I, like many of you have used Microsoft products almost exclusively throughout my life and career. I admit that I used Apple computers in elementary school, you know, those ancient beige boxes that you could play Oregon Trail on, but that is almost the extent of my use of an alternative OS to Windows. Since Windows 3.1 I’ve always had access to computers running Microsoft Windows and other Microsoft products at home and at work. And I, like many of you have put up with the quirks and bugs of running Windows.
Recently I just got fed up with putting up with Windows any longer. My laptop, that was less than two years old, had gotten into the habit of crashing about 6 or 7 times a week. I consider myself a somewhat tech-savvy person and I’ve researched and installed many different tools and utilities to help clean up and fix issues in Windows and I think that extended my use of Windows for a year or so. I don’t know exactly what pushed me over the edge, but I started checking out every distribution of Linux I could and checked out pricing on Macs. Since we were expecting our third child within a month and a half, I decided to test out Linux to be thrifty :). I admit I was a little unsure what to expect from Linux, but I was pleasantly surprised. I tried Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Fedora, gOS, Linux Mint, openSUSE, among others. Each distribution has it’s good points and it’s bad. I really, really liked Ubuntu and Linux Mint, but ultimately decided on Ubuntu because of their agressive development and release timeline. Linux Mint is a good OS to use if you want something that more closely resembles Windows, but it is built on top of Ubuntu, just customized to look and feel more like Windows. Their development timeline relies on the new Ubuntu releases.
My fling with Linux started small by my installing a small partition of Linux (Ubuntu) on my drive just to make sure that I really wanted to take the plunge. Ubuntu offers a Windows installer called Wubi that allows you to do this easily right from within Windows. So, when you startup your computer you can select to boot Windows or Ubuntu. The first time I started up Ubuntu it immediately connected me to my home WiFi network, prompting me for the key, of course. The interface was very intuitive. The top “panel” had shortcuts to all the programs and directories, battery status, WiFi status, speaker volume, time and date with weather info, and the user settings and logout links. The bottom panel showed the open applications like Windows does. I was pleasantly surprised that the user interface was so easy to learn. Everything had it’s place and was very organized.
Ubuntu pre-installs many useful programs so most people will not need to find and install any programs to start using it. OpenOffice.org (Office Suite), Mozilla Firefox (web browser), gEdit (text/programming editor), Evolution (Outlook-like program), Pidgin (multi-platform instant messaging program), Movie Player (DVDs and other video media from internet), RhythmBox (music player that works with iPod), Brasero (disc burning program), and many others. All these programs are free. Have you ever bought a new computer with Windows and then had to buy the Office Suite or other 3rd party software to be able to use the computer for what you wanted? Ubuntu eliminates that problem, in fact, installing more software is only a few clicks and a search away using the built-in software installation utilities.
My first order of business was to find the Linux equivalents of, or alternatives to, all of the Windows-based software programs that I use day to day. The programs I listed above all are excellent alternatives. I have yet to find a great alternative to my Corel Ulead PhotoImpact X3 program, so out of necessity, I have to use VirtualBox running Windows XP to use that program. VirtualBox eliminates the hassel of installing Windows on a separate partition and having to boot out of Linux and then into Windows, just to run a program or two. It runs Windows as if it was just a program in Linux. Oh yeah, and it’s free from Sun, very cool. Eventually I hope to find a good alternative to PhotoImpact, so I can eliminate Microsoft completely from my laptop.
The only “problem” that I’ve had with Ubuntu so far is the lack of support that Lexmark provides for Linux users using their printers. Lexmark does not provide drivers for my printer and so, it is a paperweight to my computer. 🙂 I can still print from Heidi’s laptop, so it isn’t a complete loss, but it would be nice to eventually be able to send a print job from my laptop to my printer. Hello Lexmark!
So, over the past 6 weeks my fling with Linux has become much, much more. I don’t know why I didn’t make the switch years ago. After 3 days and after backing up all of my “important” files off my Windows partition, I wiped my drive and installed Ubuntu as my primary OS. My laptop has never run faster and smoother. Oh, yeah, and the interface is highly customizable. I’ve customized the interface to my liking, here’s my configuration now:
My dad recently got another Windows virus on his desktop and he asked me for help. My first thought and recommendation was, “why don’t you wipe Windows off and install Ubuntu?” I highly recommend that if you’re in the market for a new computer that you seriously consider trying Ubuntu or Linux Mint. You won’t be disappointed.