January 24th, 2007
It’s true! But probably not to the OS you’re thinking of. I’ve switched to Ubuntu. Linux. I can scarcely believe it myself. I’ve left Windows behind, on the eve of Vista no less, to a free OS made by volunteers and a wannabe astronaut. I always knew I’d move away from Windows the second I got the chance, but I spent my time pining for a MacBook while ignoring the always-present installation of Ubuntu on my computer. Ubuntu was my rescue-OS, it saved me whenever Windows decided to stop working. I tried to use it once or twice, but the little things kept getting in my way. I wasn’t quite sure why I kept it around since Ubuntu became a live-cd and all I had to do was put the CD in the drive to rescue my files before reinstalling Windows for the 10th time.
It happened very suddenly. I downloaded a nifty virtualization (like emulation, but way faster) program for Windows called VirtualBox and loaded up my copy of the Vista beta CD which I had never gotten around to burning. Instead of becoming interested in Vista I became interested in abandoning Windows with the help of virtualization. Flash 9 wasn’t even out of beta for Linux yet, and I refused to make a switch without bringing Flash with me. VirtualBox had a Linux version, I thought I could bring any missing software with me through it. I loaded up my copy of Ubuntu.
I instantly noticed how pretty the OS was and how much they had cleaned it up since the day I burned a copy of “Warty Warthog” because I had grown to hate Redhat’s Fedora. Warty wasn’t as pretty as Fedora, but it didn’t require me to burn 5 CDs just to install the thing. I grabbed a Linux version of VirtualBox but it wasn’t as fast as the Windows version. This made no difference though, because the change had already begun. I noticed the little things that always irritated me about Linux, like how my beloved play/pause/stop/next/previous buttons didn’t work, or how the music players all sucked, and how there was always key software missing, all gone. It was all there. I easily added shortcuts for my media keys, I left behind Winamp after 7 years for Rhythmbox, Eclipse was already there and a Linux version of the Flex SDK and Flash 9 had arrived.
The thing that really strikes me is how smoothly everything operates. I’ve been using NetVibes as my Desktop because no Windows software ever did the job. Evolution, Ubuntu’s calendar/mail app integrates with the OS. When you click on the time you get your todo list along with a list of events and appointments for the day. There’s also Synaptic, which I always thought was nice, but I still hated being bound to it. Synaptic is a software library program that can install and update software available in special repositories. It’s interesting, but if you want software not in the library, it was always hell to get it install. Now any software that provides a .deb file is child’s play to install. It’s far easier to do things you never even thought you wanted to be easier, like making software startup when you log in.
Simply put, using Ubuntu is one of the most refreshing computer experiences I’ve had in a long time. It’s not perfect, for one thing all my emulators and music input plugins are stuck on Windows. There are some equivalents on Linux, but they’re mostly inferior. My USB Xbox 360 controller doesn’t work – although a driver will eventually turn up. All my PC games are lost back on XP, although I was never much of a PC gamer anyway and I can boot up XP for gaming. Skype is uglier on Linux, although it still works. My favorite browser, Opera, is slower on Ubuntu than Firefox so I switched browsers as well.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that switching to Ubuntu was easy and completely worth it, I just finally ran out of reasons to keep using Windows. I’ve always disliked Linux because I felt it ignored real usability in favor of programmer’s indulgences. Ubuntu seems to have mastered keeping the little things that irritate me under control. I’ll probably never buy that MacBook now, I don’t think I’ll be needing it.