Friday, August 19, 2016

Ubuntu and my rebellion against MicroSoft

I am in day three or four since switching from Windows to Linux after the Microsoft update fried the hard drive in my aging computer. I’ve now used the Ubuntu 16.04 operating system enough to have some non-knee jerk reactions that I thought I’d pass on.
The good
1. Stability: The Ubuntu version 16.04 that I am using seems to be stable and boots up just fine. It seems to boot a lot faster than Window.
2. Cost: You can download Ubuntu for free but the download site does a only slightly pushy job of asking for a $25.00 donation. Since Windows 10 is about ten times that much that’s fine.
3. Complete system: The download came with Firefox and Libra Office (Open Office) that includes a word processor, a spreadsheet and various other programs so you have information processing ability right off the bat. I’ve actually used Open Office for many years, in fact I typed the PhD dissertation on Open Office and it is my favorite word processor. Microsoft Excel is a better spread sheet but if you are just typing Open Office does everything you need. I can confidently say that there is almost nothing MS Office can do that Open Office can’t. Open Office will open Microsoft documents without any problem so there is really no reason to to use MS Office in a home environment. Open Office formatting and options like footnotes and line spacing are done a little differently but not so much so that you’ll have a hard time figuring it out. Given that Windows 10 here on Guam is $269.00 and Micro-Soft Office is another $250.00 or so this is a pretty big deal. Running Ubuntu with Open Office will save enough money to almost pay for the cost of a new computer if you don’t need a new monitor or fancy gaming machine.
4. Easy to install: I downloaded Ubuntu on my laptop and transferred it to a CD and it installed itself without a hitch. Just make sure you get the proper version for the machine you are installing too. The only issue was that I clicked the wrong option. I wanted to install the dual boot option so I could use a Windows XP or Windows 7 to run some games. Instead I got straight Linux. But, like I said that’s my fault. The option was there I just selected the wrong one. If I want I can probably go back and reinstall with the proper option or create a virtual Windows machine.
5. You don’t need antivirus software. There is anti virus available for it but it really isn’t needed
6. I’ve had no problems with connecting to the Internet, video settings or sound. I can watch ML Baseball games, and TV shows on Amazon Prime and Netflix as well as You Tube video with no problem.
7. My portable HD and Thumb Drives work as expected with no problems
How Does Ubuntu look and work?
1. The basic screen is a purple to orange fade. It is neither more or less attractive than the Windows blue background but it definitely has a different visual ambiance. When you look at the screen you know right away this is not a machine running windows. Other than that there are a few differences that you need to be aware of.
2.There is no “Start” button” at the bottom left. There is one but it is a tiny round wheel looking thing in the top right corner. You can turn the machine on and off there and click on various functions.
3. There is no “System Tray” at the bottom right. Instead some of those features are placed just to the left of the start button at the top right.
4. In Microsoft systems you have “close” “diminish” and “full screen” buttons at the Top right. Ubuntu places these at the top left but they are sometimes hidden by text until you mouse over them This was sort of frustrating because it took a while to figure out how to close programs.
5. There is a stack of icons along the left edge of the screen that functions like the start menu at the bottom of a a Windows system. Due to the propitiatory nature of computer operating systems these often have different names than the equivalent Windows operation but they are pretty easy to figure out This stack is a lot easier to manage than the buttons at the bottom of a Windows system and you can easily add or remove buttons
The Problematic
1. Compatibility: Because it dominates the market there are just a bunch more programs available for Windows machines. If all you want to do is type, cruise the Internet and watch video then Ubuntu does just great. But like all Linux systems it fails miserably if you want or need to install a program that was not written for it and that does not exist in a Linux format. There is a Linux program called “WINE” that helps with this some but it mainly works on productivity programs. It hasn’t worked on any of my old games. The only real answer to this problem is to have either a dual boot system so that you can use either a LINUX or Windows system or run a virtual Windows station inside LINUX. To me these solutions kind of defeat the purpose of having a non Windows machine. However, if you don’t need a proprietary windows program the issue doesn’t come up. I, being a rather dedicated gamer have been unable to play any of my games on the main computer and have to use the aging laptop instead. I can access Steam from Ubuntu but because my account is setup as a Microsoft PC account I can’t install any of the games I’ve purchased through Steam.
2. Installing programs. In both MicroSoft and Apple products if you want to install a program you insert the CD or click “Install” after it downloads. That is sometimes the case in LINUX but you often find yourself having to type long strings of command lines that are case and space sensitive. This can be really frustrating and is something I haven’t had to do since the days of the Commodore 64. If you are not comfortable typing something like: sudo apt-get VmX-Positive-Video-Control:ppa essential-build-Kernal.01.06.008* -y then maybe Ubuntu is not for you. An example of what I mean is using Netflix. Netflix won’t work on Firefox using Ubuntu because it requires the MicoSoft “Silverlight” plug in which is not compatible with FireFox in LINUX. In order to make it work you have to download a LINUX equivalent called “Pipelight” and spend 20 minutes carefully typing out command lines to solve the problem. In this case there is a simpler work around – use the Google Chrome browser. (I discovered this after fiddling around trying to get Pipelight to work.)
3. File structure: If you are used to working with Windows then you are used to the various named drives on your computer. LINUX has no “C:” drive or any other named drive. A lot of LINUX devotees seem to think this is a good thing but I do not. Having discrete, named drives or partitions on a hard drive is a true aid in organizing data. If you store data on CD’s or thumb drives make good and sure you have those disc and drives named because it makes them easier to see when you need to access information from them or to save to them.
There is a secular proverb; You get what you pay for. Ubuntu is not as easy to use and runs far fewer programs than Windows or Apple machines. It is also exponentially cheaper, in fact sine you can down load it for free it is infinity cheaper. If all you are doing is email, typing and reading or watching things on the Internet Ubuntu is a great choice. If you want to play a MMORP game like World of War Craft or Uncharted Waters Online you may be in trouble. (If you want to keep your kids from playing those games then you should already be using Ubuntu.) It isn’t a perfect system but it is very usable.
A good way to try Ubuntu would be to load it onto an old computer that you don't use much. Because it takes up less memory than Windows 10 it will work just fine on an older machine. This would let you play around with the system in a real electronic environment without making a huge commitment. Ubuntu has an option boot off a CD which also might be useful but I find that using the program loaded on a an actual HD is a better way to evaluate it. I can see using this system for a low cost homework computer in a child's room because they'd have a difficult time loading programs that parents might not want their kids accessing.
I still haven't decided if I will continue to use it but I'm glad I tried it.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Linux using Blogger