I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been a fan of Linux for a few years now. I loved the concept even before I installed the software the first time. You see, Linux is free. (In two ways – it’s free as in “free speech”, and free as in “free lunch”.)
For those who don’t know what Linux is, in essence it’s an operating system (like Windows) that’s distributed free of charge (unlike Windows). It used to be a fairly complicated operating system to master, but then Ubuntu came along with the goal to make Linux more “human”. And things have indeed changed since then. I’m going to go into detail in a few moments. But first, guys, please forgive me; I have had limited exposure to other operating systems, so I will be comparing Linux with Windows today, and not with MacOS, or Unix, or Novell, or anything else. Okay? Okay.
So I recently got my hands on Ubuntu 10.04 64-bit (it’s the latest Long Term Support edition of Ubuntu that was released in April 2010) and installed it. The first thing I noticed was the 5-minute install time. Yes, a complete install in 5 minutes! (And I thought Windows 7 was awesome with its 20 minute install time…) The next thing that impressed me was its boot time. I went from cold start-up to desktop in 23 seconds!
But since most people out there are still using Windows XP, waiting for a system to install or boot is obviously not that much of an issue for most. So let’s look at some other features:
Firstly, I love the new theme. The old orange / brown was really not my thing. (No offense, I bet some people loved it, but not me. Both colours remind me of drinking fish oil and antibiotics (the kind that looks like milkshake but tastes like vomit) as a child. No thanks. The new theme is quite pleasing to the eye, as you can see:
Another nice new feature is Gwibber. Gwibber is like a central social networking program. It can connect to your accounts with Facebook, Twitter, and many others, and update your status, as well as display all your friends’ status updates. No more “Sannie Koekemoer is out of town but a new Hairy Cockroach was born in her InsectCity, and it needs someone to take care of it”, or “Gertjie Pretorius sent you a Slimy Leg in Random Body Parts” or such nonsense. I think that’s great.
It also has a great multimedia package, including a new video editor. You can listen to music, rip CD’s, and watch some movies straight out of the box. You can also purchase music on Ubuntu One, a cloud-based network, and the music is automatically synchronized with all of your devices through the cloud.
Ubuntu 10.04 is real easy to use. It includes most of the software you will probably need, like OpenOffice.org 3.2 with its spreadsheets, word processor, and presentation program. And those things that you don’t get included, you can always install with the great Ubuntu Software Center.
I didn’t have any driver problems either. All of my devices (including Bluetooth, and my Vodafone 3G modem) worked directly after installation.
But, in all honesty, not everything that I have to say is positive. The first thing that bothered me was the fact that they moved the “Maximize, Minimize, and Close” icons to the upper left, instead of the upper right. Why? I couldn’t get any clear answer. People are used to having them on the right; now it’s just plain confusing. Especially in some programs, like OpenOffice.org’s Word Processor; if you have a document open, the document’s Close icon is still on the right, but the program’s close button is on the left. I don’t doubt that you will get used to it, and maybe even like it, eventually; I’m just saying it’s a rather pointless change that irritates me.
Another thing that troubles me somewhat is the fact that Ubuntu doesn’t include native support for MP3’s and DVD’s. You have to download the packages to add support separately. Though it isn’t a huge download, it’s still a bit of an inconvenience. I can understand that the codecs involved aren’t “free as in free speech”, and so it goes against Ubuntu’s philosophy; but still, it would have been nice to get the support out of the box. We once revived a customer’s old laptop by installing a version of Ubuntu. It was mainly for her daughter to use to write some stories. Later we heard that she also wanted to watch DVD’s, but when we wanted to install the packages, she didn’t have internet. So that’s slightly irritating as well.
I also have to say that, despite the fact that Ubuntu is incredibly stable, it would seem that Firefox (the default web browser in Ubuntu) is not. I had problems on older versions of Ubuntu, and I’m still having problems in the new release; Firefox would just stop responding for no apparent reason. Though it doesn’t happen often, it is completely random and unpredictable.
So my final verdict:
Ubuntu has come of age. This is by far the best version of Linux I have seen yet. I can finally recommend Ubuntu 10.04 as the permanent operating system for most people, whether they are used to Windows or not. BUT, if you are a hard-core gamer, stick to Windows. Though gaming support for Ubuntu is improving, and some Windows games actually look better and perform better in Ubuntu, it’s still a struggle to get some Windows games to work in Ubuntu. The same goes for people who use specialist software of any kind.
If you want to download Ubuntu (free of charge), go to the Ubuntu web site bly clicking here. It’s a fairly large download though, so if you would rather like to get a copy of it on CD or DVD, please contact Renovo Computers.
I also recommend, before you switch to Ubuntu, that you take a look at http://www.osalt.com/ to see if there are open source alternatives around for any software that you use.
So, that concludes our broadcast day. Be blessed!