Ubuntu 2 year usage report

At my house, there is one pc which is in a central place and keeps all our photos and stuff. This same pc is also used by visitors and their kids, and over time a lot of different people end up using it.

It always had some form of  windows before, and problems would crop up now and then, requiring me to troubleshoot. So some time back Google released Picasa for Linux, which is what I use to manage photos, and was just about the only thing keeping me to windows.

So I took the plunge, and installed Ubuntu 9.x on it, later this morphed into 10.04.

Installation was much nicer than WindowsXP, a few clicks and that was all! Well first I downloaded the ISO and burned a CD - I wish there was a USB install version as well as that would be much faster and easier than burning a CD… Anyways, Ubuntu installs everything you need, from OpenOffice to whatever else, including some decent games as well. Mind you, this is 2 yrs back…

Setup was simple, one user with a password, and autologin so there was no need to enter the password. Unlike Windows I didn’t have to enter in a key, or whatever else it is which comes up on the multiple prompts XP throws up on install.

Once the system was up and running, the only time the password is needed is for configuration changes, program installs and updates, which is great as guests don’t know the password and can’t change things around to much.

From the day I installed it to today, where I’m updating it to Ubuntu 10.10 beta, about 2 yrs in, nothing has gone wrong with the system - no crashes, no viruses, no slowdowns, nothing. It just works, and continues working. People bring over their USB sticks and I have no fear of viruses - and almost everything OpenOffice opens, and there is always Google Docs as backup as well.

There is a cheap Samsung laser printer attached, and far as I remember, I just plugged it in and it just worked. This same printer in Windows I had to download drivers and install those…

I don’t play games, but for gamers that is going to be a major stopping block to using Linux - though from what I can see on the internet, a lot of games do run, using WINE. Picasa on Linux runs through WINE as well, though a native port would be nicer….

Now, I’m tech savvy enough to use just about any common OS, but the ppl using this pc were the opposite of tech savvy - and after a initial few minutes of complaints people got used to it and became happy with it. Kids in particular were happy with it, as most of their games are in flash anyways, and with Ubuntu it just worked unlike the windows pc’s there were used to.

One day when and if I have a netbook the first thing I’ll be doing is installing Ubuntu Netbook edition on it, based on my experience with the desktop version.

Ubuntu 10.10 beta: I just installed Ubuntu 10.10 beta, and even with a beta everything is go - on first boot it said to OK installing Nvidia drivers and that was it. The screen resolution was set to the LCD’s native size, the internet was up and running, the sound - I didn’t have to install a single thing - which is a pleasant change from Windows! I recently installed a original version of Windows 7 on another pc, and had to find and install drivers for everything. Yes, Windows 7 now finds drivers on the internet, but since the network card didn’t work, it couldn’t…

Ubuntu 10.10 is fast - bootup is faster now than the 10.04, and heaps faster than WinXP and there is a Ubuntu update server in Pakistan now so updates are downloading very fast as well… Given that it is a beta there is a bunch of updates downloading away at the max speed of my DSL - something which Microsoft updates have never managed!

There are lots of little improvements in 10.10, like the screensaver which first fades the screen out and than kicks in - which I find a lot more pleasant the before where it would just start when it hit it’s timer - there seem to be a lot of thoughtful little touches like that which make it pleasant to use.

The Ubuntu Software center works well, you just search for a program and it installs it automagickly.. no downloading files, searching for it, double clicking than pressing next a few times… a pleasant change from the mac and windows world. There is a one drawback, that it takes a bit of effort to add new sources but you only need to do that once per company and thats it.

I am assuming that when the final release of 10.10 is out this version will just magically update itself to that, as that’s how it generally works.

Did I mention viruses? In Pakistan, viruses are widespread, and the way society works you always have people coming over, and most of these people’s computers are bust half the time anyways due to shoddy hardware and pirated windows - so Ubuntu was a great enabler of having a publicly usable pc. Another common virus vector is sending your pc to the local computer store for fixing, which are almost all to every store virus infected themselves.

Sadly, computer stores in Karachi or their clients haven’t heard of Ubuntu yet… It makes sense for the computer stores to keep installing virus ridden pirated windows as their clients keep coming back, but their clients aren’t happy! I tried educating my local pc store but they are extremely resistant to change.

What else - Ubuntu or Linux just seems more robust, besides thing like viruses. Today the electricity went as I was installing system updates, but the system booted right back and there was no issues. In Windows, I’ve had many experiences where if the light goes during a system update, the whole system might just die.

Update: So I went looking for a cheap webcam + mike. The well known brands like Microsoft, Logitech etc. were all 2000 rupees plus, so I started looking at A4 Tech at about 1000 - 15000 rupees. Finally I ended up buying the cheapest webcam in the shop, a Xpod XP-116 for 800 rs. This is a really cheap brand and I couldn’t even find the website to see if it works in Ubuntu. Got home, plugged it in, started up Skype - and lo and behold, both the mike and webcam worked! No driver installation by me, nothing! I chucked the tiny cd with Windows only drivers into the trash… what else - installed Camera Monitor which puts a icon in the taskbar when the webcam is on, and Cheese, a photobooth type software.

With 800 rupees, I wasn’t expecting much, and the webcam doesn’t deliver much, it seems to be qvga or vga resolution, but at least the person at the other end can finally see and hear me!

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10 Responses to Ubuntu 2 year usage report

  1. well says:

    The same could be said about Vista and 7, as long as the user isn’t an idiot. I’ve been using Windows since the ’90s and I have still have all my stuff intact from almost 15 years ago, and I’ve never had to reinstall Windows on the last couple laptops that I got it on, despite heavy customization and intensive, regular usage.

    Did I mention idiots? In Pakistan, idiots are widespread. It’s not just Windows people here keep having problems with.

    In any case, most of Linux’s “security” and apparent virus-immunity comes from the fact that you do not always run everything in an Administrator/Root mode with full system rights all the time, and if you do not disable Vista/7′s “UAC” right away like an idiot would, Windows works in the same manner, if not better.

  2. K. Shahzad says:

    A very nice post, considering the fact that we use the pirated windows here, so shifting to linux may be a good step.
    I always heard of linux but never believed in it due to very fact that it may not give as widespread support for applications and the devices.
    But this post really motivates me, my use is just technical, no gaming involved at all, so will consider installing ubuntu on a system on trial bases and will see if it can run all my apps, if experience goes well, I may be very well shifting the OS. For now I am a happy user of Win 7.

    By the way, very informative post.

  3. Fed up with Windows many problems, I have shifted to the Ubuntu o/s. I find it user friendly and versatile and best of all there is no hassle for any ‘payment’ for the software, including the many applications that can be easily downloaded for free. However I do have a problem in using the ptcl EVO USB Modem with Ubuntu. I understand that it can be used but only after inputting the required commands in the ‘terminal.’ I have tried doing that too but to no avail. Can anyone help? As a layman I need some simple, straightforward advice that will enable me to use my Evo modem. THANKS!

  4. Asad says:

    Are you honestly comparing a 9 year old OS (XP) with a year old OS (Ubuntu Jackalope)? Haha.. at least make an apple to apple comparison… Compare it with Windows 7 if you are so inclined.

    Viruses are not much of an issue with Windows 7 and it also doesn’t gives administrative access by default.

    I have used both; Windows and Ubuntu (among some of the other distros of Linux I tried) and have yet to see a Linux distro which does needs the terminal opened frequently for my usual tasks. Apart from the cost, there is no disadvantage to using Windows for the ordinary user. And considering the rampant piracy, that too is not a concern at all. Let’s not even talk about the learning curve involved for going beyond the basic word processing or web browsing tasks.

    Also, it is unsurprising that Ubnutu picked up the printer or the webcam drivers automatically. Most modern operating systems (including Windows Vista, 7 and even the service pack 2 onward versions of ancient XP) d0 that. It is more due to common architecture rather than some mystical property of Ubuntu itself.

    If viruses were not a problem, I wonder why there exist various AV solutions for Linux distros? That contradicts your assertion.

    At various times in the past, I have advocated for both Linux and Windows. However, the fact that I currently use Windows speaks for itself about what my final recommendation is.

  5. Asad says:

    ^ Typo correction for above…

    … with a year old OS (Ubuntu Jackalope (9.x))?…

    … have yet to see a Linux distro which doesn’t needs the terminal opened frequently for my usual tasks…

  6. Saad says:

    I have been using Ubuntu since last month..I must say that I am very pleased with it. I now hardly use windows 7 on my pc. As far as the compatibility is concerned, so far the only thing apart from usbs that i have connected is my Samsung ML 1640 printer, and it worked without any trouble. Yes I agree that Ubuntu is not for gaming etc. but the point is that if you only have to browse the net, do occasional word processing and watch some movies on your pc, than this is equally good as compared to windows..and its light weight too. It loads in 18 sec on my pc (intel pentium dual core 2 gb ram) as compared to 36 sec for windows 7.

  7. You could have used Unetbootin to write the ISO to the USB and boot from that, or even to your system drive and install from that directly. It is a lot faster and you don’t need to burn CDs (Which in my personal experience, were too low-quality to work properly most of the time). And once you have Grub2 installed, you can directly mount the ISO’s by adding an entry in the /boot/grub/grub.cfg file.

    That is not entirely true. Linux’s security (over windows) comes from a number of different reasons. First there is the very nature the Kernel interacts with the userspace. Then the fact that Linux related (reported) vulnerabilities, which are far fewer than Windows’, get patched a lot quicker than Windows’ (usually in a day comapred to weeks or months for windows). Heck some of the vulnerabilities in Windows are out in the wild and known to Microsoft for years before they get patched, and some according to Microsoft, will never be patched. (ref. from their security bulletin)

    Well comparing old operating system to new, why don’t you look at it from another perspective: I use Ubuntu 10.10, a month old OS, on my ancient P4 3Ghz, with a lot more applications that I have in my 9 year old OS XP, And windows XP boots and runs a lot slower than my Ubuntu. Where as I am sure if I run Windows 7, it probably won’t even crawl in here. And this doesn’t mean I have any less functionality or eye candy or features in my Ubuntu. If I am being honest, there is more. I recently made someone else use 10.10 on their laptop (they had previously been using Windows 7). And they prefer Ubuntu. They say its faster, more stable and looks nicer as well. I admit people have different tastes, but at least the claim from Windows people that it is a lot more user friendly is long gone.

    Talking about hardware support. I use a rare combination of PCI-PCMCIA adapter, for which I needed to bang my head for 3 days at least for it to work on Windows. But both of them work out of the box in Ubuntu (and openSUSE). All I needed to do was enter the username and password. And this is not it, I have not had to load or set a single piece of my hardware. And neither did the other person who has a core i3 laptop.

    The fact of the matter is, that Linux Kernel supports more hardware devices and processor architectures than any other OS in the world today. Is is the most scalable of them all, running from netbooks to Supercomputers, and it runs on every single mission critical and enterprise level system. 91%+ Top500 Super computers run Linux, and majority of Enterprise and high level servers either run Linux or Unix-based OS.

    And the argument that Linux has less security flaws because of its less usage is false as well. Majority of webservers run Linux+Apache, and the proportion and severity of security break-ins or else related to that are far less than in Windows based desktops or servers.

  8. One more thing, Before I moved to Ubuntu completely, I was resizing one of my partitions via Partition Magic when light went, and I had my 350GB partition gone (partition type converted to pqrp and Windows won’t recognize it at all, and neither will any data recovery software (At least not properly). The process to fix the partition seemed long and tedious, but once I tried Ubuntu 9.10, I was surprised to see that it had mounted the partition on its own, and I could access all my files without a problem.

    Another thing I would like to mention which Linux does and Windows doesn’t in my case, is it runs HD videos a lot smoother (Xine libraries). No matter which player I tried on Windows (With all the proper drivers), the videos will lag in crowd scenes or with lots of smaller objects in the scene. But they run smoothly in Ubuntu despite them being on NTFS, and the NTFS-g running in the userspace and not on kernel level.

    Once you have an open mind about it, and don’t have some very specific applications (Mostly newer games I suppose) that only run on Windows, Ubuntu will do it all, with better security and stability than any other Windows.

  9. KO says:

    Recently a friend wanted to buy a new pc as his was too slow, and I gave him Ubuntu 10.10 - and his old pc has been re energized to the extent that he’s sticking with his 5 yr old machine.

    I also used Windows 7 on a super fast quad core machine with 4gb ram and fast raid hard drives, and it is very nice, but I still prefer Ubuntu for general use, as I can configure it to how I want to use it. Though I could do that for Win7 as well..

    @Asadullah: Yes, USB stick installs are the way to go, I couldn’t figure out how to make the usb bootable so just burned a cd as that was straightforward. I’ll look at Unetbootin next time. I hate to burn 3 cd’s as the first 2 failed mid burn…

  10. Pingback: Ubuntu 10.10 download speed on bittorrent | wiredpakistan

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