Those that know me well, will know that I am a desktop Linux advocate and that I completely moved my home desktop to Ubuntu after considering what I really need my computer to do. The list below is a pretty comprehensive list of what I want to be able to do with my computer:
- Run in a timely manner
- Not crash when something/anything throws a wobbly
- Internet Access (General Web Surfing)
- Internet Chat (MSN, Skype)
- Word Processing, Spreadsheets
- Storing / Editing Photos from my digital camera
- Printing Documents
- Scanning the odd document or photo
- Playing music (MP3s, Internet Radio)
- Playing Videos/DVDs
- Burning CDs/DVDs
- Simple Development & Editing Text Files
For me the switch was not about the politics of "free software vs. the almighty evil other company or proprietary software" but the fact I don't need or want a server farm to run the latest version of the software, have a bloated desktop that takes 10 minues to “load my personal settings”, have to upgrade my PC every 6 months or update my virus definitions religiously.
I migrated to Ubuntu just after Vista was released, after hearing and having a few negative experiences with Vista on other people’s hardware. For me, moving to Vista would have meant that I would need some new hardware. My home PC has a fairly modest specification consisting of Athlon XP 2000 (1.67 GHz Processor), 1GB RAM, 64 MB RAM NVIDIA Geforce 2 Graphics card, and 2 x 250gig hard drives. I could have moved to Mac but that would have meant shelling out at least £600 on hardware (something I might still consider when my current hardware starts to feel slow).
I’ve been using Ubuntu on my home servers since the “Badger” but never really felt that it was quite ready for my desktop, until Feisty. I took the plunge after weighing up the pros/cons and trying the live CD with my hardware. Do I regret it? Definitely not. For years I’d run Linux in a VM, now it is the other way round and I am running Windows in a VM for all those legacy applications that must use Windows.
The first thing that hit me was how fast my system goes on such a modest specification. Put simply, every aspect of my computing needs in the list above is covered by Ubuntu. I’ve yet to encounter a task which I can’t accomplish in Ubuntu. For me the benefits include “less” worry about mal-ware, viruses and my general security, performance and the total cost of my home computing experience is much less (More Free-Software/Free-To-Use alternatives and less hardware upgrades).
There are a few minor niggles such as driver compatibility, wireless connectivity and lack of commercial software. However, I am lucky enough to own a scanner (Packard Bell 2400), wireless card (Not sure of model, it just worked) and printers (Samsung ML-1210, Samsung ML-4550) that are ALL supported under Linux. Others might not be so lucky. The fact I am NOT a gamer also helps. The lack of commercial software refers to the unavailability of commercial software like Photoshop and Fireworks. These are pieces of software I’d be happy to pay for if they were available. Though I believe this will change over time as more and more people are starting to use Desktop specific versions of Linux such as Ubuntu. Free-to-use software such as Skype, Opera and RealPlayer are already available and have been for some time.
The simple truth is that if Windows was as performant and secure as my Linux Desktop I would have probably stuck with Windows as it does just work with most hardware.
My advice to anyone looking to buy a new PC would be to try Ubuntu first. You can download the live CD from the Ubuntu website and try it without installing it. Its also the first real distribution that doesn’t require extensive Linux or computing knowledge. You can install it and use it.
Ubuntu Website -> http://www.ubuntulinux.org
Ubuntu Forums -> http://www.ubuntuforums.org
Dell computers with Ubuntu -> http://www.dell.com/ubuntu