Background

I think it's impossible to offer a purely objective review on an operating system – qualitative data like the GUI and nebulous concepts like “ease of use” can't be measured. There is a degree of subjectivity in such a review, and I believe it's important to relate that in this article To that extent a bit of background on myself is probably going to be helpful on relating my point-of-view on matters, before jumping into Ubuntu. This section is being written prior to my even touching Ubuntu, so that it doesn't end up reflecting my experience, rather than my expectations.

Based on the computers I have owned and the operating systems I have used, I would best be classified as a Windows user. Like many of our readers (and our editors) I have lived the Microsoft life, starting from DOS and going straight through to Vista. I have clocked far more time on Windows than anything else, and it's fair to say that's where my skills (troubleshooting and otherwise) are strongest.

With that said, I am by no means limited to just a single OS. As was customary for most American schools in the 90s, I had access to the requisite Apple IIs and Macintoshes. But to be frank I didn't care for Mac OS Classic in the slightest – it was a remarkable OS in 1984 and even in 1993 and the age of Windows 3.1, but by the time Windows 95 rolled around it was more of a nuisance to use than anything else. It's through a cruel joke that when starting work in IT in 2001, I was tasked with using the newly released Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah” full-time to gauge its status for use on the organization's Macs.

Apple didn't ship Mac OS X as the default OS on their Macs at that time, which should tell you a lot. Nevertheless, while I abhorred Mac OS Classic, Mac OS X was far more bearable. The interface was better than anything else at the time (if not a bit too shiny), application crashes didn't (usually) take out the OS, and the Terminal was a thing of beauty. Sure, Windows has a command line environment, but it didn't compare to the Terminal. Mac OS X was a mess, but there were nuggets to be found if you could force yourself to use it.

I'll save you the history of Mac OS X, and we'll pick up in 2004, where Apple had improved Mac OS X a great deal with the release of 10.3 “Panther.” At this point I was a perfectly happy Mac user for my day job, and I probably would have used one at home too if it wasn't for the hefty price of a Mac and the fact that it would require having an entirely separate computer next to my gaming PC. A bit later in what was probably a bad idea, I convinced Anand to try a Mac based on the ease of use and productivity features. This resulted in A Month With A Mac, and he hasn't left the platform since.

Finally we'll jump to the present day. I'm still primarily a Windows user since I spend more time on my desktop PC, while my laptop is a PowerBook G4. I would rather be a Mac user, but not a lot has changed in terms of things preventing me from being one. To replace my PC with a Mac would require throwing down money on a workstation-class Mac Pro that is overkill for my processing needs, not to mention my wallet.

I also am not a fan of dual-booting. Time booting is time wasted, and while I am generally not concerned about boot times, dual booting a Mac would involve rebooting my desktop far more often than the occasional software installation or security update currently requires. It also brings about such headaches as instant message logging being split in two places, difficulty accessing documents due to file system/format differences, and of course the inability to simultaneously access my games and my Mac applications. In theory I could game from within Mac OS X, but in reality there are few native games and virtual machines like Parallels and the Mac branch of Wine are lacking in features, compatibility, and performance.

I also find the Mac to be a weak multimedia viewing platform. I'll get into this more once we start talking about multimedia viewing under Ubuntu since much of the underlying software is the same, but for now I'll say that libavcodec, the standard building block for virtually all *nix media players, is particularly lacking in H.264 performance because the stable branch is single-threaded.

So while I'm best described as a Windows user, a more realistic description would be a Windows user that wants to be a Mac user, but can't bear to part with Windows' games or media capabilities.

As for my experience with Linux, it is not nearly as comprehensive. The only time I ever touched Linux was in college, where our department labs were Dells running Linux and the shell accounts we used for assignments were running off of a small Linux cluster. I never touched the Red Hat machines beyond quickly firing up Netscape Navigator to check my email; otherwise the rest of my Linux usage was through my shell account, where I already had ample experience with the CLI environment through Mac OS X's terminal.

My expectations for Ubuntu are that it'll be similar to Mac OS X when it comes to CLI matters - and having already seen screenshots of Ubuntu, that the GUI experience will be similar to Windows. I am wondering whether I am going to run into the same problems that I have with Mac OS X today, those being the aforementioned gaming and multimedia issues. I have already decided that I am going to need to dual-boot between Ubuntu and Vista to do everything I want, so the biggest variable here is just how often I'll need to do so.

Index It’s Free - Gratis
POST A COMMENT

197 Comments

View All Comments

  • viciki123 - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    I have a new website!wedding dresses uk:http://www.weddingdressonlineshop.co.uk">http://www.weddingdressonlineshop.co.uk Reply
  • Jillian - Thursday, December 29, 2011 - link

    YOu are spamer .For this, you could pick up some popular open source and proprietary (or their free equivalents) application that can run both Linux and W7. and compare the price, time and power consumption for retrieving, saving, processing, compiling, encrypting,decrypting compacting, extracting, encoding, decoding, backup, restore, nº of frames,etc, with machines in a range of different CPU and memory capacities. http://www.idresses.co.uk Reply
  • zerobug - Monday, February 01, 2010 - link

    Regarding benchmarks and Linux-focused hardware roundups, one thing worth of consideration is that while Microsoft places strong resources on O/S development to create features that will require the end users the need to get the latest and greatest powerful hardware, Linux places their efforts in order that the end user will still be able to use their old hardware and get the best user experience while running the latest and greatest software.
    So,the benchmarks could compare the user experience when running popular software on Microsoft and Linux O/S's, with different powerful machines.
    For this, you could pick up some popular open source and proprietary (or their free equivalents) application that can run both Linux and W7. and compare the price, time and power consumption for retrieving, saving, processing, compiling, encrypting,decrypting compacting, extracting, encoding, decoding, backup, restore, nº of frames,etc, with machines in a range of different CPU and memory capacities.
    Reply
  • MarcusAsleep - Thursday, December 17, 2009 - link

    Quick Startup: OK, Windows is fast - at first, well let's say that is if you install it yourself without all the bloatware that come standard on Windows store-bought PS's (we bought a Toshiba laptop for work with Vista that took 12 minutes after boot-up for it to respond to a click on the start menu - even on the third time booting.)

    Windows startup is often burdened by auto-updates from Microsoft, anti-virus, Sun-Java, Acrobat Reader, etc. etc. that slow down the computer on boot-up to where your original idea of "hey I just want to start my computer and check my email for a minute before work" can take at least 5. I can do this reliably on Linux in 1. Yes, if you know a lot about Windows, you can stop all the auto-updates and maintain them yourself but 99% of Windows users don't have time/or know how to do this.

    Trouble-free: E.G. I installed Linux on a computer for my wife's parents (Mepis Linux) 7 years ago for email, pictures, games, web, letter use and haven't had to touch it since then. This is typical.

    For Windows, often I have done fresh installs on trojan/virus infected computers - installed working antivirus and all Windows Updates (not to mention this process takes about 2-4 hours of updates upon updates + downloads of the proper drives from the manufacturers websites vs about 1 hour for an Ubuntu install with all updates done including any extra work for codecs and graphic drivers) - only to have to come back a couple months later to a slow again computer from users installing adware, infected games, etc.

    Free: Nearly every Windows reinstall I've had to do starts with a computer loaded with MS Office, games, etc. but upon reinstall nobody has the disks for these. There is a lot of "sharing" of computer programs in the Windows world that is not very honest

    With Linux, you can have the operating system plus pretty much anything else you would need, without having to cheat.

    Adaptable Performance: You can get a well-performing Linux installation (LXDE Desktop) on a PIII computer with 256MB of ram. The only thing that will seem slow to an average mom/pop user would be surfing on flash loaded web pages, but with adblock on Firefox, it's not too bad. With Vista loaded on this computer, it would be annoyingly slow. You can often continue to use/re-use computer hardware with Linux for years after it would be unsuitable for Windows.

    I think these features are of high value to the average user -- maybe not the average Anandtech computer user -- but the average surf/email/do homework/look at photos/play solitaire/balance my checkbook user.

    Cheers!

    Mark.
    Reply
  • SwedishPenguin - Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - link

    Using SMB for network performance is extremely biased. It's a proprietary Microsoft protocol, of course Microsoft is going to win that one. Use NFS, HTTP, FTP, SSH or some other open protocol for network performance benchmarking. Alot of NASes do support these, as they are Linux-based.

    Furthermore, using a Windows server with SMB with the argument that most consumer NAS use SMB is pretty ridiculous, these NASes are most likely going to use Samba, not native SMB, the Samba which is implemented in GNU/Linux distributions and Mac OS X, not to mention that most of the NASes that I've seen offer at least one of these protocols as an alternative.
    Reply
  • SwedishPenguin - Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - link

    The ISO thing is pretty ridiculous, creating a simple GUI in both GTK and Qt and integrating them into Gnome and KDE should be pretty damn easy, though I suppose integration with the respective virtual file systems would be in order, in which case it might get slightly more complex for those (like me) not familiar with the code. There's even a FUSE (userspace filesystem) module now, so you wouldn't even need to be root to mount it.

    About the command-line support, IMO that's a good thing. It's a lot easier both for the person helping and the guy needing help to write/copy-paste a few commands than it is to tell the person to click that button, then that one then another one, etc. It's also alot easier for the guy needing help to simply paste the result if it didn't help, and it makes it much easier to diagnose the problem than if the user would attempt to describe the output. And you usually get much more useful information from the command-line utilities than you do from GUIs, the GUI simplifies the information so anyone can understand it, but at the price of making debugging a hell of a lot more difficult.
    Reply
  • nillbug - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    It must be said that Ubuntu and the major Linux distributors all have 64bit O/S versions since a long time. The reason behind is to allow users to benefit from memory (+4MB) and 64bit CPUs (almost all today) gaining a better computing experience.

    If this article was a private work of the author to provide him an answer on whether he may or may not move to Linux, people should advise him the above mentioned. As for an article intended to be read by thousands it must be pointed out that it's conclusion is a miss lead.

    In face of today's reality (and not the author reality) why did he never mentioned the 64bit Ubuntu systems? I guess he's final thoughts then would've been much more in favor of Linux.
    Reply
  • nillbug - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    It must be said that Ubuntu and the major Linux distributors all have 64bit O/S versions since a long time. The reason behind is to allow users to benefit from memory (+4MB) and 64bit CPUs (almost all today) gaining a better computing experience.

    If this article was a private work of the author to provide him an answer on whether he may or may not move to Linux, people should advise him the above mentioned. As for an article intended to be read by thousands it must be pointed out that it's conclusion is a miss lead.

    In face of today's reality (and not the author reality) why did he never mentioned the 64bit Ubuntu systems? I guess he's final thoughts then would've been much more in favor of Linux.
    Reply
  • seanlee - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - link

    I have read all 17 pages of comments…a lot of Linux lovers out there… and they all purposely ignore few important things that make Windows successful, which in term, makes most Linux distribution marking failures, I have used Linux on my net book and my ps3, and I absolutely hate it.
    1. User friendly. No, CLI is not user friendly no matter what you say; no matter what excuse you use; no matter how blind you are. NOT ONE COMPANY dare to provide their mainstream products to be CLI only, from things as simply as ATM, ipod, to things as complicate as cellphone, cars, airplane. That ought to tell you something--- CLI is not intuitive, not intuitive=sucks, so CLI = sucks. You command line fan boys are more than welcome to program punched cards, expect no one use punched cards and machine language anymore because they are counter-intuitive. Having to do CLI is a pain for average user, and having to do CLI every time to install a new program/driver is a nightmare. GUI is a big selling point, and a gapless computer-human user experience is what every software company looking to achieve.
    2. There is NOTHING a Linux can do that windows cannot. On the contrary, there are a lot of things windows can do that Linux cannot. I’d like to challenge any Linux user to find engineering software alternatives on Linux, like matlab, simulink, xilinx, orcad, labview, CAD… you cannot. For people who actually user their computer for productive means (not saying typing documents are not productive, but you can type document using type writer with no CPU required whatsoever), there is nothing, again, I repeat, NOTHING that Linux can offer me.
    3. Security issues. I disagree with the security issues that windows has. I can set up a vista machines, turn it on, luck it into a cage, and it will be as security as any Linux machine out there. Hell. If I bought a piece of rock, pretend it was a computer and stare it all day, it would be the most secure system known to the man-kind. Linux’s security is largely due to one of the two reasons: 1. Not popular, not enough software to support and to play with. 2. Not popular, un user-friendly. Either of them is not a good title to have. It is like you are free from the increase of the tax not because you have your business set up to write off all your expense, but because you don’t make any money thus you don’t have to pay tax.
    4. There is nothing revolutionary about Linux for an average user, other than it is free. If free is your biggest selling point, you are in serious trouble. Most people, if not all, would pay for quality product than a free stuff, unless it is just as good. Obviously Ubuntu is never going to be as good as windows because they don’t have the money that MS has. So what does Ubuntu have that really makes me want to switch and take few weeks of class to understand those commands?

    Be honest, people. If you only have ONE O/S to use, most of you guys will chose windows.
    Reply
  • kensolar - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link


    I hope you realize that your hated is showing so strongly that absolutely no one cares what you say.
    That said, I don't know how to use a cli and have been successfully using Linux for 3 years. I found the article to be a fairly fair one even though the author is so unfamiliar with Linux/Ubuntu. As he does not use the default app's in windows, linux users don't use the defaults only in linux. K3B is far superior to Brassaro and so on. In addition, I don't think he let on very well as to the extent of the software available in the repositories (with addition repositories easy to add). Several hundred app's, 20,000 programs, even security app's and programs ranging from easy as pie to complicated. (for those of us how have a computer that is more than a rock) I personally do audio mixing, video transcoding, advanced printing....all with graphic interfaces.
    BTW, I learned how to turn on a computer for the 1st time 3 1/2 years ago, I stopped using windows a little over 3 years ago and have no reason to go back. I find it too hard, limiting and frustrating to use. Plus, I can't live w/o multiple desktops, the author didn't get it yet, but once you get used to them you can't go back.
    Well, I've said enough for now, can't wait for your next article.

    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now