Can Ubuntu replace Windows? A non-geek tries out Linux

This past winter, my sister Tara got fed up with her slow netbook. Being a practical person, she didn't want to drop a bunch of money on a new computer or tablet. My brother volunteered to do a clean wipe and re-install Windows XP on it.

As things turned out, he was too busy and the tech support fell on me. So I wiped it. Unfortunately, I didn't think through the re-installation very well- her Windows product key was rubbed off from the sticker at the bottom of the machine. I tried to guess what some of the rubbed off characters were and even used a 10x magnifying glass. I eventually resorted some less than savory methods to try and get Windows back on the computer, but no dice.

If Microsoft didn't want Windows on her laptop, maybe I didn't either. I called her up and asked what sorts of things she does with her computer. She does some document writing, some blogging, and a bit of surfing the internet- pretty light weight stuff. I began to think that maybe Ubuntu could meet her needs.

I was worried since she isn't a super technical person- she's never used the command line and I think a command prompt would scare her a bit. But Tara agreed, which is a good thing since I didn't want to have to buy a new copy of Windows for her. I asked that she give her impressions with the operating system for the layman's perspective, and now with a few months of Ubuntu under her belt, I've asked her about her impressions of the experience.

First off, has moving from Windows XP to Ubuntu been a workable option for you?

It meets my very simplified needs of internet, storage of some photos, and a few documents.

Before, you thought that your computer was too slow, is it any better?

It starts up really fast. My internet surfing is pretty fast... I guess I don't know if that's an Ubuntu thing or the fact that you wiped my computer a couple of months ago.

I think that people picture a Linux OS as being ugly and not user friendly, how is Ubuntu for you?

I like the font and appearance of web pages. It is different than what Windows looks like. I don't like the unity bar on the left. I accidentally activate it all the time when I try to go "back" on Chrome. It's so very annoying. The wallpaper options aren't awesome.


Unity bar overlapping Chrome controls

How about usability?

Being a non-geek, I found it easy to get the hang of without any help from a geek. It was way easier and more intuitive to take the screen shots on Ubuntu. I didn't have to Google how to do it. I automatically saved it and I got to name the files right after I took the shot. I think on windows you have to jump through a few hoops.

However, I have no idea how to shut it down. I either close my net book and it automatically hibernates, or else the battery ends up dying and it has to restart on its own. The automatic screen dimming feature, though helpful, happens too fast. I don't know how to change it.

Running Ubuntu means you are part of the geek elite. How does it feel? Do your friends give you weird looks when they see you aren't running Windows?

The geek elite? Hmm. That feels great (see answer to previous question and that may negate this proclamation from you). I recently had a conversation with a friend who commented that when I got my netbook several years ago, it was the first he'd ever seen and he thought I was pretty slick. (His wife then chimed in that I have been indescribably on the front edge of a number of trends... I swelled with pride.) My friend went on to say that now I am really behind the times since I still use a netbook instead of an iPad. To which I replied something like, yeah, well, I don't use Windows, I use Ubuntu, so eat that, sucka. And there were crickets. And his wife shook her head in wonderment.

Don't worry, Apple has sold millions and millions of iPads. There isn't anything elite about owning one. Unfortunately it seems that Ubuntu lacks the name recognition to garner much reaction. Among geeky crowds, you could get many high fives for rocking Linux on your laptop.

Well, I'll be sure to send the link to this post to my one geek friend so I can get that high five.

Have you run into any unexpected incompatibility with apps that you like to use?

Aren't apps just for phones?

It turns out app is just short for application. That's points off of your geek cred. Any programs that you have used on Windows that aren't available for Linux?


No, seriously, I have no idea. I don't think I have tried to add anything to the netbook.


What is one thing you would like to see changed in Ubuntu?

Hands down, the unity bar location.

What is one thing you would like to see changed in Windows?

Speed. And, secondarily, the appearance of webpages, font, etc.

If your netbook is suddenly destroyed, what would you replace it with? A Mac? A Windows 7 laptop? Hold out for a Windows 8 tablet later this year? An iPad? An Android tablet? A pad of paper?

Great question. In reality, I probably wouldn't replace it. Did I just lose all geek cred I might have gained earlier in the post? My answer is the point where my blog and your blog intersect. Even though I like blogging and shopping and reading on my little netbook, I suspect that without it, I would be less distracted in general. I recently pulled the plug on Facebook which has helped immensely, but even still, having such easy access to my netbook all day may not be the best thing for me. I am a homemaker and an information junkie, so to be able to hop on the computer constantly is probably really bad for me. But, I have a desktop PC that our dear little brother Marc built for me a year ago. It's super fast, and has a huge monitor (because it functions as a TV). The desktop lives in the basement family room and I'm certain I'd be a lot more efficient with my computer time if I could only use that a couple of times a day. It's far enough away that I wouldn't be tempted to get online for just a quick sec so I could buy some thread or check Dr Techno. Sooo, maybe I would have to get that pad of paper.... to make a list of things I would need to check when I head down to the basement desktop.

Or maybe use your smartphone, either for notes or for looking up stuff?

I like my smart phone for texting, games for the kids, organizing travel plans, and looking up quick bits of information, but really, I don't use it for notes or lists. I prefer paper and pencil. To me, it's faster than pecking it out on my super annoying android keyboard. And paper is more flexible.... I can erase, or cross out, or doodle or whatever. Hey, maybe Dr Techno could do some research and a subsequent post on apps for moms. Like, stuff that is actually useful for running a home and raising kids, not just apps that are cool. How about it?

I'll see what I can do- it's hard to beat pen and paper. Maybe you would like a Galaxy Note or a tablet with a stylus. Just let me know when you're ready for an upgrade.

-Originally posted here-