Dvorak Likes Linux
Almost all the newest hardware coming out has Linux support. The critical mass has been reached, and it's time everyone tried Ubuntu.
Every so often I take a stab at Linux, to see exactly what I like and do not like about the OS. Many of its problems, for me, stem from its inability to run on my overloaded hardware, or the occasional driver that makes the OS impossible to use without hand-tweaking something or other. That said, I seriously like the Ubuntu 8.10 implementation and will now install it permanently on my latest machines. It's a winner.
This OS has a lot of nice features, and it's quick. It's freely downloadable all over the net as a ISO disk image, too. Go to the official Web site for a download link. Ubuntu is particularly cool because the install version is also a "live" version, meaning that you can boot it and run it from a CD without installing the OS at all. More important, it's a fully functional live CD, meaning that it can save and load files from drive C: or a NAS.
When I encountered a glitch, I changed to a safe graphics mode that limited my screen to 1,280-by-1,024 rather than 1,600-by-1,200—but this was no big deal.
While your PC is running Ubuntu as a live install, the CD is doing all the work for the OS, and even so, it's at least as snappy as Windows. Install it onto the hard disk as the OS for the system and the thing really flies. I'm not sure how many legacy old clunkers can run this operating system, but it's the perfect reinstall for older machines that bog down under Windows. The live feature is what it makes it so cool; no need to install the OS before thoroughly testing it.
For lightweight work, the install disk comes with Firefox for Linux and AbiWord, a credible open-source substitute for MS Word. In fact, there is probably a Linux program that will substitute for just about any Windows programs with as much or more functionality—with the exception of Adobe Photoshop. That said, there are plenty of photo editors for Linux. The popular GIMP app comes to mind.
While the various Linux desktops generally aren't as polished as Vista, they are functional and easily as slick as Windows 2000, the OS most observers think was the best Microsoft ever did. In many instances the complexity of Linux turns out to be smoothed over by the Ubuntu architecture. It's so good that I'm a little annoyed with myself for not getting to it sooner. And I sure don't want to hear "I told you so!" from all the Linux mavens.
I'm in the process of putting together a new Atom-based mini-ITX machine (with an Intel D945GCLF2 motherboard) for use as a Web browser in the kitchen. This OS would be ideal if for no other reason than the fact that I won't have to worry about anyone in the family fooling around online and getting the little machine clogged with viruses and Trojan horses.
I seriously appreciate the fact that Linux is mostly immune from malware, in much the same way as the Macintosh. I had a small machine in the kitchen running Windows, and every time I ran a scan on the thing I kept discovering too many problems. I know that if Linux becomes too popular, the malware will come. But for now it's rare—a good thing as far as I am concerned.
I'm tired of dealing with Windows malware, patch Tuesday, and the never-ending deterioration of the OS as it clogs up like a drain in a greasy-spoon restaurant. I can't take it anymore.
And there's something else that always bugs me about Windows. I have an iMac that I use at the office, and a few times every month Apple has some patch that it sends out. With few exceptions, each time a patch is installed with the Mac OS, the performance of the machine improves. With Windows, the performance always declines.
I don't think Microsoft has ever sent out a patch that improved the performance of the machine. Ever.
And of course, the biggest differences between Ubuntu and Windows are the cost and the subsequent headaches, because Microsoft is constantly fretting over bootleg copies. The company monitors machines to make sure they are running legal copies of software. There have already been instances of computers shut down by Microsoft HQ because of some glitch in the cloud. This is simply unacceptable. I don't want to rely on a system like that.
I cannot wean myself off Windows altogether because, well, I write about Windows. But for ancillary machines that I put together where I need reliability and low price, I'm always going to see whether Ubuntu works. And if it does, that's what gets installed.
If I had a small or mid-size company, I'd probably use only Linux and open-source software, just to stay out of the way of the software police and their onerous "audits"—another abhorrent situation that, to me, is intolerable.
You should also note that almost all of the newest hardware coming out has Linux support. The critical mass has been reached. Go download Ubuntu 8.10 and see for yourself what the fuss is about. You won't regret it.
Article link at PC Magazine: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2342703,00.asp