One of the things we have been wanting to do for some time now is to do a proper review of Linux as an end-user operating system. We have done articles on Linux in the past relating to performance, but never a complete OS review.
A Month With a Mac, our article on the Mac experience was very well received and we would like to do this again for a Linux review. I, a Linux novice, will use Ubuntu Linux for a month as my primary OS in order to capture an idea of how the Linux experience stacks up, and how it compares to the Mac and Windows platforms.
Now the reason that we're soliciting advice first is due to a matter of timing. Ubuntu is on a six-month release schedule with the next version due in April. If we were to start our month-long experiment next week, our review would not be ready until the middle of March, only a month or so before the next Ubuntu release. On the other hand if we wait for the next version of Ubuntu, a review would not be done until at least the late-May/early-June time frame.
So we would like to hear back from our readers and Linux users. Would you rather see this kind of a review done sooner, or wait another 2-3 months for a review done with a newer version of Ubuntu? This isn't a straight-up vote, but we'd like to take your opinions under serious consideration, especially since we aren't intimately familiar with Ubuntu and what the next version may bring.
Please add your comments to this blog post, we'll get back to you next week to let you guys know if we're going ahead with our experiment or not.
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  • MelCarnahan - Thursday, April 3, 2008 - link

    In order to be an apples to Apples comparison, your review must be on a notebook that comes preloaded with Linux and supported by the OEM. The Eee PC would qualify.

    If you want to compare a Windows machine to a Linux computer that does not come with Linux preloaded and factory-supported then the Windows machine for comparison should be a Playstation 3 running Windows.

    Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and many virgins have endorsed Linux as the official operating system of God.
    God recommends Linux v2.6.24.4.
  • MelCarnahan - Thursday, April 3, 2008 - link

    In order to be an apples to Apples comparison, your review must be on a notebook that comes preloaded with Linux and supported by the OEM. The Eee PC would qualify.

    If you want to compare a Windows machine to a Linux computer that does not come with Linux preloaded and factory-supported then the Windows machine for comparison should be a Playstation 3 running Windows.

    Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and many virgins have endorsed Linux as the official operating system of God.
    God recommends Linux v2.6.24.4.
  • esancheo - Saturday, March 15, 2008 - link

    Last week I started using the a new version's alpha (never failed in anything, compare this with others) with an old 2800 athlon and a rusty gf 5200.
    I'm amazed at how i can get all the bells and whistles of compiz, super efficient software, i was going to buy a new computer this month but i'm postponing it, i have everything i need now, games, quicker internet, I'm never going back to the past of Windows, maybe a dual boot just for a 3d game... i love linux!!!
  • snffff - Thursday, March 13, 2008 - link

    I have actually recently switched over to Ubuntu 7.10, and I'll have to say, considering the amount of research I did before this, and since I"m not an inexperienced windows user, there are a number of points I wish had been iterated (or more seriously re-iterated) during my pre-install research.

    First thing that came up is that despite statements to the contrary: there is no seamless switchover. "Out of the box" as it were, Ubuntu does most of things that Windows does and a few things it doesn't (it comes with an office suite for instance, as well as a pretty advanced image editor). On the other hand, none of the things it does work the same way. Which doesn't seem like a big deal until you want to do something you take for granted in Windows. You want to launch a website that uses flash? good luck. How about edit a text document in the default openoffice document editor, not so hard, but also not the same as the Microsoft Word you're used to. You used to Photoshop? Gimp apparently does everything Photoshop does, but I wasn't going to completely relearn the process after I had already paid for Photoshop. How about installing the programs that Ubuntu does lack? I've been using linux for over a month, and although there are some handy mechanisms in place (add/remove and the synaptic package manager) to install or uninstall software, they are even less reliable than windows, and I find myself having to google software install instructions which almost always involve the DOS-like terminal. Not hard, but I honestly still couldn't just install any old program via apt-get or a download without instructions, something that as a windows user I took for granted.

    And that doesn't even touch on things like Windows' pretty interface. Maybe I'm just silly, but I kind of like pretty menu bars, and shrinking windows when I minimize them. This stuff requires separate software (i.e. compiz-fusion) which is not as easy to use as Windows, or even necessarily installed by default in Ubuntu. When it is installed it breaks another of the linux myths, being that my 4 gigabytes of reserved space, while perfectly adequate for a default install and far more than I had been lead to believe was needed for a linux install, just barely left enough hard drive space for the experience I had become used to with Windows. Install Java, flash (both of which seem to need multiple versions, both free and commercial installed to work consistantly), Openoffice (to replace microsoft office), video players as competent as zoomplayer for instance, and pretty soon my 4 gigabytes, plenty for a careful install of Win XP, is gone. Not necessarily because linux takes more space, but more likely because as a new user, I don't know how to optimize my linux install, and space savings while well documented for linux, are not as consistent as windows. Try finding five linux websites that agree on how to optimize a linux install. I dare you.

    Mostly I think that a real review of Ubuntu requires more than just casual use of linux. There are just so many things you can take for granted in Windows, so many little programs you use occasionally that enrich or simplify your computer using experience. Go through all of the installed programs on your computer (or all of your computers if you use more than one regularly) and try to use or find equivilant programs for everything that you have installed on them. Not just the web and word processing and email, but photo editing, video games, music and movie players, cd burners, torrent programs, how about cpu-z for general computer info? or gspot for identifying codecs? even do little things like opening the nfo files that come with many torrents and just work differently on linux, this stuff is out there, but I bet if you need cpu-z and you're an advanced windows user, you just type cpu-z into google and then go download the latest version, you don't have to run a google search for a linux equivilant. Let us know what that's like. Show us the install process for anything that needs installing rather than just saying, "this program needed to be installed, which required a google search but was painless" try using sites like youtube and facebook, that normal people use regularly and report problems and bugs, put music on your ipod, and tell us how that goes. I'm happy with Linux, but I'm not "joe sixpack" and I wouldn't leave my mom with a linux computer unless I was commited to stop by and fix it every week. This is the kind of info I think most "spend a while with linux" reviews lack.
  • Styln - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    I built a system based on the ASUS P5k-VM motherboard (G33 NB, ICH9 SB, GMA 3100 Video, Realtek ALC833 audio, Marvell 88E8056 GigEth), LG SATA DVD Burner, E2160 CPU OC to 3Ghz, 2G DDR 800 RAM. Except for 3D graphics, it's a modern competitive system. I put Ubuntu 7.10 on it because it's the 5th PC on my home network and I'm just sick & tired of paying MSFT and dealing with the on-line genuine Microsoft validation BS (All it takes is having to do this one time over the phone instead of the network and you'll never want to buy MSFT products again). It worked first time every time. I set it up for my non-technical wife. Used the Gnome GUI and made it look quite similar to Windows. She uses it to surf the web, blog, read, write, and print documents, manage pictures, and view media content. It works great, has full support for my gigEth based home network with a NAS and networked printers. Yes, I had to tweak a file to auto-mount the NAS on login, but other than that, all configuration was very easy and 100% GUI based. Auto updates, extensive application/package installation, new printers install via CUPS, etc.

    Wifey uses it everyday and she loves it. I haven't touched it in 2 months now, and I love it. If it wasn't for games, (and does Quicken work in Linux?), I'd put it on every machine in the house. Overall, it's a very impressive installation.

    Is Ubuntu ready for prime time on the desktop? At my house, the answer is absolutely!

  • Eri Hyva - Thursday, April 10, 2008 - link

    But of course it does, my friend....">

    Most "Windows (c) only" software work in Linux.

    For example Adobe Photoshop CS2 (so not yet CS3, Adobe is not contributing, but now Google is contributing to make that happen), in games for example World of Warcraft.

    Use wine! (BTW: I am teatotaler ;) )">

    Wine is getting better and better as it gets older, you already knew that.
    So it's a good time to sell those Windows licenses on Ebay, their value is in downward spiral. Things are going to look different in 24 months. One can come and rise against the Goliaths, in some European countries Firefox leads browser market share with 60%, and rising with few percentage points every month.

    (it's only 14 days to brand new 8.04 Ubuntu and only 203 days to 8.10, which is a smaller version improvement)
  • Aivas47a - Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - link

    It would be great if you could try installing Ubuntu on several different hardware configurations to see what kind of compatibiilty issues you might encounter. Using Ubuntu to run a "folding at home farm," I have been flatly unable to install 64 bit Ubuntu on a DFI P35 or X38 board, regardless of the components used or flavor of Ubuntu (server, Kubuntu, text only installation, etc.) (FWIW, Fedora and openSUSE 10.3 wouldn't install on the DFI boards either, but openSUSE 11 alpha 2 works OK.) I had some Ubuntu issues on an Asus X38 board too, although with the latest bios that seems to be resolved.
  • jiulemoigt - Saturday, February 16, 2008 - link

    If only for the fact you can run the OS off a usb stick, the free versions of the distro come with most of the drivers and utilities you need for a functioning OS right off, including the ability to update apps from Mandriva's mirrors with no configuring or extra work on the users part. I have an extra hard drive in my PC with 2008 power pack, which I can surf the web and email from the same folders I use in windows, despite being NTFS format. The ironic thing is I can access all my files on windows, including the ones windows won't let me touch. A word of caution is do NOT install nix and windows on the same hard drive if you can all avoid it they do not always play nice due to fat issues(the original meaning ie the one all formats use). The avg user who does not play games will have very little issue with nix as in the corporate setting it is faster, no over head. One my of the jobs is rendering assets for cg which means I'm talking render times in days, which means when I'm rendering in Nix verse windows I get bonus money when I shave four or five days off the time, which is where the difference between command line rendering mental ray in windows vs the same in nix is usually enough to get that bonus every time. One thing about Mandriva which used to be mandrake is the good version of the demo was club only, and now that they are out of the red they have opened the club to everyone and taken all the features they would have added to the club distro and rolled them into the free version or the power pack. The most annoying thing about the nix distros is how much they depend on torrents to spread most of their apps and software updates. I did not notice it but"> needs to be mentioned in the article as most open software in the last five has some connection to it. Last if you want to play games, have fun there... there is a reason I have an XP hard drive with just my games on it.
    If you want to see why corporations are switching to it, try one of the corporate versions of the distros they are far more stable, and have open office, firefox/mozilla, or in house versions of these that are installed as images same as windows only with far less support needed. Even monkeys can install them our tier one techs manged with no problems... I still think one of the clipboards secretly helped them.
  • oldkawman - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    So what can a "novice" expect from a month with linux? That depends on what they want to do with it. I am not familiar with Umbutu, but can describe what I do for Fedora based installations, specifically FC7 as I have done several in the past several weeks. After the basic install, there are the updates, addition software installations, either the NVidia or ATI video driver installation. You cannot forget about the java and flash player plugins, then there is the mplayer and mplayer plugin with those separate codec packages, and edit the ssh_conf file to permit running remote X programs and some other things. Would a novice know how to do these things or even know to do these things?

    Then there are the complications. The Java plugin is real good example of DUH? And why do you need java? One use is printing online labels and postage. So, can a novice setup the plugin? The instructions are very good. First of all, you find out jre is already installed because the package manager tells you it is. But, that does not matter because it's not the full version as it's missing the plugin. Why is it missing the plugin? Likely because it's not open source. For the full version you have to download that from SUN website and follow the instructions. These are all command lines you run as root and include chmod a+x jre1.5.0_06.rpm.bin to make the self extracting file you just finished downloading an executable file and then ./jre1.5.0_06.rpm.bin to extract the rpm file. Then rpm -U --force jre1.5.0_06.rpm to install because the package manager has it listed as already installed. Then you make the symbolic link to the mozilla plugin directory that looks something like this, so you cd ~/.mozilla/plugins/ and the make a symbolic link
    ln -s /home/username/java/jre1.5.0_06/plugin/i386/ns7/

    That is the kind of thing that prevents large scale acceptance by the masses of point and click windows users who have never even seen a command line and are not completely sure what the keyboard is for other than pressing any key to continue or typing in a username or password.
  • avaughan - Friday, February 15, 2008 - link

    I don't use Ubuntu (I'm running Debian), but last time I looked at Ubuntu you could install/enable flash java ati/nvidia drivers etc without needing to touch the commandline. (And they are automatically configured ready for use). Windows media codecs just needed a single line added to /etc/apt/sources.list and I think that could also be done from the gui package manager.

    IMO thats a large part of what has made Ubuntu so popular.

    (And a typical new linux user who does't use the commandline won't want to run remote X programs over ssh).

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