14 Jun 2006

Why I switched to Linux

I recently have been beta testing Microsoft’s latest and greatest (and oft delayed) OS (Operating System): Windows Vista.

While Microsoft claims it to be revolutionary, it’s been 5 years since the release of Windows XP (which is significantly inferior to the much more frequently updated competing product from Apple (OS 10.4 Tiger), and Microsoft is in real need of proving to people why it is that 95% of the computers in the world have their shiny silver sticker on it.

Most people who buy a new PC don’t chose Microsoft as they don’t really realize there is a choice. Most people just think you waltz into Bestbuy and your choice is either an HP, an eMachines, Gateway, or you buy a Dell from the web. (which by the way, all run Windows)

Shouldn’t the programs running on your system really be your choice too ??

Presumably once upon a time people did have a choice, they just didn’t realize the choice would last them a lifetime.

Unfortunately, switching from one OS to another can be very painful (which is why people don’t usually do it).

The main problem being that the programs you like will no longer work on the new OS. You can usually find similar programs, but you’ll have to re-learn them. This is actually a really big deal as you’d be surprised just how much you grow accustomed to not only the program, but any keyboard shortcuts, options etc..

This is just to point out why Microsoft is still in power.

People chose them once, and are now stuck with them.

Anyway, back to Windows Vista (remember, the OS that you’ll probably all be using in the next year or so). It’s been in development for 5 years, so you’d think it would be good right ?

well…..I’ve spent a while fiddling with it, and to be honest, it appears very much like Windows XP Service Pack 3. Basically it’s just Windows XP with a flashy GUI (Graphical User Interface). There’s nothing revolutionary about it, it’s just a fancy looking rehash of what most of us already have.

posted is a screenshot of it.

You’ll immediately notice the cool looking start menu, and if you look closely, you’ll notice the edges of the windows are transparent.

The first thing I noticed about it when fiddling was that all the menu’s and settings seemed to have been jumbled around at random.

I seemed to be hunting around, and even guessing at times where I would go to change a certain feature.

Granted, this is a beta version (meaning not yet finished, and possibly containing bugs), but after 5 years, and with less than 5 months before it’s to be officially released, this is likely extremely close to what the final release will be like.

So, assuming I want to leave Windows, what are my options ?

The primary contender is Apple. They make those little white laptops with a one button mouse you might have seen around. Apple computers usually cost a fair bit more than an equivalently spec’d PC, although are usually built very well with some unique innovative features. I’ve really considered getting an iBook, or MacBook Pro, but I’ve never really felt right at home when using them (as obviously I’ve used Windows all my life). A few months ago I decided to try my hand at Linux. It’s built on the ideology that software should be free and open source (meaning that the source code is openly available for anyone to see/modify etc..)

Linux distributions (distributions are different versions of Linux. Ubuntu is one of them) are a collaborative effort by lots of people from different countries who usually have one thing in common; they hate micro$oft.

I decided to try Ubuntu

Ubuntu is, like most distributions of Linux basically the Linux Kernel (the core of the OS) with a GUI, in this case GNOME with lots of cool programs bundled in (like the now famous firefox, and OpenOffice etc..)

The latest version of Ubuntu (6.06 codename Dapper Drake) came out the 1st of June 2006 and a new version comes out every 6 months (hear that Mr. Gates ??), so it’s a perfect time to try it out.

No longer is linux the “only for computer geeks” OS that it used to be. They still have a thing called a “terminal” which kinda looks like a Dos Prompt where you type commands, but it’s not required, as you can do almost everything with the mouse. (for those of you who are curious, in the screenshot below, the terminal is in the bottom right hand corner)

In the recent weeks I’ve come to realize I’m less reliant on windows all the time.

Everything I did in Windows, I can do in Ubuntu:

  • Browse the web, use an IM.
  • Play MP3’s/DVD’s
  • Write essays etc..

For every program in Windows, there’s a FREE alternative. Often the UI is bad, but the alternatives are usually very functional.

For those of you who use firefox (good for you) it came from the Linux community and is a prime example of why we shouldn’t just use whatever billionaire Bill decides should come pre-installed on Windows.

The best thing about trying out Linux is that you just download the CD (or click a link, and have them post it to you for free) and boot up your PC/MAC with the disc in the drive.

It will boot up straight into a “live” version of the OS.

you can see what it is like without touching Windows, and then, if you want to permanently install it, you can click a button, and have it do the rest. It’s really incredible. I was browsing the internet while it installed; no more installing while being in a Dos-like environment without access to the mouse)

The best part is that you can dual boot, which means you put Linux on,whilst also keeping windows on. Then, when your PC boots up, it’ll just give you the option at the beginning, where you pick either Windows, or Linux)