SUMMARY: More progress towards a true Windows alternative.
The latest version of Ubuntu was released 10/15/2007 and I just got around to checking it out. I have been following Ubuntu’s progress for a little over a year
and I can say that the latest version (“Gutsy”) is getting very close to being a credible “plug-it-in-and-it-plays” Operating System.
I had no problem installing Ubuntu 7.10 on my desktop system – answer a few questions during setup and it installs in about 30 minutes. It recognized my hardware and installed drivers out of the box. In addition, it asked me if I wanted install a video driver that previously I had to search for – a great improvement over the previous version.
The complete features list is HERE – it includes Open Office and the Firefox Browser, which are about as good as it gets for Windows-like programs (IMHO Firefox is better than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer). Other included programs will require some learning (eg GIMP for image editing) but the included programs make up a very complete software suite at a terrific price ($0.00).
In addition, there are a TON of programs available ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. I was able to find good analogues to BulletProof (FTP program) and HomeSite (HTP editor) which I use and depend on every day.
Among the many reviews I found luna6’s Review to be particularly thorough – it includes a “How-To” install VMware Server on Ubuntu, which allows you to run Windows and Windows applications. By doing this, you can run those programs that are unavailable in Linux.
There are multiple HELP options – go HERE – options include a User Manual, Pay for Support, User Groups and a new Technical Answer System. Overall, a robust support system.
Let’s face it – it’s a Windows world and as much as some may work around it, you can not avoid programs which are only available in Windows. Even though Ubuntu recognized my Canon scanner no problem, the Utilities program that comes with it is not written in Linux; this means that I can not use the “Copy” button on my scanner. While more Linux drivers are available from some manufacturers, it’s in no way a universal trend.
As you scan down luna6’s Review, it’s instructive to read user comments at the bottom; some users still have trouble loading Ubuntu onto their systems, and even after a successful install, some hardware may not install (most notable: some, not all, WIFI cards). In no way can you call Ubuntu at this stage a true Windows alternative.
One area that is a big void for PC users is games – many (almost all?) popular PC games do not come in Linux versions. Until the number of screens reaches some undefined critical mass, it’s not going to change much.
I have no problem installing Ubuntu 7.10 for my wife – she is not a power user and her PC interaction is limited to email, some word processing and the internet. This may sound counter-intuitive (“Isn’t Linux for Geeks?”), but not really – Ubuntu is a self-contained OS suite with enabling software that is stable, easy to use and more secure than Windows.
Many of you whose friends rely on you for PC advice and installs might want to check Ubuntu out for “sedate” PC users – could be more trouble-free than Windows.
ED NOTE: I received a number of emails from folks who have tried Ubuntu 7.10 – however I feel Aftershock’s experience is an excellent summary of someone who tried Ubuntu 7.10 and his summay about says it all.
I read your article about Ubuntu and I myself finally gave it a shot. I’ve never used anything that was non-Windows before so after doing some reading and making a backup using True Image. I unplugged my second harddrive just so nothing would have a chance of going wrong.
I downloaded the ISO and burnt it to a disk and booted from the CD and after everything loaded, I went straight for the install, which was actually very easy and straight forward. After the install was done, I removed the CD and restarted my computer and it booted up with no probs, all my hardware was detected except my logitech webcam which I wasn’t too concerned about.
The only problem I had was with my soundcard and after messing around with the volume controls, I saw that the “use digital output” box was ticked – after I turned that off, everything was working perfectly; for whatever reasons unknown to me, if your soundcard supports digital output, Ubuntu automatically tries to use it by default so if you never used it before, it can be a minor annoyance.
I then started playing around with the settings and noticed that the Gutsy version didn’t have the beryl effects like your windows burning when you minimized them or the cubed desktop effects, but then I found a program called advanced desktop manager that enables you to customize all the animations and effects of Ubuntu, which was pretty entertaining compared to the Windows XP toys. I’m not one for Vista, but it has decent Windows effects – unfortunately, 98% of my time with Vista is replacing it with XP Pro.
After toying with Ubuntu for a few hours, I decided to try the 64 bit version since I’m using a 64 bit CPU and the install is exactly the same as before, everything is exactly the same, except Wine¹ works with even less programs than it did before but it is faster, not mind blowing faster, but noticeable in most things like converting mp3 and video files to different formats.
I have to say that I like everything about Ubuntu except what you mentioned in your article “It’s a windows world” and the lack of full windows app support is the biggest downfall of any non-Windows OS. I installed Wine and tried a few apps that were rated gold for compatibility, but for the life of me I couldn’t get anything to work. Being an avid gamer with the latest and greatest games, this wasn’t going to work for me and from reading the forums, Ubuntu pretty much runs the games you can get to work in compatibility mode instead of all out direct x 9 or 10.
I know I could chop the partition in half and run dual boot, but who wants to maintain two operating systems and switch back and forth between them? I’m like most computer users – I want to be able to do everything on one OS without bouncing back and forth and I want things to work without having to spend hours searching for answers and tinkering with stuff just to get a simple exe to install.
If you’re curious about Ubuntu and want to play around with it, you can run it virtually from a CD without installing it – the only restriction is you can’t enable the full graphics animations because the CD won’t allow you to use the restricted driver feature, but other than that, it’s a great OS to play with. They have come along way but if they ever want Ubuntu to be an effective mainstream alternative to Windows, they need to incorporate OS level compatibility with all Windows apps.
¹ WINE stands for “WINE is not an emulator”; it enables Windows apps to run on Linux.
I highlighted in bold what I think is the most critical point – if users have to jump through hoops to run their PC, it’s an insurmountable hurdle. Two things have to happen to make any Windows alternative OS succeed:
- The Windows OS becomes intolerably complex or costly
- The Alternative OS is truly Windows compatible
Or some blend of the two. If Windows Vista, with its hardware requirements and questionable (IMHO) eye candy, is a harbinger of things to come with successive Windows OS’s, Microsoft may be doing more to legitimize Linux than anything else.