Ubuntu First Impressions
During some summer cleaning last week, I found my four-year-old Dell Inspiron E1505. Having nothing better to do, I decided to use it as a test platform for Ubuntu (version 9.10).
No, Ubuntu isn’t the name of a midget, as my girlfriend joked after I told her about my little experiment. It’s a variant of Linux, an operating system that’s available as a free download. A day or so playing around with the OS reveals that it’s fast and responsive, and extremely customizable. It takes a while to break old habits though, especially if you’ve used Windows your entire life.
Fast and Responsive
Installing the OS is a relatively simple matter of downloading the ISO, burning it on a CD (with a utility like ImgBurn), and booting from it. It took a while for the Ubuntu installer to start up, but after selecting the correct settings, actual installation took around 20 minutes total.
A particularly impressive feature of the installer was how it found drivers for my laptop’s old hardware. Once Ubuntu was installed, everything from my video card to my Wi-Fi was working properly. The OS comes with everything a typical computer user needs, including office software (Open Office) and a web browser (Firefox 3.5).
The interface is extremely customizable, right down to the font and the color scheme; changes were applied instantly. Ubuntu 9.10 in fact comes with the Dust theme bundled, which was developed by Filipino designer Rico Sta. Cruz.
Boot up took around a minute or so. Yet after everything’s starts up, things move very quickly. Programs started immediately after launch, and switching between applications (using Alt+Tab, like in Windows) was breeze. In short, my old laptop runs faster on Ubuntu than on its previous OS, Windows XP Media Center Edition.
Of particular note are Ubuntu’s workspaces, which allow users to run many applications without clogging up their screens. I currently put all my work apps in one workspace; my Skype, Yahoo, and Tweetdeck in another; my music and video players in a third; and switch between them as needed (yes, it’s fast too).
Some Expert Help Required
But as someone who’s used Windows for most of his adult life, I had to make some adjustments. As you start using Ubuntu for the first time, you’ll find yourself wondering how to do things like you did on Windows.
For the most part it’s the same experience: the Applications menu on the upper-left provides access to your installed applications like Windows’ Start Menu. Ubuntu also has a system tray of sorts, which is on the upper-right. Double-clicking on files still opens them, and you can switch between open apps by clicking on the buttons at the bottom of the screen.
Yet you’ll eventually find that many programs which helped you out on Windows simply don’t have a version for Ubuntu—or Linux for that matter. I’m still trying to decide which download manager to install, as FlashGet only runs on Windows. There’s a Yahoo Messenger for Linux, but the latest version is over two years old; right now I’m using Pidgin, which apparently doesn’t support file transfers and webcams.
Here’s where the help of a long-time Linux user (or users) becomes useful. They can point out how to get things done on Ubuntu, and generally how to maximize this “alternative” OS. For example, you can customize the interface somewhat so that it’s similar to Windows’.
If you don’t know anyone with such expertise however, or need to know the answer to your question ASAP, you’ll need to do a bit of online research.
Patience Pays Off
In other words, Ubuntu has a learning curve. You’ll find yourself learning how to do basic tasks all over again. Stick with it however, and you’ll eventually discover just how versatile the OS is. I wouldn’t recommend using Ubuntu for mission-critical applications—unless you know exactly what you’re doing—but if you’re looking for an OS to run that second computer, and don’t have enough cash to buy a license, why not give Ubuntu a try?
And for those who’ve tried or are using Ubuntu: what do you think of it?
This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 at 7:30 am and is filed under Rundowns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.