Ubuntu 10.04: Make the Switch From Windows

Ubuntu 10.04: Impressions

Let me start with some really brief history. I’ve been aware of Linux since about 1999 or about. I’ve used it actively since around 2003 on and off and always have been a supporter of Linux and it’s philosophy. Especially growing up through the dot com boom and realizing that all those shiny software packages, suites, and games can cost you a fortune.

Through the years I usually stuck to the mainstream distributions of Linux such as Mandrake (now Mandriva), Kubuntu, and Red Hat as I’m not a Linux guru like most people and on-line help for these distributions are readily available. Somehow though, I always ended back up in the world of Windows due to some constraint, bug, or lack of knowledge in Linux. I know many will say to dual boot but I’m not a fan of that for reasons that I won’t get into here. What could make an admitted fan go back to Windows so many times you say? To start with earlier and now is the complete lack of any real substantial and cutting edge games on the Linux platform. There are a handful of games that were the blockbuster titles natively supported in Linux but those titles are scarce. Then you can try to beat Wine into working on your favorite PC title but thats time not playing my games and getting a massive headache. Once the console market called me back, I gave my Xbox 360 full gaming responsibility from that point on leaving my now aging PC to do actual ummm, PC stuff. (Still got many hours of World of Warcraft play though for awhile :^P ). Back to Kubuntu and the shiny KDE 4 desktop environment. For those who have recently tried KDE 4 know what I mean when I say buggy as hell. This function doesn’t work, there’s a work around for that, and so on and so on. Upon loading it to my desktop I always had to hack some system file somewhere just to get one or two pieces of hardware to work. I loved Kubuntu, KDE, and their shiny look for a long time but no thanks guys. And so on to Ubuntu. I loaded it. Everything worked. VoilĂ  This could be what finally wins the OS war on my desktop. But wait. It’s so fugly and dare I say Windows XP looking. After numerous attempts to pretty up my desktop I gave up not quite ever happy with the results. Back to Windows 7 at this point and I must say the best operating system Microsoft has released to date. Then my PC crashed and corrupted a bunch of system files. I rebooted and somehow my release candidate version of Windows was no longer valid. So I rebooted again (kind of liking kicking your tire when your car breaks down), and my profile mysteriously got scrubbed. That was it. I wasn’t going to spend another whole weekend repairing a broken Windows install so I researched the latest happenings in Ubuntu and found that version 10 had just been released and it was due for some nice interface upgrades soon.

Installing

Installing it was simply painless. It asked me some very basic questions then for about 15 minutes installed itself. Once the installation process was over and I logged in everything just worked. I did have to manually enable the Nvidia drivers due to them being proprietary and install some codecs such as mp3 and wmv support for the same reason. But this experience was made painless using Ubuntu’s Software Center application.

[You will have to install Ubuntu Restricted Extras for Java, Flash, and extra codec support not covered under GNU licensing.]

The Experience

For Windows users navigating around shouldn’t be that much of an adjustment. Things aren’t exactly located in the same place though, so some searching may be required. After pointing and clicking for a few minutes, I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of free goodies already loaded on my desktop. You get a full office suite via OpenOffice.org with the option to download more add ons. A handful of games are loaded such as Solitaire, Sudoku, and Mahjongg. And to round it out there’s a disk burning utility, Firefox (default browser), and email client just to name a few.

What really caught my eye is the top right portion of the screen though. Very subdued little icons and where I found a mail icon. With the mail icon you have quick access to email, messenger, and broadcast messenger. Email is simple enough as it is the notifier for your email client, Evolution. But the part that impressed me the most was the amount of options for getting connected socially. Not only did it have the standard amount of options for instant messengers but they’re all rolled up into one package. That means Yahoo, MSN Live, Google Talk, AIM, and many more can easily be setup from one central location. And as a bonus, from this same mail icon, you can access Gwibber. Gwibber is your social client that connects you with the popular social circles such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr, and Friend Feed. This application is nicely laid out allowing you to easily follow your friends from one area on your desktop with a notification feature.

[Gwibber: The Social Network Client]

I could go on and on about the number of extras and eye candy that Ubuntu has but one application that really stands out is Compiz. With Compiz you will be able to have enough eye candy and fun till your hearts content. Check out some screenshots below.

[Application Switcher]

[Cube Effect]

Final Thoughts

Ubuntu 10.04 makes it easy for anyone wanting to try out Linux or jump ship from Windows. There will be a learning curve but Ubuntu tries to make this adjustment as transparent as possible with vast hardware support and tons of software built right in. This post is written from the view that you are the average computer user or maybe not but rather not have to learn shell commands and edit a bunch of text files to get your favorite hardware/software up and running. Besides the weird brown windows I found that using Ubuntu is just as easy to figure out and get running as a Windows system. Best part is that all the software is free and you don’t have to fool with product keys, licenses or the sort. Performance wise, it ran as good as Windows 7 did on the same system with a hiccup or two every once in awhile, mostly due to the age of my desktop.

Unless you have that one must have software on your Windows computer, I highly recommend everyone trying Ubuntu out. There’s many applications and alternatives for what you use in Windows and may work differently but you can obtain the same results. I know many people will debate that some software is just plain better in Windows but I challenge anyone who has used Adobe Photoshop for years to use Gimp for the same amount of time and tell me that they can’t be as productive.

I obviously didn’t get into all the goods and bads of Ubuntu and theirs plenty of sites where you can get the full rundown. I just want to get across that Ubuntu in my opinion bringing Linux into home desktop maturity and is a serious alternative to Windows and Mac systems. It’s a great way to upgrade your computer if you don’t want to purchase the latest copy of your current operating system also. I personally cannot see how you can go wrong with Ubuntu at this moment and hope that you have as much fun using it as I have.

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