After about three years of toying with each new release of Ubuntu Linux, the latest version, Jaunty Jackalope 9.0.4, sold me. It’s about 95% there, and that’s enough. So here’s the rundown of what works and what doesn’t…
I installed the latest version on five computers: 2 custom built desktops, a Lenovo laptop, a Compaq laptop, and a Toshiba laptop. I had no driver issues on any of the laptops, though the video drivers on the Toshiba (A15-S157) seem a little buggy at times. Driver wise on the two desktops, mine was fine – it has an Nvidia video card. Linux prompted me to install the proprietary drivers and it works like a champ. On Debi’s desktop, the ATI video card, a budget card that isn’t great quality, had some serious problems. During the install the screen kept flashing – apparently the OS couldn’t figure out a resolution that worked for the monitor/video card combination. I was eventually able to change the resolution once I got everything installed, but it still has problems. I can’t get it to boot to a visible log-in screen. Luckily I knew from past experience that I just needed to type the username, hit return, and then type the password and hit return. I was able to do that without being able to see anything and it booted to the OS. I eventually set the system to skip the login prompt, which is a crappy workaround, but it works.
- On the Lenovo laptop I can’t seem to get the second monitor (our HD TV, which Linux detects fine) to function at its correct resolution. I can get it to display video, but not at the correct resolution. It still works, it just doesn’t take full advantage of the TV. When I set it to the correct resolution, I get the Linux white screen of death.
- I can’t seem to get Linux (using Synce) to recognize my HTC 8125 PDA. I don’t sync it very often, but this is kind of a hangup. I may have resolved this by syncing my contacts and calendar directly with Google as explained here.
- I can’t install Internet Explorer on Wine so I can watch Netflix videos online. I’m not sure how I’m going to resolve this one either. I may have to pick up a Roku box.
- I’m going to have to learn a new statistics program – R. I’ve been using SPSS for almost a decade now. Learning a new program is going to be challenging, but I hear good things about it, so we’ll see. (Until I do I’m running SPSS in Windows via Virtualbox.)
- While both a negative and a positive, I have had to look up how to do a number of things on Linux that simply were not intuitive. I have also had to use the terminal (i.e., command prompt) quite a few times, which is awkward for someone like me who grew up on Macs then switched to Windows when there was no longer a need for the command prompt (for the most part). Luckily, there have always been answers online. But this is probably more than the average user is willing to do.
- I have yet to find a video editing program that works as well as those I used on Windows (Sony Vegas and Adobe Premier). Well, let me rephrase that: I have yet to find one that really works. I have tried several and they each seem to work to some degree, but they are very buggy and either freeze up or simply don’t do what I need them to. I’m going to have to fiddle with these more.
- WINE, the Windows emulation program, has failed to install every program I’ve tried to install. At this point I’m not sure it even can install Windows programs. Kind of pointless.
- I use special, ergonomic mice due to repetitive stress injuries. At this point I have not found a program that will allow me to customize the functions of the buttons easily. This isn’t a major problem, but it probably does slow me down a little bit.
- When I disconnect my Lenovo laptop from its docking station, Linux doesn’t reset my display settings to a single monitor. So, unless I change the display settings manually, I can’t see any of the key menus. Not a major annoyance, but a minor one.
- Our printers don’t work. I may be able to get these to work with additional effort. I’m not that perturbed by one of these, an HP Laserjet 1000, which was always a bit buggy with Windows XP. However, our Canon MP 830 is kind of annoying. The scanner function works great, but the printer doesn’t seem to be working at this point. I’ll have to work on these.
- Two pieces of software I cannot find replacements for: Omnipage pro, for optical character recognition and Nvivo for qualitative data analysis. I’m figuring at this point I’ll simply run a version of Windows in Virtualbox and emulate those programs when I need them. Amazingly, there is not a single good OCR program for Linux. Not sure why.
Amazing things about Linux:
- No driver disks or driver downloads to find anywhere. Linux found all of them for me and installed them with only one or two minor hitches. That, alone, saved me a lot of time.
- It’s free! No serials or codes to type in. No registration required.
- The repository of software has thousands of pieces of software to choose from.
- So far, with only a couple of exceptions, I have found software to replace every piece of software I used to use on Windows.
- Connecting to wireless networks has been super easy. The software works flawlessly.
- The software I have been able to replace includes: Microsoft Office with OpenOffice; Outlook with Evolution; Batch Rename with Bulk Rename; Windows Live sync with Dropbox (this did cost me $99, but includes a backup feature, which Windows Live sync did not include, meaning I always have my files backed up); Toucan synchronizer with Conduit Synchronizer (a lot better); xplorer2 Lite with Krusader; Adobe Reader professional with Okular and PDF Editor; uTorrent with Transmission; Nvu with Bluefish; DVDShrink and Gordian Knot with dvd::rip; iTunes with Rhythmbox; Winsplit with Compiz (even better); .
- Software that works on both systems: I was already using Openoffice, which works on both; Picasa works on both; Virtualbox works on both; GIMP works on both; Scribus works on both.
My verdict for Ubuntu Linux: Well, if your hardware is fully supported and all you do is use the internet and basic word processing, Ubuntu will work superbly for you. And, it’s free! If your hardware isn’t fully supported, your not tech savvy, and you don’t enjoy troubleshooting, Ubuntu is pretty close, but could give you nightmares. Of course, Windows XP could do the same thing. Vista, well, that’s a gimme – it’s a worthless piece of crap. If you’ve been cursed to run it at all, poor you (it came with one of my laptops; it was pretty bad!). Windows 7, from what I hear, has potential. But it’s also going to cost you a pretty penny. And, unless you shell out for the more expensive versions you may be stuck being able to open only 3 applications at the same time. Also, if you use a particular proprietary software package (e.g., SPSS or Omnipage), you may be stuck with Windows.
I am dual-booting Linux and XP on my desktop. I’ll keep doing that until I find good video editing software. Otherwise, I can emulate the other software I still need (Nvivo and Omnipage).