Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

Why I’ve Left Vista for Ubuntu Linux

Posted by Lex Fear on January 26, 2008

I’ve finally made the full transition from Vista to Linux, and went with the easiest choice – Ubuntu, simply because of the support in the online forums.

I reformatted my hard drive (the only way I could reclaim space from Vista despite doing a fresh install over the top) and then installed Vista on a 30gb partition to duel boot with Ubuntu on 10gb. It took me a while to get the wireless stable and running on startup but I haven’t yet needed to boot back into Vista and I’m quite pleased so far.

I’ve managed to get Compiz running with my Nvidia driver which gives very cool desktop effects like making the windows appear bouncy and flexible when moving.

My Ubuntu

The only thing I’m worried about is working out how to get my TomTom Home configured in Wine, not sure yet whether I’ll just boot into Vista for that.

These aren’t my first reactions as I’ve been installing it and selling laptops on ebay, but I thought I’d give my own comparison of Linux and Vista and what has ultimately caused me to switch.

Security

I blogged about my first taste of Vista’s heavy handed UAC back in May when I first upgraded. This was Microsofts answer to Linux root user, but the difference is that root only has one dialog box and then let’s you in to do what you need. UAC on the other hand, was usually followed by another warning dialogue (if you were planning on installing something say) and even then it either didn’t let me do what I wanted to do (I did not have permission) or kept popping up for each and every action. Root just works.

Boot Time

A fresh install of Vista will boot pretty quickly, but like it’s predecessors, after time, once applications are installed it begins to slow down to a crawl. You know what I’m talking about, when the desktop has loaded, you click on the ‘Start’ button and wait 5 minutes for the menu to popup. I think Microsoft purposefully designed it this way so it would seem like the OS boots up fast. Ubuntu is a little slower booting up, but when the desktop loads that’s it, you can start, you’re not waiting for drivers or taskbar to load.

Applications

One the one hand, Microsoft has the edge over Linux in compatibility. When you plug a piece of hardware in it just works, installing software isn’t too difficult because you just have to look for the executable (‘.exe’) file. First of all, the reason Microsoft has so much of the market is they spend a large amount of time and money idiot-proofing it. They make sure every copy of Windows contains every driver that you’ll ever need (and thousands you won’t) so you don’t have to go through the hard part of trawling manuals and manufacturers websites looking for the right driver and installing it first. This is what turns Windows into bloatware and ensures easts all your disk space like a algae in a pond (currently my copy of Vista takes up 10gb and I’ve not installed applications yet).

It’s a shame they trashed this advantage with Vista. Not only is it not backwards compatible with all the products you’ve been using for years, many manufacturers still haven’t released full drivers or compatible products yet. Not only that, say goodbye to some of the free private-use software you were so used to using, if manufacturers haven’t updated the stuff they sell, they’re not going to be releasing any of the free versions soon.

Then they went and took the executable format that any idiot can use to launch a thousand viruses, trojans and spyware and replaced it with Windows Installer Package (‘.wmi’). Hey, I can figure it out, sure, but what about your idiots?

So this is the point where Ubuntu Linux beats Vista hands down, because not only has Microsoft simply created an installation environment similar to Linux – in which a bit more technical knowledge is needed – but Ubuntu has the Synaptic Package Manager, a database to tons of free and open source software for which 95% of Vista propriety applications, there is a Linux alternative.

Cost

Vista Ultimate: £300+
Linux: £0+

‘Nuff said.

Style

Admittedly Linux has a way to go before it gets to the visual prowess of Vista, oh there are distros out there that look stylish but if we’re talking about integration with third party applications, Vista wins in this department. I also miss the sidebar, but it’s not enough to keep me I’m afraid. Linux has a much more customisable and flexible desktop, with Compiz you get all the bells and whistles you need, and more importantly, with Compiz the bells and whistles are smooth and don’t distract from your main task. I’d rather have a less than glamouress desktop that works when I click on something, than a flashy one that I have to wait 2 seconds for the bell/whistle to engage.

Networking

Another one of Microsofts aces is admittedly its networking. Wireless works out of the box. Ubuntu is getting there but for every box I’ve had I’ve had to log onto the forums and look for solutions. It is possible, you just have to have some patience and get over your fear of the command line.

[Actually the command line interface (CLI) is what makes Linux easy. Support is easy since you don’t need to know which button to click, just type it into the terminal or cut-n-paste. You can see exactly what steps you took in solving a problem. You can see how things work rather than having to go through several different menus to get to any meaningful information.]

There are reasons for problems with wireless networking, the first being that some manufacturers won’t share their source code with Linux developers so work-arounds have to be developed. The other reason is Vista has introduced encrypted passwords for sharing which currently can’t be read by Linux. If you’re not using passwords for you network this is fine however.

I think this is an important issue in future as more and more users come to rely on a Wifi connection for their laptops.

Support

Last time I had to call Microsoft support line (at work) they charge £250 a pop. It’s true they do have the online Knowledgebase, I’m not sure but they might also have an email support too. Linux is free and has forum users all over the world and you get to learn something at the same time. The support for Linux is personal and open rather than communicating with someone who’s given a script.

Maybe the reason Linux developers have so much difficulty developing drivers for applications is that not enough people are calling the vendors for help with installing- all the support is provided by the community instead.

Your Soul

Contrary to accepted wisdom, your soul is not owned by Steve Balmer or Steve Jobs. Linux will give you your soul back and set you free from crippling DRM, lock-in and propriety software. It will set you free to see the world without corporate gloss and blood-sucking EULA’s written by the Dark Lord of the Sith (actually you still need to sign EULA’s for some things but not as many).

Things You Won’t Need In Ubuntu

Ctrl-Alt-Del
Defrag
Scandisk
Anti-virus (well, not much)
Disk Cleanup
Licence Keys
Original Installation disk
The latest top-of-the-range hardware

Things you may miss in Vista

Shiny GUI
Sidebar
Comfort

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2 Responses to “Why I’ve Left Vista for Ubuntu Linux”

  1. TaZMAn said

    Just installed Ubuntu 7.10 on a 1 year old HP laptop and the wifi worked after I installed the restricted driver. So wifi is getting much better.

    As for the Vista sidebar? Take a look at this;
    http://www.gnome-look.org and do a search for
    Sidebar Screenlet (Vista’ish look)

    I’ve been very happy with Ubuntu. I have tried various other distros and Ubuntu is the only one that will set up my video and audio with no work on my part. I got tired jerking stuff around back in Red Hat 7. I prefer luxury over work.

    You could install XP in Ubuntu with VirtualBox then install TomTom in XP.
    That way you have your needed app at hand and XP will be in a secure sandbox environment.

    TaZMAn

    http://tazbuntu.blogspot.com/

  2. Alex Fear said

    TaZMAn, thanks for the comment. I have since discovered desklets and I’m happy. I think it warrants a follow-up post actually.

    With regards to TomTom, I still haven’t got that working yet- wine crashes with an error, but it’s not a priority just now, and I’m sure it will get fixed with an update.

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