Ubuntu: Convince me to switch.

I’ve heard all kinds of things about it. I have checked out the website and thought about it a good bit. I currently am running Vista, and although it is nice and shiny, I’ve grown to hate it. It feels like, even though I am the sole user and therefore the admin on the computer, it has to mother me into making decisions. (the whole pop-ups about “you clicked uninstall. did you mean to?” and such.)

I’ve played with a lot of computers, and am fairly good at using them. I’ve run Linux, Mac, and Windows. I never ran Linux for long, just because I didn’t own the computer it was on (my work computer at my old job: they replaced it with a new one while I was there)…

I am already familiar with the programs the website I read said Ubuntu came with (I use GIMP, Firefox (and Thunderbird), and Open Office nearly everyday).

Is it worth switching? If you have, tell my about your experience. If you have thought about it but didn’t, why not? I guess I’m looking for opinions from everyone on the issue of OSes, but mostly switching from using Windows to Ubuntu. Also, buying a Mac is out of the question right now, so even if that is the best option (in some person’s opinion), I can’t follow up on it.
Brendon Small

I’ll toss my hat in. I ran Ubuntu for a while and to be honest, I miss it. The only reason I haven’t switched back is sheer laziness and the fact that MasterCook won’t run on it.

If you use the web mostly and open office, you really shouldn’t see much difference. It really only comes into play when you have software that isn’t available on that OS, which can be a lot.

I’ve recently gotten a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet and it is a *nix system and I find having my computer be windows and then trying to figure things out on the 770 (best toy ever) is frustrating so I will probably be switching back very soon.

Oh, one thing that bothered me was the fonts. For some reason, I wasn’t able to find one that didn’t bug me. A small price to pay really.

Auntbeast - thanks for the quick response. Did you find it easy to use? I ask because I often find myself explaining to my wife, “Sure, it’s a snap, I do it all the time” and come to find out it is something completely different to her. This goes for using a Mac. She just can’t get used to one, no matter what she tries. I think if she broke down and bought one and used it daily she’d be okay, but even when I had one to use for a while she didn’t like it enough to keep at it.

How difficult is it for someone who has never used anything but Windows (mostly, anyways).

Brendon Small

I used Ubuntu for about a month (it was the first Linux I used at home) but then switched to another distribution (Arch), which is generally lighter and faster, though it takes a bit more work to install and bring up to a nearly-complete level and doesn’t have many of the nice GUI tools that Ubuntu does. I mention this because I’m a bit technically minded, so my experience may not help you in deciding if the switch will be easy for your wife.

From what I’ve seen of other people, the main reason for leaving Ubuntu is the need for some Windows-only program, where a Linux equivalent is found lacking. Based on your post, I’m assuming that this is not a problem–you understand and accept the differences between GIMP and Photoshop, and aren’t anticipating problems with Open Office compatibility with Microsoft’s formats. The other big reason is hardware compatibility: wireless networking can sometimes be painful, as can ATI graphics cards, certain brands of printers, and a variety of other peripherals.

Is it worth switching? If you’re a bit technically minded like I am, you’ll probably enjoy the amount of flexibility that Linux will provide. Other advantages include the security and stability that Linux generally has over Windows. I find that I like the way things work in Linux a lot more than in Windows as I get used to this OS. You’re given a lot more control over the system, which of course allows you to make more and bigger mistakes, but you learn from that and gain new skills that will help you down the road when you encounter other problems. A good article to read, although one that is a bit hard-nosed and may act to scare you off of Linux a bit (by mentioning many of the common objections to it) is Linux is NOT Windows. Go over to the Ubuntu Forums and read some of the questions that are being asked by some new Ubuntu users. While you’re at it, look over some of the Tutorials and Tips to see what is possible with Ubuntu, and read about other peoples experiences in the Testimonials section.

Will your wife find the transition too hard? If she doesn’t do any system administration the change should be fairly minimal. The default GNOME environment (the program Ubuntu uses to manage the desktop) will look rather different than Windows. This is fairly superficial however, and you can change most of them–there are even guides out there for making Ubuntu look like Vista. As a normal user, she shouldn’t have to use the command line any unless she does technical things (writing and compiling programs, for example). As the administrator, you will have to get used to the command line, so be aware of this if you are not already familiar with it.

That said, the best thing you can do is to try it yourself. I recommend downloading a live cd and playing around with it before trying to install. If you do decide to install, dual booting for a while would probably be the best option, since you can always return to Windows if you find that Ubuntu doesn’t work for you. Here is a guide detailing how to install Ubuntu without losing Vista. My advise is to read it over a few times before you try anything, make sure that you understand what is happening, or ask questions (maybe in this thread) if you don’t.

I hope this all helps. If you have any specific questions, I’ll be glad to try to help you out.

Thanks Dr. Love for a great answer. I’m at work right now, so I have no CDs, but I downloaded it and am planning on getting it on a disc this morning to try dual booting. I had read about that on here before and assumed that is what I should be doing before completely getting rid of Vista.

I am pretty confident that I will be fine using it. The most this computer is used for is to take to work (for various reasons) and for my work from home (HTML/CSS design) and some light music production. When I first bought this computer, Vista came with a Word trial, so I used it for 30 days and got Open Office. Ever since then, I have become annoyed with regular Word at work, and GIMP is an absolute godsend. I also figure I will be fine as an administrator. I ask because she is fed up with her computer sometimes. Little things bother her and I wondered if switching and networking everything would be a viable option. She is pretty adaptable as far as computers go, and I don’t think it would be a problem, but I worried that it may be too technical for her tastes (she’s an email and spider solitaire gal).

I do worry about the wireless networking. We have a very basic setup at the house: Time Warner Cable internet with a $50 Belkin router. The router is plugged direct to her computer, and I have the ability to run it across the room to my desk if I had to, but part of the fun of having a laptop is moving around the house.

The article (Linux is NOT Windows), if anything, made me more interested in switching. I appreciate the link.

A question, though: I use Audacity and MPTrim right now to edit together the stuff from my little 4-track. What decent programs are available for music editing with Linux?

Brendon Small

I’ve never tried to do any audio editing, so I’m probably not the person to ask, but I do know that Audacity is available on Linux, though from the website it looks like MPTrim is not. It is possible that MPTrim will work in Wine, but I don’t see it in the application database, so you probably shouldn’t count on it. What you can do, once you get the live cd running, is look through the database of applications in the Add/Remove Applications (or whatever thay call it in Ubuntu) and see if anything looks to have the features you want. If so, downloading and installing them is very simple, so you can try as much as you want.

I just installed Ubuntu on the second hard drive in my Mac. So far, the only “problem” has been adjusting to the differences between the way the mouse behaves in Linux and Mac OS X.

My friend Marc worked on Ubuntu. If he had a hand in it, it’s solid. Marc is one of the greatest people I know.

You may find Kubuntu more to your liking - the KDE desktop is a bit more like Windows. Also, the KIO slaves are cool - you can connect to remote servers using a variety of protocols and just drag’n’drop stuff around. You should find a set of HTML/CSS editing tools to use.

If you want to do music stuff, there is a set of packages for Ubuntu Studio (another Ubuntu variant, but they work in Ubuntu/Kubuntu) - this supplies a low latency kernel and music recording apps - Audacity is an option, but Ardour is the multitrack recording app to use - very capable.

Install KWirelessNetwork to manage your wireless connection - works a treat. The only issue is whether your wireless adapter is supported - you may need to use ndiswrapper - this adapts the ndis drivers used in Windows as Linux drivers. This can be a bit tricky to set up initially.


Dr. Love - I’m not attached to MPTrim much, it is just an easy and quick way to fade in/fade out and trim up sound files. It seems to be easily replaceable (at least in my mind). I appreciate the answer, though.

si_blakely - I looked at Kubuntu, but I got the download for Ubuntu because I figure if I run it from CD and don’t want to use it, before I get rid of Windows I can get Kubuntu or Xubuntu. As long as there is at least 4 tracks to mix I am fine with it. I don’t do full band stuff, just me and a guitar, plus a drum track here and there. It is also not my first priority, as it makes little money (the HTML/CSS editing tols would be nice…and that gig pays a little better)

I got some CDs today when I got home, but fell asleep before burning one. I’ve just got done lifting weights and showered for the day, so I’m going to run to Subway and get some lunch (well, dinner for everyone else, but I just woke up at 3) - when I get home I’m going to burn it and attempt to boot up on my laptop.

Brendon Small

I installed Ubuntu and so far, I love it. I do have one problem - I followed the directions of how to dual-boot Vista with Linux, and it worked okay until I went back to boot Vista. It isn’t in the boot list. Anyone know why this would happen? I am working on getting my wireless to work, but as of right now, I’m posting from my laptop on the desk in the front lobby of the office (only place I can get a wired connection). Any more advice on getting the wireless to work right?

Brendon Small

Have you done a kernel update in Ubuntu since you changed your menu.lst file? (You’ll know if the kernel was updated because it will ask you to restart the computer.) Ubuntu will overwrite the menu.lst file when a new kernel is installed to ensure that everything boots up correctly, so the Vista entry may have been deleted. If so, you will want to put something like (typing from memory, so I might get something wrong):

title Windows Vista
rootnoverify (hd0,0)
chainloader +1

under the line that says


in your /boot/grub/menu.lst file. This assumes that Vista is installed on the first partition of your first hard drive, which may or may not be the case.

Also ensure that the HIDENMENU (or something like that) option is set to 0.

If this doesn’t work, it would be helpful to post the information about the setup of your hard drive (how it’s partitioned) and your menu.lst file.

If you have a Broadcom wireless card this is the easiest way to get it working. I suggest the compile from internet option.

I do have a Broadcom card. I had read a few things, and one of which was the ndiswrapper, but I had some things to do at work so I just played around a little here and there while doing my paperwork. The link you gave looks great, I will try it real quick before I have to finish morning things…stupid work, keeps interfering with all my fun.

Dr. Love - I believe that is it. Not very long after I restarted from the cd to the hard drive, I did the update and restarted, so that makes sense. I will try it either before I go home or when I get home from class tonight. Honest, I think that if I get the wireless working in the next day, I’d like to copy the pictures and things on Vista that I have saved and eliminate Windows. It didn’t take long to convince myself after I got the CD image burnt and started playing around with it. I was nervous it would be slow at first, since it was when I ran off the cd, but as soon as it was installed, it felt amazing to have something work right (well, minus the wireless, but I was prepared for that, just not sure where to find help while at work - my laptop can plug into the cabled internet, but not the power, in the lobby - can use the power but not the internet at my desk because I’ve always used wireless…)

Brendon Small

I’m about 50/50 Ubuntu and XP - I’m not intending to upgrade to Vista at home.

I find Ubuntu to run faster than XP on any given hardware - even if its a fresh install.

(all IMO)
-Security(of which a lot is by design, not just obscurity)
-It’s free
-A lot of the application software for it is also free - even some really good stuff
-It just works really well.

-Existing familiarity with Windows and specific Windows apps (or reliance upon specific app) can make the transition a bit uncomfortable, at first
-The default file system is more capable, complex and safe/secure - this does make it harder to casually use
-Ditto the command line - it’s so functional that it’s overwhelming, and it’s so functional that GUI versions of some stuff are yet to be properly developed - this again discourages some casual forms of use.
-Driver support can be an issue - Wireless networking is still a bit of a grey area, graphics card support sometimes incomplete (so it might work, but not make full use of the card’s capacities).
-Smaller user base means there’s typically less discussion out there on any given topic, compared to Windows topics.
For something that is given away free of charge, Ubuntu Linux is an astonishingly good product - it’s worth a try, and I’d suggest installing it dual-boot and playing with it for a while, before deciding for yourself if you’re able and willing to make the switch. In a dual-boot scenario, it can be installed on quite a small partition, so this is not a seriously costly option in terms of your PC’s resources.

I am 90% Kubuntu, 10% XP (for my music software - they were not cheap, so I intend to use them, and wine does not cut it, yet).

Many of the tasks I use my laptop for have better tools on linux, and it manages my Linux server really well. Plus, if I really need to, I can patch my system to do what I want - I did this with Fedora and automounting NTFS partitions.

And - I am a geek :wink:


Well, I got the wireless working well, so that is a non-issue. I have not actually tried to get back to vista, but I know I need to get a few files off of there for work. I’m going to work on that in just a minute. Thanks for all the help everyone!


Glad to hear that it’s going so well. Getting the files off of Windows shouldn’t be too difficult, just read up on how Linux mounts partitions (most guides will suggest modifying your /etc/fstab file, but if you’re really planning on leaving Windows behind, you don’t even need to do that, just use the mount and umount commands to get to the Windows partition). If you are going to get rid of Windows, I would suggest making backups of everything you need in some place other than on the Ubuntu partition, especially if you plan on doing any more repartitioning work with the now-empty Windows space–not to say that anything will go wrong, but it’s better to be safe…

Well, a great plan didn’t happen yet because, once again, I fell asleep. This working nights stuff sucks. I am going to backup files I know I will need on a DVD, but also, since HP is so smart, they gave me a nice backup hard drive that is only used to backup Windows right now. Since they also gave me CDs to reinstall windows, I’m pretty sure having one or the other is fine, instead of both. I hadn’t read about the mount/unmount commands, but I will look around. How do you use them to get to the Windows partition?

Brendon Small

My Vista partition showed up by default in the file manager. I didn’t need to mount it or anything.