Life on Ubuntu

It’s been months now. I’ve lost count. I can’t remember when I made the switch. But it’s final. Windows is a thing of the past (well, not 100%). I’ve been having a great time on Ubuntu (or U, as I’ve started calling it).

I’ve been meaning to write about my experience with Ubuntu for a long time, and when my friend Helmut wrote about his experience with 8.04 on his blog, I decided I should too. (The following is basically a repeat of my reply to his post).

Overall I would say Ubuntu has a good choice of default applications, although I switched to Thunderbird from Evolution after not too long. I do like Evolution, it’s very feature-rich, but I feel Thunderbird is more polished, and I am using the Lightning calendar plugin, which works for me.

The only thing I miss from Windows so far (apart from the Start menu) is Google Picasa. Google does provide Picasa for Linux, but it’s just the Win32 application running under Wine, so it’s rather sluggish. F-Spot is a nice photo viewing program, but it doesn’t play movie clips, and I make quite a few of those with my camera.

Well, the one other thing I miss is the default UI font from Windows. It just seems to make better use of the space on the screen. I guess it’s something one can set up under Gnome as well though. The other thing that slightly bugs me in terms of display in Ubuntu is the bar at the top and bottom which takes up lots of space. I guess you can change that too, but I’ve sort of gotten used to using it already. The window list in the Gnome panel is not as smart as in Windows though. I could double the size in XP, and have two rows of window buttons showing (I usually have lots of them open). The auto hide of the panels in Gnome is also not as elegant. But hey, it’s all free, right?

I’m still forced to boot into Windows sometimes because there is no proper working alternative yet for a Contivity VPN client for Linux, and I am currently working at a client that uses Contivity VPN. That is to say, there are commercial ones, but I have yet to dig into my pocket for one.

Working on Linux is fun and you can be very productive if you have a decent internet connection. If it weren’t for that, it would have been way too frustrating to switch, but as it is, more and more people are getting broadband, so that opens up the doors for Linux adoption in a big way.

Since moving to U, I have become somewhat of a command-line junkie. Apart from the feeling of power that you get, some tasks like package management with apt-get just lend themselves so well to the shell prompt that I find myself spending more time there. Same goes for my Rails development, which really took off on Ubuntu, while on Windows I was just messing around.

When playing Warzone (because there is some time for fun too) while having Compiz switched on there was lots of flickering and sometimes the screen didn’t show. Could be a range of things (maybe hardware), but I switched off Compiz anyway because, although very nice, it wasn’t so smooth and appealing (I need a faster computer!) and when I was listening to music, opening or switching windows would cause the music to jerk somtimes. When I get a new computer, I’ll use Compiz for sure though!

I also ought to mention that I became an IRC user since moving to U. I never was, but it’s great to know there’s a big community of users out there and if you need help with anything, you can just ask. Also, I’ve found solutions to pretty much all problems and annoyances by Googling, and mostly the answers came from the U forums.

What I haven’t succeeded in is the ability to enter umlaut characters. In Windows I was used to using Alt-keypad numbers sequences to enter those. There is an applet you can add to the panel, but it’s not so convenient.

I find that I have been more productive on Ubuntu so far than I have ever on Windows (at home that is; at work I still have to be productive on Windows :-) ). It took a while to get used to everything, but now I feel right at home, and I ain’t never switching back! When I boot into Windows and I see that blocky mouse pointer I think “Ee-urgh!”.

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  • Glad to hear you are having a good experience on Linux. Its something I have been considering for some time. One thing that has been bugging me is all those “insignificant little apps” such as VPN clients. Would be interested to know if you have tried running XP under a VM in Linux?

  • admin

    Hi Johan, I actually have been thinking of running XP under a VM (I would use VirtualBox for that) when I get a new computer. However, if I have to fork out money to license my virtual XP installation, I would rather spend that money on buying commercial Linux alternatives of software (I think both Nortel and Apani have a Contivity VPN client for Linux, for example).

  • I agree that VirtualBox is excellent. I am using it on XP to run SLED and works really well. As far as I understand you are allowed to run the version of XP that shipped with the machine on a VM as long as that VM remains on the original machine, but I may be wrong(MS License conditions are a nightmare).

  • admin

    Hi Johan, sorry, I only now read your initial question properly. The quick answer is “no” :-)
    I think you are right about the licensing of XP. It’s per CPU, so I guess if it were to run on the same physical CPU (even in a VM), it shouldn’t require an extra license.