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My Ubuntu Review

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Not knowing how many linux-nuts are active within these forums I've decided to share my recent experiences using Ubuntu 11.10 with you because I've nothing to do and am bored out of my mind.

Previous Experiences:

I got my first computer when I was six years old. It ran Windows 3.1 on top of DOS. Windows accompanied me until the introduction of Vista. Then I migrated to OSX for almost four years. Now my computer runs Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.10.

Installation:

Initially I only had Windows 7 installed. I am not a Windows fan but it's ok and I need it for work related stuff. If you plan to install Ubuntu or any other Linux distro alongside Windows it is important to install Windows first since it's bootloader tends to swipe everything else of the system.

Don't worry about partioning your harddrive. Ubuntu will actually do that for you during the installation process which is just one example that shows how far Linux as a hole and Ubuntu especially has come during recent years.

The length of the Ubuntu installation process will to a large part depend on the speed of your internet connection since a huge part of the operating system is downloaded suited to your needs in terms of language and hardware configuration.

If you want to avoid major driver-problems just use slightly older hardware. I run a simple Core i3 on an Asus motherboard and I didn't have to install any drivers myself. Plus you'll save money!

The UI:

On the first glance the newly introduced Unity UI is quite beautiful and reminds me a lot of OSX with the dock on the left side of the screen. On the second glance however weaknesses appear: It is noticeable which app is native. LibreOffice for example has its function bar in a different place than native apps because it's actually written in Java. You'll find such kinds of inconsistencies all over the interface. A good example is the shortcut to close an application with is different with each one. The shortcuts even differs on native Unity apps which is insanity when you think about it.

Window management wise Unity is a wild mix of Windows 7's Aero and OSX's Aqua. It utilizes full screen functionality as in OSX Lion and the window resizing you know from Windows 7 where you drag the windows to the edge of the screen an it automatically resizes. Weirdly enough it's actually a good combo!

One thing that really annoys me is that the buttons on the dock don't have an indentation animation. So often I wonder if I have actually pressed the button and tend to click a second time.

Available Applications:

The cool thing about Linux is that although there are different UIs (Gnome, Unity, KDE) you can use all apps in your specific environment regardless in which they were written. The downside of this is, that applications will get proportionally larger when they originated from an alien environment. To use a twitter client in Unity which was written in KDE you'll have to download 59 Megabytes. The added data are all the needed library that aren't part of your native UI environment.

Another downside is that those applications will add stuff to your system and thus slow it down.

In spite of all that there are some really great native applications to Ubuntu especially when you are a developer. On the graphics side of things is Gimp (basically Photoshop) and the vector graphics editor Inscape (equal to Illustrator). On top of that there are many cool editors available like Geany and the default gedit.

The office applications called LibreOffice are good. They provide more than basic functionality. Those additional features aren't really compatible to Microsoft's Office Suite, though. For me this is not a big deal since I mostly do simple writing or note taking and there is always the possibility to use Google Docs.

The default Ubuntu browser is Firefox which is a lot faster than it is on Windows but still not as fast as Chrome. Even speedier is Thunderbird!

Media:

Ubuntu includes all the mayor codecs you'll need. On top of that you can install VLC.

It gets tricky though if you want to playback DVDs. Most of those use a copy-protection that isn't included in Ubuntu and the only way to play your DVDs is to work around that protection which is legally iffy. Once you decide to life on the sharp edge of legality it's a matter of installing to librarys and you're good to go.

Conclusion:

It took some time to get used to Ubuntu but now I like it. It does everything an average user needs and beyond. Plus it's free, there are no viruses and no malware. On top of that you get some nifty security features like the possibility to encrypt your user-folder.

If you're not afraid of using the command line every now and then Ubuntu may be your sytem!