Thursday, May 22, 2008

30 days without Windows, and with Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron"

Well, it's been 30 days since I entered "Windows rehab", trying to go cold-turkey by taking large doses of Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron". And for the most part, I've been successful. Other than booting XP a few times to get personal info and to run one program that does not have a Linux replacement, I've done everything I used to do in Windows with Ubuntu for 30 days. As they say in my neck of the woods, I'm "tickled pink". Read on for a brief summary of my experience so far.

Installation and configuration

Ubuntu them manager

The Ubuntu installation to a dedicated partition went off without a hitch. I have a second hard drive, which I devoted entirely to Ubuntu. Everything, including video, sound, network, USB, internet, HP Deskjet D4160, came up working after the install. Ubuntu did not, however, have a driver for my second printer, a Lexmark Z730. I was advised in the Ubuntu forums to stick with an HP printer for the best support in Ubuntu.

Configuration took a little time, but no major problems were encountered. I've changed the desktop background, the default window theme, the login screen, set up "the cube" desktop using Compiz, configured the Gnome panels, and added Flash player to Firefox. The help given in the Ubuntu forums has been superb - Ubuntu has without a doubt the most helpful user community of any operating system out there.

Browsers, email and instant messaging

Ubuntu background browswer

The Firefox 3 Beta 5 browser has performed without a hitch since installation. As I mentioned earlier, Flash player had to be installed separately, but this went off without a hitch for me. I've had no problems with web pages, and Firefox is fast - faster even than it was when I tested it in Windows XP. And memory management is excellent - memory usage builds up over time, but I can restart the browser and recover all the extra memory.

My favourite browser, Opera, is another story. Opera 9.27, the latest released version, does not work with the Flash player plugin. Opera 9.50b, the latest beta, however, works with Flash player, but closes abruptly 2 or 3 times a day. You can have Opera, but if you want Flash with it you'll have to live with it disappearing unexpectedly from time to time.

I didn't care for the included Evolution email package, so I installed my personal favourite, Thunderbird from Mozilla (the same folks that brought us the Firefox browser). It's easily installed from Applications>Internet>Add/Remove>Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News. And I was able to integrate the Tracker search tool to index all of my Thunderbird emails as well (it currently only indexes the address and subject fields, the developers plan to include indexing of the body text as well).

Ubuntu's included Pidgin instant messaging client has worked with my Yahoo! IM account without a problem (I've only used text messaging, no voice). It does not support my AT&T 1 cent per minute long distance softphone, though. This was supported by Yahoo! Instant Messenger in XP. This has forced me to boot XP a couple of times, but I can certainly live with it. Hopefully either Pidgin or the included Ekiga Softphone will support this type of application in the future.

Other Applications

Gnome menu

I've been using Ubuntu for all of my work, which includes writing this blog. For screen captures, I'm using the included Gimp graphics program. This takes a few more steps than the Easy Capture software I was using in XP, but the results are excellent - and I can do a lot more with the captured image than I could with Easy Capture. For word processing, I've been using AbiWord, as I'm no great fan of Open Office - it's too bloated with features for my taste. It's just a few clicks away as well, by going to Applications>Add/Remove> AbiWord Word Processor.

I'm using Evolution for my calendar application with no problem, and have located and installed Task Coach as a to-do list (you can find it in the Synaptic package manager by searching for "taskcoach". I've added the weather, system monitor showing memory and cpu usage, and the Klipper clipboard utility to my top Gnome panel, and set the bottom panel to autohide. And I've been able to configure the panels so that the menu is in the same place as the Start menu in Windows - many years of Windows use have made this location second nature. I've even put the volume control in the lower right-hand corner, so I'm right at home.

The Bottom Line...

The best way to sum up my experience is to say I don't plan to go back to XP. I'll probably keep it around so I can use my long distance, and in case anything else pops up, but I'm glad to say that I could do without it right now if I have to. I'll not be buying a Vista upgrade, to say the least. I have had a few "anomalies" in Ubuntu (the right-click menu is sometimes a little spastic - I can probably cure this by playing with the dwell settings on the mouse - I just haven't gotten around to it, and I lost some text in AbiWord once for some reason), but overall I am just loving Ubuntu - and the price is impossible to beat.

What next?
If you have a problem or question, leave a comment, I'll be glad to help. I'm still new at Ubuntu, too - but it may be that I've already been where you're at.
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Anonymous said...

Your experience comes later than my own, but very similar. I erased my XP last year in favor of Ubuntu. I still don't understand why people buy the Mac when it is like the price of a used car. ubuntu does the job - if not, google search your issue and you'll likely find an answer.

wrgb said...

I agree about the Mac - I've always wanted one but never enough to shell out for it. And I'm amazed at the number of good, open source apps available for Ubuntu.

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