I’ve now been using Ubuntu (8.04) as my primary OS at home for six months or more (before which I dual booted it as a second OS for some things). I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of the pros and cons of using Ubuntu in this way. I will also comment on my wife’s use of Xubuntu (also 8.04) on her machine.
Prior to my first attempt at running the OS on my machine, my last real use of a Linux OS was back in varsity-almost a decade ago- when we used Red Hat with KDE for our C++ courses. As such I was basically completely green as far as Linux goes, and came from a background of years and years of heavy Windows use.
For reference, my home laptop is a 3.0Ghz P4 with 1 Gig of RAM and an ATi 9700 (with 128M dedicated VRAM I think). Nat was running a similar system but with onboard video.
One of the greatest parts of the entire Ubuntu experience is the fact that with a Live disk, you can try out the OS without actually affecting your machine. The Live demo runs without a hitch, as does the actual installer. The Ubuntu installer is dead simple to use, whether or not you intend to dual boot your system-it’s also prettier than Windows’s boring old blue text installer from the get go (not that it really matters). I’ve done a fair number of fresh XP installs on my laptop, and Ubuntu’s install process is definitely quicker. The options to partition the installation drive may be intimidating to some, and a safe default could probably be made more obvious, but the argument could be made that anyone installing an operating system should have some idea of what will or won’t damage their system.
Next up (since it’s the first thing I set up after an install) is the networking. I can definitely say without any reservation that setting up basic networking in Ubuntu is a far more pleasant affair than the equivalent process in all Windows flavours. Microsoft’s attempts to make things easier by introducing networking setup wizards were well intentioned, but rather tend to get in the way.
Initial configuration of the network is intuitive and the default network configuration GUI tool in Ubuntu is a snap to access and use, with very welcome built-in support for profiles that can be switched between on the fly (for example between home and work connection settings). This is something I feel MS should have incorporated into Windows long ago, especially with the rise of the Notebook as a common choice for personal as well as business use.
Unfortunately 3G networking through my N95 is not as simple as on Windows (due to a lack of software support on the part of Nokia) but is possible for those not afraid to get their hands dirty and mess with setup scripts and the command line. A standard user, however, will not be able to achieve this. Once set up though, initiating and managing a connection through the phone is easy enough, if somewhat unstable at times. As far as I’m aware, there is added support for wireless networking in Ubuntu 8.10 which may make things easier.
That’s it for now. In my next post on the subject I’ll look at software support, installation and stability.