For more than a decade, I had been a big fan of Microsoft Software, especially Windows and Office (just a fan, not a fanboy). Once in a while, when a new distro Linux comes out, I used to try it for a day or two and forget about it. And if I had to use it for a long time, I used to do create a virtual machine for linux, which again never lasted more than few weeks.
But for the past month, there is a linux distro running on my home PC and there is no windows on the same. If I say the same to my friends at Digit Forum, they will surely be shocked.
So, why suddenly I have started using Linux? For long, my work life has been depending a lot on Linux. I had been a Linux admin and then Clearcase admin. Few months ago, I got a feeling that I was not giving enough respect to the platform that has been the source of fodder for me. So, I thought of giving Linux a serious try at home.
The first real try:
The next day, I tried to use Fedora which is very identical to RHEL on which I work at office. But There were too many issues.
1) Not able to mount/display NTFS properly.
2) RPM dependencies that used to form a never ending chain
3) UI not refined.
4) Applications availability
5) Fonts look outdated especially in browser
I thought of waiting for better distro and was monitoring the progress of Ubuntu as it seemed to be the best Linux Distribution for home use.
One day, I went to my friends place and there I saw Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) running on HP dv5 series laptop. I tried to use the OS for sometime and felt that this could the distro that I can finally use on my PC.
The first thing I did after reaching home is to clear one of the two HDDs that were there in my PC and made my PC ready for installation.
Live CD and Installation:
Before doing a full install, I used the Live CD to boot into the OS from CD. This is undoubtedly the best unique feature in Linux. Using a Live CD, one can boot linux from CD without installing the OS. This helps to quickly check if the OS is going to be useful for self or to quickly use the OS in case the HDD’s OS crashes.
After a quick check again, I went for full installation of the OS. The installation process took less than 20 minutes. The beauty of Linux distro is that you get most of the tools necessary for home use bundled with the OS. The following were the default apps:
1) E-Mail : Evolution
2) Browser: Firefox
3) Torrents: Transmission bittorrent client
4) Music: Rhythmbox
5) Movies: movieplayer
6) Office: Open Office
7) Image editing: Gimp
8) F-Spot: Photo Manager
9) Many other accessories from notepad to RSS feed reader.
Start up and shutdown:
Do you remember the long text based boot up that used to be the trademark bootup process of linux. That is gone. The boot process is fully graphical and is fast too. It took just a few seconds for boot up and the shutdown is extremely fast. It takes less than 10 seconds to shutdown.
User Interface and fonts:
The interface is smooth, easy on the eyes and the best ever in linux distros that I had tried. When compared to the fonts that were used in the earlier versions of Ubuntu or other distros of linux, the anti aliased fonts in this version are stunning and this could be the reason why the OS looks so beautiful.
A single notification alert is placed on top right corner and the alertsrelated to system messages, warnings, errors, even chat messages can be seen by hovering over the notificaiton (mail) icon. Simple but very thoughtful and of course, useful.
Hardware and Drivers:
All the peripherals and hardware were detected correctly. The D-Link PCI wireless card that I added later too got detected while Ubuntu was not connected to internet (which needed drivers to be installed using manufacturer’s disc in Windows 7) and quickly got connected to the wireless network in my house. The only problem came when none of the TV applications are able to get TV signal from TV Tuner card. After going though lot of linux forums, came to know that this is a known issue for analogue TV Tuners and that Digital tuners should work fine. For now, am using my laptop for TV viewing by connecting it to the VGA port of my LCD. Two thumbs up for this distro for amazing support for hardware.
This was one area where linux lagged behind windows. Installating an application used to be a nightmarish experience in earlier distros. With Ubuntu Software center and Synaptic Package manager, application installation has become easier than what it is in windows. All I need to do is Open either of these applications and search for the applcations using the search box and once the application is listed, click on “Install” and the application will be downloaded and installed (only one prompt for password) in the OS.
If not sure what the application name is , you can go through the lists of apps organized per the nature of app like games, utilities, Education, Sound&Video, read the description of each of the available apps and install the app that best suites you. Remember that none of these apps are present on the harddrive. They are downloaded and installed.
There are alternate apps for Mobile phone PC Suites, itunes and other windows exclusive apps provided by device manufacturers.
NTFS paritions and File Operations:
All the windows partitions are visible. No need to edit fstab or install ntfs supporting pathes. All the partitions will be listed under “Places” menu or under “Computer”. When you try to open any partition, an icon of that partition will be placed on the desktop for quick access. By default, none of the partitions will be mounted and they are mounted when you try to access them.
I was surprised to see the NTFS partition that was shown as raw (corrupted) partition in windows accessible in Linux. May be I was lucky here but thanks to this, I was able to save all the data in this partition to another partition and reformat it.
File copy and directory browsing is very fast and snappy. It is much faster than that in XP and is on par with windows 7. The file copy dialogue is very informative and multiple file copy dialogue boses are clubbed together making it one large dialogue box with multiple status bars, which is a good idea because you need not tab throught multiple windows when multpile copy operations are running.
If you want to be a bit more geeky, you can use applications like Wine and Crossover to install windows based apps on linux. Though making a windows application work through wine is a painful task, it’s worth a try.
This is clound application by Ubuntu. A free account offers 2Gb of free space that can be used to store documents and also can be used to sync files between computers that are online. This is still in beta stage and I have not tried this yet.
Areas that need improvement:
- very slow on old hardware
- support for analogue TV cards
- option to select packages at the time of installation
- Better music and video players to be bundled (like songbird and VLC)
- A better GRUB2
For the first time ever, I felt that Linux has what it takes to become an operting system for Home PC. Everything worked. My usage of home PC includes:
1) Movies and Music
3) TV Viewing
4) Internet browsing
Except for Gaming and TV viewing using analogue tv cards, everything is possible. And since I am not able to do gaming, I am able to utilize that time in a better way by putting more effort in socializing and blogging. And for TV, I can always use my TV Box to connect directly to LCD and watch TV or use laptop+ USB tuner card.
You may now ask me if I am still using windows alongside linux. NO. I am using Windows inside linux. That’s what I call “From Linux as VM in windows to Windows as VM in Linux”
I urge all those who know a bit about linux to give Ubuntu 9.10 a serious try. This OS now deserves lot more. It’s fast, it’s flexible and it’s free. What more do we need?
Few comments on Ubuntu by ThinkDigit Forum members:
16000+ packages available in sources. No need to download any package manually. Package Manager, Synaptic works like a charm. Default Boot Loader, GRUB2 detects and configure installed OSes pretty well. No need to edit any file. Very helpful community.
–ghost at rest
Airtel Mobile Office works out of the box with my Nokia 5800 + USB cable. Just connect your mobile and configure the mobile broadband connection. It already gives you a list of Operators
GRUB 2 sux in its Ubuntu avatar.. on the plus side.. please mention about the awesome anti-aliased fonts in Ubuntu and the new notification system…
Shut down times are much lesser. My system shuts down in 3-5 seconds. Even boot up times are better. The same, however may not hold true for ancient rigs.
Would have liked facility to select the packages to include during installation itself (maybe as Advanced option)
References for Ubuntu and Linux to learn more about linux:
Few Images for reference:
Tweetdeck installed using Adobe Air:
Gimp in action: