I’ve been running Ubuntu 9.04 for about a month now on an IBM ThinkPad. I consider myself technically proficient, but I’m certainly not one of those all-night code pounders. So, with those caveats, here is what I like and don’t like about open-software Ubuntu, as well as where there’s some room for improvement.
Five Things I Like
1. It works. This is no small statement from someone who remembers shuttling floppy disks of early Microsoft Windows software in and out of personal computers. The biggest hindrance to the many forms of open-software desktops has been the install. I’ve installed Ubuntu via the CD version, from a bootable USB and using Unetbootin to create a CD image on a hard drive. They all worked. The system runs solid and secure.
2. It’s not ugly. I’m sure there are techies out there who live and die by the command-line interface, but having a computer that has a nice interface, let’s you know what’s going on and easily moves from one app to another is a modern requirement. I’d say the Ubuntu startup process is equal to Windows, Mac or anyone else.
3. It doesn’t crash or freeze. Not yet, not once.
4. I don’t have to buy a new computer. The personal computer industry was built around new resource-consuming software requiring new hardware. The proponents would claim the capabilities users demanded required this ever-upward trek. The cloud computing advocates will claim all the complexity and high-end processing should never have landed on the user’s desk. It seems clear that the big, resource-gulping personal computer will go the way of the SUV. In any case, being able jazz up your old clunker with a free operating system is great.
5. It’s free. I left this for last instead of first. Free is only good if you don’t end up spending all your time trying to get the computer to compute and you don’t end up crashed when most needed. Personally, I think free is too cheap and I’ll send a few bucks to keep the system available to educators and low-income users.
Five Things I Don’t Like
1. Some stuff still is too difficult. Sometimes I can get Flash to work on 9.04, sometimes I can’t. I don’t think it is just me, as the forums are filled with similar complaints. And yes, I’ve tried lots of workarounds, including others besides Adobe.
2. The help can be overwhelming. Since anyone can work on the program, there are lots of levels of advice out there. Let’s just say something like this, “— /usr/lib/swiftfox/run-mozilla.sh.orig 2006-08-23 16:19:43.000000000 +0300+++ /usr/lib/swiftfox/run-mozilla.sh2006-08-23 16:30:48.000000000 +0300@@ -163,7 +163,30 @@” is not help even if it is part of cut-and-paste code.
3. There are still a lot of Windows apps out there. You can try to run Windows in an emulation mode, you can try to squeeze Windows into a virtual box, but that is not going to work too well on older systems. Developers write apps for Windows because they can make money from their code. This is still a big issue for the open-software writers.
4. Where’s Google? I like Google Chrome on Windows. It works great and has lots of potential. There are some early versions of Chrome around for Linux, but nothing you want to touch unless you are a developer.
I’m wondering if Google will also be late with a Linux version for Wave.
5. What happens if Mark Shuttleworth decides he has invested enough money? It is still his project. He’s a great guy, even if he does write overly long blog posts about development cycles. While I’m convinced open software will always be around, I’m not so sure about the whole Ubuntu thing.