Week #1 without Windows

It has been a little over a week now since switching to Ubuntu and…. the feelings are mixed! First the bad things.

The Bad:

– Hardware support and management CAN BE SERIOUSLY lacking in some cases.

(for example the ALSA aka Advanced Linux Sound System device driver which is used in many cases to provide sound in Linux appears to have sporadic problems. Fixing the problem(s) is nearly impossible for a normal user, but manageable for a techie)

– Software development is largely inconsistent with hidden dependency issues that make doing some simple tasks much more complex than it should be. In Windows you learned the Win32 API and gained huge proficiency in almost any development environment. (now slowly being replaced with .NET). I am hoping that GTK will help resolve that for me in Linux?

– Too many differing standards make it difficult to know which direction to take (which is perhaps another aspect of inconsistent software development).

The Good:

– No lack of choices. You can find software to do nearly anything you want, with free source code and thus freedom to change things as you wish.

– Stable as a rock! Maybe its just Ubuntu?? but I am extremely impressed with how stable the whole Linux experience has been compared to years of sporadic problems in Windows.

– Fast, fast fast! Ubuntu boots up over 50% faster than Windows XP (loads about as many services and startup applications) and generally performs incredibly well. Most typical users should easily fall in love with Ubuntu.

– Community. There is no lack of information to find to answers to just about any problem you encounter. I beleive MSDN is the best thing Microsoft ever came out with, but equally if not better is the number of thriving communities that offer real value to Linux users.

– Freedom. No license fees, no proprietary lock-in, I can look at the source code right now and see why Ubuntu is doing things the way it does, no mystery, no magic, just the plain hard facts. I can Install and Uninstall as many times as I want and never have to be connected to the Internet or place a phone call to verify my license.. there is none.. I’m free. (yes there is the GPL… to me that is freedom).

-Visual appealing. Ubuntu and GNome desktop are… let me clear my throat, more feature rich and visually appealing than anything I have EVER seen in windows. Thus far there isn’t a single visual feature that I wish existed in Ubuntu / GNome, rather the other way around. A few examples: ability (out of the box) to scroll to a secondary virtual desktop thus allowing me to pretend I have two monitors when I only have one. When I accidentally press the power button on my computer Ubuntu doesn’t force me to shutdown without offering some way to cancel it. Ubuntu starts a count down to reboot offering me the ability to cancel the reboot (if it was done accidentally). Excellent graphics effects, dragging windows, theming the whole desktop, wonderful 3D screen savers, excellent choice of art, an all around professional job. Video and presentation are in many cases not a problem in Ubuntu.

– Integration / Compatibility. Most of the important types of files (graphics, documents, spreadsheets, Instant messaging, email, web surfing, etc) all work in most cases with their counterparts from Windows and other operating systems. The typical user will in most cases notice no difference. (except in their wallet they will keep a few extra bills… or should i say lose a few Bills :)) Open Office, auto downloading of Digital Camera photos, MP3 Player integration, Graphics file processing etc.. are all managed quite well within UBuntu (and related free software offerings)

– Secure, secure secure. Microsoft is on a campaign to malign the “lack” of security in Open Source Software. Their arguments will only work with those in the ignorant part of the population. What operating system do anti-virus vendors focus their efforts on? What operating system has primarily been the backbone of the U.S military for decades and runs most of the internet (including banking websites etc)? Who is forced to release more “security” updates more than who? Answer these and a bunch more questions and you begin to see a pattern. Microsoft is using the “security through obscurity” argument which has only proven over the last few decades to be a completely futile argument in their own software. In the meantime, Linux receives frequent peer review and warnings from peers about possible security holes that need to be patched. Why? What operating system do most hard core hackers use themselves? Why? Exactly! I ran some security tests of my own and was thoroughly impressed with Ubuntu (out of the box) as to how well designed its security features prove to be.

That is all for today.

**Updated February 12, 2009**

The problem with my sound has been fixed. just 5 minutes ago I got an information bulletin from the Ubuntu auto updates which told me to run a shell command to reconfigure my sound settings, now everything works perfectly without the need to restart the sound system every boot up! The command was either:

asoundconf reset-default-card

or it was:

asoundconf set-default-card

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