Rusted-on Windows® user and wouldn’t ever consider other desktop or server options? Stop reading! This is not for you. Don’t be defensive – the majority of home and business desktop users struggle enough with Windows not to want any sort of change. Still on Windows XP? Forget that it’s no longer supported – it hasn’t truly been supported since the release of Service Pack 3 in early-2008. Don’t tell me you’re still reading….
Even though you have frustrations with Windows and:
- the Blue-screen-of-death;
- having to restart for each single minor change to software;
- having to upgrade your machine with each new major release of Windows;
- having to learn a new user interface (in desktop jargon, the “UX” or “User eXperience”;
- living with the constant dread of viruses, trojans and other malware;
- trying to convince an unhelpful call-centre operator that you’re not a software pirate trying to steal the intellectual property rights of Microsoft so that you can activate or re-activate software you purchased legitimately;
so you still don’t want to consider a change, because:
- the only alternative is to buy a Mac;
- Macs are too expensive;
- it’s hard enough to work out the latest Windows without struggling with a completely new and different operating system’s User eXperience;
- Mac users are all fanatics and you don’t want to be in that camp.
All of those points are fallacious, and before I tackle this I want to stress that the purpose of this article is not to make a sales pitch for Apple® devices, although there is a solid base of professional users who rely on their technology to do their jobs. Disclaimer: I am one of those professionals who rely on the Apple eco-system and consider the return-on-investment to be sound. I’m often asked why by people who think the only difference is the way it looks. So very wrong – the intuitive UX is a fringe benefit and I’ve written separately a short piece on why I use Apple products on the desktop, as well as using a notebook, tablet and smartphone from that same vendor.
This is not about Apple. This is about Ubuntu.
What is Ubuntu? Very simply, Ubuntu is a ubiquitous, free, open-source operating system for enterprise & web servers, personal computers, tablets, smartphones and smart television receivers. Ubuntu is one of many customised distributions (“distros”) of the Linux operating system, itself the most ubiquitous of a family of POSIX-compliant, free open source operating systems. For more than 20 years YOU have been using Linux. You’re using it now – officeFocus® and WordPress.com both deliver web content to your browser from Linux servers. If you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you’re using Linux. If you have a smart toaster, microwave oven, refrigerator, washing machine, dryer or just about any appliance with electronics you’re probably using Linux.
With me so far? OK, now we’ve got past the fear that Linux is some scary new thing for computer nerds and has nothing to do with the normal home or small business user, why would you abandon the familiarity (comfort?) of Windows for something different? Here are the reasons:
- Linux is a mature, stable, reliable and SECURE operating environment;
- Linux is freely distributed and supported for almost 25 years – 10 years longer than Windows NT family (based on IBM’s OS/2 system) and will continue indefinitely without revenue-driven planned obsolesence;
- Linux is under a program of constant improvement by a global group of contributors and financially supported by major vendors including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Google who all use the work product;
- All the familiar tasks the typical user undertakes look familiar and work much the same way on Ubuntu as with Windows or Mac OS X;
- The most popular free open source applications come in versions for Linux, and many of them are already installed with Ubuntu – these include
- Firefox Browser
- Google Chrome Browser
- OpenOffice (works like and opens/edit/saves common Microsoft document file formats used by MS Office, i.e. DOC, XLS & PPT) but FREE and well supported
- Dropbox and Google Drive cloud storage & sharing
- VirtualBox virtualisation software to enable creating “virtual” computers within your Linux computer
- many more free or low-cost apps from an online store (screenshot below) similar to Google Play and Apple’s App Store **
- Have I mentioned SECURE?
Many Windows applications will run on Ubuntu using a Windows emulator, however if you have either an essential, specific Windows-only software package, or a device (printer, scanner, or other peripheral) that is designed around Windows, don’t struggle with Ubuntu – you’re stuck with Windows. Good Luck and Good Night. For the typical user, the transition from Windows to Ubuntu is no more difficult than the transition from one version of Windows to another, or one version of MS Office to the next. If you don’t like the look-and-feel of standard Ubuntu, there are variants which more closely resemble the Windows version you’ve become accustomed to: Linux Mint and Zorin Linux are also very popular.
Conclusion: if you have an older personal computer that won’t run the latest Windows, don’t throw it away. Give it a whole new life as a Ubuntu device. If your local PC support provider doesn’t want to help, perhaps it’s time to look around. Many domestic and small business service providers are limited in their knowledge to only Windows and share your own fears, or they believe that Windows will give them a steady income stream patching up its inherent flaws. Don’t allow yourself to be locked in to the limits of your friendly local guru.
Happy to accepts comments and questions. If you’re a Windows support person, please be polite: I didn’t mean YOU – it’s the other gurus that give your business a bad name. Please feel free to correct any error of fact, but keep your opinions to those based on fact and not inherent prejudice from ignorance or lack of experience. The author has under-graduate and post-graduate qualifications in information technology, has more than 30 years commercial experience in IT, has designed and written commercial enterprise-grade software sold internationally, and has managed a global leader in large-scale news wire and newspaper publishing systems. I’ve shown you mine – you show me yours if you feel the need to attack my assertion in this post.
“Microsoft isn’t evil, they just make really crappy operating systems.” [ Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux, who gave it to the world royalty-free and enabled its remarkable development by his far-sighted generosity.]