporting Windows servers. While I will admit I probably had a bit of an advantage in understanding how to get an operating system to work than most, I can say that I was able to find my way around quite easily thanks to the on line community. It's as good if not better than finding Windows help.

And ultimately, if you must dish out some coin, there are companies that offer support packages for Ubuntu. You can even buy a new Dell with Ubuntu installed and they support their HW very well.

I have since installed Ubuntu on all the computer at home. 4 of them to be exact. And the kids and I couldn't be happier.

Ubuntu also does come in other flavors... unlike Windows. And I will touch on that on my next blog with my flavor of choice, OpenGEU and briefly explain some of the other options I sampled before making my desicion.

The best part of it all is that there where no activation keys to deal with. I can change my HW anytime without having to notify anyone I need to re-install my OS. It didn't cost me a thing. And with Ubuntu's 6month upgrade cycle, you are guaranteed the latest version of the OS at no additional costs.

It's hard to deny the fact that I am please to say... MS will no longer be burning a hole in my pocket.