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 ofÂ 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 didnâ€™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 donâ€™t know the password and canâ€™t change things around to much.
From the day I installed it to today, where Iâ€™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 donâ€™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, Iâ€™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 pcâ€™s there were used to.
One day when and if I have a netbook the first thing Iâ€™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 LCDâ€™s native size, the internet was up and running, the sound - I didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t work, it couldnâ€™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 itâ€™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 thatâ€™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 peopleâ€™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 havenâ€™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 arenâ€™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, Iâ€™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 couldnâ€™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 wasnâ€™t expecting much, and the webcam doesnâ€™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!