What it’s really like to move to Ubuntu
I saw a great article linked on digg and it rang some bells. Many of the points made apply to Ubuntu as well as Mac OS X. So here it is with thanks and apologies to Bill Westerman. For this to make sense, you should probably at least skim that article first.
Note: I say Ubuntu here because that’s what I use. Fact is most of this applies to most Linux distributions
01. People will ridicule you for using Ubuntu
I have been sat at work and had people actually laugh out loud at my laptop running Ubuntu. I’ve had people pick up the free professionally-made official Ubuntu CDs, sneer and throw them back at me. Once people try it out though, they often change their opinion. Even if they don’t use it daily, their respect for Ubuntu goes up after at least trying it.
02. You’ll feel a part of a rapidly growing community
With the huge number of people jumping on the Ubuntu bandwagon, the community of people willing to support and help out with Ubuntu grows every day.
03. People will help you for no reason
I spent a day last year in the centre of London with a bunch of other Free Software fans, giving out information and CDs to members of the public. One guy asked “Why are you doing this?” to which I replied “Because I want you to try Free software”. I am not alone in this, many people around the world give up their own time to help others learn how to use Ubuntu and get the best from it.
04. Fewer people will try to attack you
Technically it’s mostly not people that attack, but often compromised Windows computers instructed by nasty people to do their bidding. Ubuntu ships with no externally accessible services enabled by default, and probably one of the best free firewalls available out of the box. That is combined with regular free updates to keep my system up to date. I rarely worry about the nasty people and compromised computers out there, and wont have to install 3rd party applications to secure my machine, and certainly wont lose sleep over it.
05. You’ll be able to ignore most viruses
I don’t run an AntiVirus program on Ubuntu. There I said it. Arguably, due to the lower market share of Ubuntu on the desktop, and the robust and well thought out security model on Ubuntu, there are almost no viruses to speak of which could successfully compromise a well maintained Ubuntu desktop. Viruses just don’t exist in the same volumes as they do for Windows.
06. You’ll have some compatibility problems
There are free office applications available immediately after Ubuntu is installed which can read and write many popular office formats such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations. There may be some incompatibilities with complex documents incorporating rich content or documents which include complicated macros, but these are few and far between. Most often there may be slight formatting issues, but for the most part, documents open just fine.
07. The Internet will mostly be the same
Whether you browse the web, chat online, watch videos, download music or talk to friends the internet experience will be much the same as it is on Windows. The applications you use may have different names, and may look different or be missing some features, but for the most part, most people won’t notice a difference.
08. You’ll be continually amazed at the fit and finish
With projects such as Beryl and Compiz, Cairo and Tango, the look and feel of the Ubuntu desktop is getting better with every release. Ubuntu has had the 3D desktop for some time now, and is vastly more customisable in look and feel to either Windows or Mac OS X. With numerous Desktop Environments and Window Managers to choose from, many screensavers & themes and desktop tools & utilities, Ubuntu can look every bit as good, if not better than, the competition.
09. You’ll have a “damn it!” moments
Ubuntu is not Windows or Mac OS X, things are different. Get used to that. Sometimes a hardware vendor won’t ship a driver for their product, or a video card may not work as expected, or a popular application on Windows just isn’t available for Ubuntu. Things are getting better, Ubuntu has better hardware support out of the box than either Windows or Mac OS X, video drivers are constantly under improvement and applications are being written and ported all the time by the community. The “damn it!” moments are becoming less and less in my house.
10. You’ll have some “ah-ha” moments
It’s not difficult to be amazed how easy things are in Ubuntu. For example to install an application there is often only one place one needs to go – the package manager. Generally it’s a simple matter of choosing the software from a list. Ubuntu will download it, and any dependant packages or libraries and install it all. putting a handy icon in the menu for it. For removing packages it’s just as easy as installing and can remove the dependent packages too.
11. Keyboard shortcuts will drive you nuts
Some keyboards have extra keys with pretty little pictures on them. Most work, some may not, but might in the future. For those that do work it’s possible to configure them to do many common tasks like open email, start the calculator, turn the volume up and down or even put a picture of a teddy bear on the screen if that’s what you want.
12. You’ll regret your purchase – of Windows, but you’ll get over it
Most computers these days come with Windows pre-installed, and paid for. Once Ubuntu is installed, either by dual-booting or completely removing Windows, you will regret that money you paid for Windows. It didn’t take me long to remove Windows completely from the first computer I dual-booted. Maybe you could call up your hardware vendor and try and get a refund. Maybe you could put that money towards a new toy for yourself, or even donate it to a good cause.
13. You’ll be amazed at how much there is to modify
If you want to. Some people use the system as it is, out of the box. Others like to tweak their system to make it look “just so”. With Ubuntu you can do either. The system is installed, ready to go, but has many hundreds of options for tweaking this, optimising that, tuning the other, to allow you to tailor your computer to work the way you want it to. Pretty much everything is fair game for modification in Ubuntu, which can make Windows and Mac OS X look positively rigid in the flexibility.
14. You’ll actually rarely have to reboot
With fantastic stability and tools like suspend and hibernate, I can go for very long periods without actually needing to reboot my Ubuntu computer. Even after installing additional software or updating existing packages, it’s rare that a physical reboot is required. There’s almost nothing that actually requires a reboot of the computer. If an update does require a reboot of course Ubuntu will tell me, but I can usually safely dismiss and ignore it for days with no adverse effects.
15. There’s so much stuff for Ubuntu
Ubuntu has many thousands of applications and utilities available to install for free, immediately after installation. You might want to use your PC as a server, maybe as a telephony system, how about a webcam-based security system or a print server, maybe an internet kiosk or perhaps a childs first computer. Maybe you want to learn how to write programs, or research your family tree. Whatever it is you want to do with your Ubuntu computer, chances are there is set of packages you can install and configure to do it, and chances are it’s free too.
16. You’ll spend less money than with Windows
Ubuntu is free. It can be downloaded for free and burned to disc for the cost of a blank CD-R. The applictions in the repository are also free to download. Everyone has the freedom to make copies of the Ubuntu software and give away or even sell the copies to other people. You are allowed to modify the software if you want, and use it in pretty much whatever way you want. The freedom you get with Ubuntu isn’t just about money, but it certainly helps that it’s free of cost.
17. You’ll generally be able to re-use old hardware
Ubuntu needs about 256MB of RAM and a 500MHz CPU but can run in less and runs better in more. There are alternatives for computers with slow processors or low amounts of memory. Many people don’t discard old computers, but re-use them for other purposes, or hand them down to other members of the family. With Ubuntu the useful life of a computer can be much longer than originally envisaged. Of course it’s fine to wipe and reinstall Ubuntu to sell on a computer if you want to make some cash out of your old hardware.
18. Random strangers will stop to talk about Ubuntu
I have been stopped on more than one occasion and been asked about Ubuntu. People come over to look at my laptop, they want to see what Ubuntu looks like. The best bit is I can dig in my bag and give them a free CD so they can try it for themselves.
19. You’ll get more things done
Ubuntu has so much great software which is easily installable and quick to pick up that people are often amazed how quickly and easily they transition over from other platforms.
20. The hardware manufacturer is largely irelevant
Ubuntu can be installed on many different hardware platforms. From big-name laptop hardware like Dell and Apple, to independent store beige-boxes, to home-made desktop computers and enterprise servers, Ubuntu can be installed on most computers around today.
21. Everyone is griping about market share
Ubuntu works for me, it works for a lot of other people too. So it’s not the number one desktop platform measured by number of installs, but for me it’s the number one desktop in my house and business.
22. You’ll play pretty well on a Windows network
I can print to Windows shared printers, access files on Windows file shares and of course open Microsoft Office documents under Ubuntu.
So all in all, I’m pretty happy with my choice to use Ubuntu on my desktop and laptop full time. Feel free to do the same.