In the past I have tried a number of Linux distributions. All those reviews ended with the feeling; “nice for a geek but I don’t think the rest of world wants to go back to the commandline and non consistent GUI’s”. Linux has gone a long way since then and now that Novell is claiming to have the Linux desktop for the masses and Ubuntu is distributed with some hardware manufacturers, I thought let’s take a look at Ubuntu and compare it with Microsoft Vista.
So I took an Asus F7E notebook with 2GB ram and plenty of diskspace and installed Ubuntu and Microsoft Vista. The claim that Linux now is easier to install, quicker, less memory footprint and as easy as Windows to manage so ready for the average consumer and maybe the workplace.
Unbuntu 8.0.4. LTS
I downloaded the 32-bits Live version for the site and burned the CD (on a Windows machine). I could have tried the 64-bits version but my Vista version is 32-bits so I thought to keep it equal.
Installation is painless. First question is whether you want to try or insall Ubuntu, second question is in which language, …, location, keyboard, use the whole disk or partial, name of the user, password, name of the machine. All obvious and clear.
Conclusion: good. Was everything recognized? No, webcam and TMP chip were skipped.
- First use
Before I could start using Ubuntu I first needed to install a lot offpatches. Some patches needed conformation, most installed automatically but after installation a reboot was needed. All kind of error messages flashed on the screen (all text command lines). These had probably to do with the patches but reboot went smooth and the messages didn’t come back.
After the first patches were installed I needed to install other programs. Ubuntu comes with a number of programs installed (Open Office, some music players and graphics programs) but it comes without stuff like flash player, the right codec for realplayer, mediaplayer, no Java, no java plugin for Firefox, no flash plugin for Firefox, no DVD burner software. Luckily if you search in the repository and you know what you are looking for you will find the right software.
All in all it took me another two and half hour just to get that working and installed.
After that I needed to customize the look and feel a bit. The display resolution was good but the fonts used were crap plus it was just strait gnome. Luckily you can change the visual effects and optimize the fonts used for LCD display. After that the display looked good.
Linux is known for its small memory footprint. Ubuntu is not different in that. 350MB used is very good. In the past consistency of design has always been a problem with Linux. A problem that still hasn’t been solved. For instance:
If you use Evolution Mail and Office you notice the consistency in menu structures until you take a closer look. Why does OpenOffice Word use File – Exit while Evolution Mail uses File – Quit.
Connection with the Internet, wired and wireless, works witout a problem.
Working with sites like YouTube and other streaming media and flash using sites require some getting used to as not all media is started automatically. Sometimes you first have to click the header or player.
Security is a bit like the Microsoft Vista implementation. You are admin but you need to confirm any change that is significant (install of applications, change of hardware settings, etc).
Shutdown is fairly quick and coming back from suspend or hibernate is OK. The commandlines that keep on popping up are annoying.
Microsoft Vista – Business Version
Installation works without a problem as you should be able to expect from Microsoft. The product key decides which version is installed. I have a Business key so the Business version was installed. That version doesn have all the MultiMedia tools but does come with VSS which in a business environment is a big plus.
Everything was recognized including webcam and TMP chip.
- First Use
Before gettings started with Vista you need to install a lot of patches. I had hooped that I could install SP1 and skip a number of patches but SP1 requires a number a patches installed before it can be installed. So I just let it go.
Vista doesn come with a lot of business applcations so I needed to install Office 2007, Visio 2007, Notepad++, Acrobat Reader, Firefox, Java, Jzip, CDBurnerXP, McAfee. That took all in all another hour and an half including patches and a number of reboots (not required by Office but by CDBurnerXP, McAfee and Java).
Installation of browser plugins is automatic.
Vista doesn need a lot of customization. Aero works and if you have the graphics card does’t need a lot of cpu cycles. Vista uses truetype automatically and I didn’t need to change anything in the display settings.
Well, if you are used to Windows XP you will get used to Vista very quickly. The GUI is more flashy but I didn’t find it slower, something which is reported by some people.
Security has been improved, if you choose to give your user account admin rights (which is against best practices) than you will see a number of confirmation messages when you try to install a program or start an administrative program.
Memory usage is hefty. The base system (with all applications installed) uses something like 700 – 800MB. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to slow the machine down at least not as much as it did with Windows XP.
Connecting to the network went effortless, wired and wireless.
VSS works like a dream.
Shutdown is not as quick as with Ubuntu nor is the waking up from suspend or hibernate.
I can conclude that Linux / Ubuntu has gained a lot of ground on the Windows desktop. The GUI is still not as mature but that can be fixed with a little borrowing. Major questions are; whould you advise you brother or sister to work with Ubuntu or Vista and would Ubuntu fit in the workplace. Answers; No and No.
Linux still is an OS which requires the user to be willing to learn, look and analyze problems themselves and live with the quirks of an developer product and not a consumer product. Linux in the workplace has a place as a good and stable server platform. For desktop platform most companies look for a platform which can support all major business applications and give them control over how desktops are used as tool. Think about policies, locked down desktops, templates, firewall setting, use of legit applications, image management, software distribution, roll based computing, etc..
I am sure that it is possible with Linux, I just don’t see it yet. There is a lot to be said about the quality of the Microsoft software, but it works and for now it sets the bar.