Rory Cellan-Jones

24 hours with Ubuntu

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 23 Oct 09, 13:15 GMT

On Wednesday morning I was on BBC Breakfast talking about Windows 7, and each time I was on air I mentioned Ubuntu, the most popular version of the Linux operating system.

So were its devoted fans pleased?

Quite the opposite, because in my second broadcast I committed an unpardonable sin.

In a rather clumsily phrased sentence - my only excuse is that it came in the middle of a rather stressful live technology demo - I suggested that Ubuntu was a minority sport only for dedicated enthusiasts.

Afterwards, one blogger transcribed my conversation with Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams:

RCJ: "There's something called 'Ubuntu' which is launched next week. It's a whole sort of little community of enthusiasts building operating systems for absolutely nothing and trying to persuade us that we don't need to be in with the big boys but actually most computer users frankly they don't want to bother with that sort of stuff they want something that's there..."
BT: "...that everyone else uses.."
RCJ: "Yes"

Now I do know - as plenty of angry messages pointed out - that Ubuntu has been around for a long time and what launches next week is an update. But I should have also made it clear that Linux is not an amateur cottage industry, but a pretty substantial affair supporting a lot of firms that market the systems and teach customers to install and use them.

So when I was contacted by one such company, Canonical, I was glad to take up their offer to try out Ubuntu. They sent over a Dell Inspiron Mini, loaded with "Karmic Koala", as Ubuntu 9.10 is nicknamed.

Now we are going to have a fuller exploration of the system on this site next week, but in the 24 hours I've had the Dell, I've gathered some early impressions.

Ubuntu and Windows 7The first is that it starts up pretty rapidly - I timed it at 40 seconds compared with the 55 seconds the top of the range Sony Vaio X takes to boot Windows 7 - and that the desktop has a pleasingly simple look to it, especially once you've replaced the offensively brown background with something more attractive.

The left hand side of the screen has a strip fulfilling the same purpose as the taskbar in Windows or the dock in Mac OS X, with quick access to key applications. You are provided with a range of open source software, from Firefox to Open Office, and can go online to the Ubuntu Software Centre to seek out other applications.

Getting connected to my home network proved reasonably simple - though I struggled to see other machines and devices on my network.

I installed a few applications - including Skype, and a social networking application called Gwibber.

But when I tried to install a free open-source audio editing program, Audacity, it appeared more complex to get hold of an Ubuntu version than the one I've used on a Mac.

I also gave up on attempting to use the music streaming service Spotify, after a warning that, as there was no Linux version, I would first need to get hold of something called Wine which allows you to run Windows apps. Too much bother...

Navigating around an unfamiliar system was fine once I'd worked out that the Ubuntu logo in the top left hand corner of the screen took me home, and for all my simple computing needs - from word processing to e-mail to web browsing - I found Ubuntu pretty satisfactory.

But, even after some help from a Canonical advisor who came and installed a few add-ons such as Flash, I struggled to work out how I would organise photos, music and video with this system.

So would I actively seek to install Ubuntu or any other Linux variant on a machine I already owned?

To be frank, no, because it would not make my computing life any simpler and more pleasurable than it is now.

But getting a small cheap netbook would be another matter entirely, and the big hope for the Linux community is that more companies will follow Dell's lead in selling computers with Ubuntu pre-installed.

Mind you, some netbook manufacturers who've already found a degree of resistance to Linux netbooks have reverted to XP and are now more likely to look at Windows 7 than anything else.

Faced with such consumer inertia it's hard to see Linux making much progress in boosting its miniscule market share. But remember, the future of computing is mobile - and in that new market for operating systems everything is still to play for.

Risking another pasting from its supporters, I'll predict that Ubuntu will remain a very niche product - but it's Google's Android which could bring open-source to the mass consumer market.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I am glad, for the sake of balance, that at least one Linux distro is getting some attention. However this should be just a start, and more and more "obscure" technologies should be focused on in the BBC's technology blog. It makes a nice change from Apple, Twitter and Twittering about Apple!

  • Comment number 2.

    Linux has a fanatical anti-Microsoft following, but they can't actually make their product work any better. Compared to mature consumer operating systems like Windows there are too many shortcomings, too many things that don't 'just work.'

    Ask any Linux power-user how to do something and often the first thing they'll do is point you to the command line. This isn't 1994!

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Interesting article Rory.

    I think open source Linux operating systems are on the march, and Microsoft does see them as a threat. Where was Firefox 5 years ago? Today Mozilla's Firefox browser has 23.75% of the recorded usage share of web browsers as of September 2009.

    Can you imagine if Ubuntu, Moblin or Linux Puppy make that kind of rapid progress in the operating system market?

    ".....I would first need to get hold of something called Wine which allows you to run Windows apps. Too much bother....."

    Too much bother? Nonsense :) Wine is only a 10MB download. How much time does it take to install an antivirus program, malware remover, firewall on Windows systems? With Linux you are pretty much virus free as most hackers target Windows based systems. In the long run Linux can save you hours in downtime due to virus scares, trojan horses etc.

    "....To be frank, no, because it would not make my computing life any simpler and more pleasurable than it is now...."

    I appreciate your honesty, I still run Windows XP on some systems because quite frankly I'm used to that OS, but it's not the best out there for sure.

    ".....But getting a small cheap netbook would be another matter entirely, and the big hope for the Linux community is that more companies will follow Dell's lead in selling computers with Ubuntu pre-installed...."

    Yes, eight years ago a typical laptop would have cost over a thousand pounds. Here in 2009 cheap laptops can now be purchased for under 200 pounds, with atom processors, 160GB hard drives and solid specifications to please all but the hardest of 3D gamers. Prices are going ever lower, and we may soon see a sub 100 pound netbook in the next few years. When that happens Ubuntu, Moblin et al will take off big time.

    Regarding windows 7 I hope that first adopters of Windows 7 won't suffer as their early Vista brethren did. I watched many of my friends grapple with the bugs and crashes that arose from a new installation of Vista in 2007.

  • Comment number 5.

    Linux continues to dominate the server sector, as it has for many years. Not *all* of the Linux community is all that interested in whether it makes it to the desktop any time soon :)

  • Comment number 6.

    Rory, you're a brave man, but this is part of your job.

    I'm a PC user, mainly as I'm a developer in all products MS. It's what keeps the roof over my head.

    I appreciate that there are other OS's yadda yadda yadda, but what a lot of non PC users have to appreciate is that, yes, Ubuntu / Mac etc may be very nice, but if you spend 9-5 every day in a PC environment, then it makes sense to do the same at home, familiarity is the key to any OS. Hence why MS don't do too radical a change, as their users wouldn't like it.

    Apple is a hardware company, that licenses OS. MS is a company that provides OSs / software to hardware companies.

    Dell etc chose not to try to sell too many Ubuntu based systems, as the market share is tiny, and it's easier to sell a pc to a non linux favoured person. Mac users, will always buy Mac... hey, I'm tempted to, as they look good in the living room (if only it had dlna)... etc.. (brother is a graphic designer, only uses Mac's and they are nice bits of kit, but then so is my Vaio)

    If people want Linux etc, they already know about it and will go and buy a pc, format etc and install.

    Mum's and Dad's buying home pc's will get whatever suits them, their childs schools etc. MS was first to market, and thats how it goes sometimes. Horses for courses etc

    But in the undeveloped world, if google can make Android a small foot print etc, and get Intel to install it on the One laptop per child pc's then in a generation we may see change.

    Nice column generally.


  • Comment number 7.

    I like the idea of a linux based OS on my desktop but I keep running into the problem of complexity.

    When you intal ubunto or similar, working out what hard discs are which is complex, and if you have more than one disc on the system, working out mount points and so on would be beyond what most people would want to do.

    As I have mentioned before, installing software that is not already in an available package is laborious and often unsuccessful, unless you are not just familiar with the system, but fairly into heavy duty computing and trolling your way through help forums. And these forums, although having some very helpful people, are also well populated by user who treat you as a fool and sneer at you if you don't understand how the command line side of Linux works.

    It is a pity really. Linux holds a lot of promise, but unless the community can get its head round the fact that most people want to be able to do most things with a single click, and really are not interested in the inner workings of the beast, then it will not compete.

    MS and Apple, love or hate their business practices, have always got one thing right - the user interface and the basic system management.

    When Linux becomes as easy to use as those, then it will really pack a punch.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm simply amazed. Not only do I see one of those precious few posts without any mention of some fruit-become-computer/phone-giant or some chirping-sounding messaging site or the done-to-death "oh how much vista sucks, m$ simply must do better" mantra, but it actually says that some piece of software that is not shoved down our throats by a corporation is better than previously thought. Sure, it would have been nice if our brave reporter had bothered to actually try to use it before giving it thumbs down in the first place, but i guess late apology > nothing
    In unrelated news, Android is not open-source. It's mostly a kinda-open spinoff of open-source. And i don't think free software (as in free thinking) will remain "a very niche product", because it evolves much faster than corporate software, to the point it will at least catch up as functionality. That it will probably not overtake well-marketed bad software, that's another story

  • Comment number 9.

    I've been using Ubuntu on my main computer for a few months now and am very happy with it. It does everything XP did (with one exception, which I'll come back to). I don't necessarily think it's any more difficult than Windows, just different - no more difficult than getting a new car where things are laid out just a little differently.

    As for installing Audacity and Flash; I'm not sure why you found this so difficult....

    There is a myth that Ubuntu is all typing lines of code in a terminal window - most things can be done with point & click inside GUIs - using the terminal is excellent for getting diagnostic results if something has gone wrong. It is little different to running the command prompt in Windows. In the same way few average Windows users ever have to delve into the registry, it's not often the terminal is needed.

    There are plenty of programmes that will organise your music, videos and pictures; some are pre-installed and some you can download and install.

    The one programme I did miss was iTunes - not as a music library but to actually manage my iPod, so I do run XP inside Virtualbox just for my iPod.

    One other thing worth mentioning is that Ubuntu/Linux can often give older computers, that would struggle with new Windows, a new lease of life as they are quite happy with less powerful machines.

    As I often tell people who don't know what Linux is - most of the Internet runs on Linux servers and Google and Amazons infrastructure sits on Linux too.

    Linux market share will probably remain small but it's rattled Microsoft in the past and yes, they must be worried about the forthcoming Google OS.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think what you miss Rory, is the move to Software in the cloud and software as a service. When this starts to hit the mainstream (as it already is in some respects, such as Google Docs, Flickr etc) then the OS becomes irrelevant and the web browser becomes all encompassing. Google, Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla all recognise this too.

    The future of computing isn't the processing power you have under your monitor, its the web browser you run.

  • Comment number 11.

    I had an installation of a previous version of Ubuntu - despite the *clever* alliteration of the name, I can;t remember which one. It still had the brown colour scheme which is really nasty but I did find it easy to use, until you try to look for anything resembling the wide range of sftware that is available to windows machines.

    Linux users boast about how the latest versions won't succumb to any viruses but that's because it is not worth the time of the malware author to write a virus that will touch less than a percentage of computers worldwide.

    The biggest and best advantage of the OS that I had was that it could be installed on removable media. What an advantage. It means that you could have a portable OS. With Memory sticks getting ever bigger could this be the niche that you are talking about? Very thin clients with the memory stick as the boot drive?

    Interesting though...

  • Comment number 12.

    Rory - you spent 24 hours with a different OS and didn't like it. Well, that's OK! When I first tried Ubuntu (around v6 or 7, I don't quite recall), the default GUI, Gnome, disgusted me too and it put me off for some time. I went back from v8.04 and am now using v9.04. In response to "especially once you've replaced the offensively brown background with something more attractive", well yeah, most people change the rather horrible "bliss" of XP with something more attractive when they first use the system. Also, since I've been really using Ubuntu, the default theme is brown, but they've made their default backgrounds much nicer.

    For those considering the change to Linux from Windows, please, read this webpage:-

    Entitled "Linux is not windows", it provides an excellent and un-bais article on the two operating systems.

    Personally, I was brought up on computers that you HAD to use the command line, Commodore 64, Spectrum and so on, so perhaps my mind-set is different to those who are bottle-fed on Windows only, maybe that's why I am more open to firing up Konsole, banging in a command and what not?

    However, I do feel that Ubuntu has gotten rid of a lot of this; spend more time with it and treat it with some respect, it has earned it. Approach with an open mind, don't be afraid Rory, it might not bite you!

    Ultimately, the linux community DO NOT CARE if you choose Linux or not; it's not out to take over the world, unlike Microsoft ;)

    Oh, and finally (sorry, I will be quiet in a moment!), I only use Ubuntu on one of my 10 computers in my home network, the rest barring one, are OpenSuse 11.0.

  • Comment number 13.

    @Snaggers make a great point, the key is familiarity to any system and if you use Windows everyday at work then getting one for the home is only natural.

    It would be interesting to see what Rory would say about Ubuntu if he used it for a 2-3 weeks exclusively. The problem with reviewing any new system is that you can't comment immediately. It is perfectly natural to feel lost with a system, grumble about updates for the first few days..hurrah at a newly found shortcut.

    The challenge for Ubuntu is always going to be the wider domain of software..companies will never focus their development on Linux OS' simply because the market share is not there which inevitably creates a vicious circle

  • Comment number 14.

    Oh golly, I knew there was something else that I forgot to add before clicking post ... for server use, there's nothing at all that comes near linux/unix ... the majority of the world uses it!

    My, something else - real sorry guys! - to comment #2
    "Ask any Linux power-user how to do something and often the first thing they'll do is point you to the command line. This isn't 1994!"

    No, you're right, but you used the term 'power-user' .. ok, ask a normal person and I am sure they'll give you point & click instructions; besides, the konsole is VERY powerful unlike is CMD counterpart and can reveal a heck of a lot of information and fault-finding diagnostics (again, unlike the CMD counterpart).

    Ok, seeing as I'm re-posting anyway, I shall also add that the linux desktops are so much more configurable than Windows - this is something else which is a HUGE bonus, Linux makes it more personal, Microsoft make it so hard that without 3rd party software (additional cost too IIRC), you can only change very small features of explorer - try making the application task bar (semi) transparent in XP or W7, or try to personalise it beyond this, re-sizing the "K" menu horizontally and vertically to suit your tastes. Do that with the Start menu (which actually reads if you hover your mouse over it "click here to begin" - hence the jokes about having to click start to shut down).

    Gah, things "just don't work" ... this is reasonably true but with Mono (.net for linux) and WINE, things are improving all the time - it's not happening as quick as it would because the guys who do the work DO IT FOR THE LOVE, not the money.

    OK, I really am going to be quiet now. Have a nice day all!

  • Comment number 15.

    To #2

    Command line isn't necessary most of the time. While it might not seem modern, an administrator (or power-user) will likely want to use command line, because with it they can rapidly set up multiple computers with one script they can leave running, as opposed to going into a bunch of graphical menus they've seen dozens of times before repeatedly.

    While it might seem a bit 80's, it is faster than quite a lot of graphical systems. And with it I can easily troubleshoot a problem with for instance a USB stick, since I can get an exact problem, rather than "A problem occurred during Hardware installation", which tells me something I likely already know.

    And to the original blog, I wonder why you couldn't find Audacity in the repositories/Software center.

  • Comment number 16.

    Linux is on the march and has been for years. Just look at Red Hat. Making sizable in-roads into the Enterprise web server market. Be very careful when using the term "Linux". It may still have a small share of the desktop market, but it has been a big player on the server market for a long time now.

    If you could spare a little more time to explore Ubuntu (I find Google helps enormously), you would find it is in fact a very simple operating system to use. Installing Spotify and organising photos, music, etc. is really easy, you just need to look for help. Someone, somewhere has always done it before. That's the beauty of Linux.

  • Comment number 17.

    very pleased to see you using Ubuntu!
    The software is only half of the Ubuntu experience. It is community developed software and the community is ready to help you with it. Have a look in the software centre and install xchat-gnome. This will turn up in the internet category and when you launch it you will be taken to the Ubuntu UK IRC chat room where there are a bunch of folk willing to help you with any questions you may have.

  • Comment number 18.

    As for the issues in the article, Audacity is in the Software Centre, should be easy to install. If you do an update you should find that the Gwibber avatars are now fixed (bugs happen in pre-release software)

  • Comment number 19.

    Click on Applications -> Ubuntu Software Center, type in Audacity, click Install. Done!

  • Comment number 20.

    Any first try of a new/different OS will inevitably be tempered by the fact that we've all been using Windows for 10 plus years.

    I use XP at work, Ubuntu at home and look after my two son's XP machines - no probs switching between them.

    My wife's attitude to Ubuntu was refreshing - no difficulties - just 'can I email, where are our pictures, can it scan my timesheets'. Yes, yes and yes.

    badger-fruit - thanks for that link - excellent article, continued that car analogy that I mentioned above.

  • Comment number 21.

    A very well written article! I use Linux computers every day and have Ubuntu on my home computer and netbook (the latter came with it pre-installed). I think the version you used here was Netbook Remix, optimised for small screens. Essentially there isn't too much difference when it comes to Ubuntu and Windows, namely the Start button is spread over several buttons:

    - Applications = All Programs
    - System = Control Panel
    - Places / Home = My Documents

    As for managing photos, music and video - FSpot, RhythmBox and Movie Player (under 'Graphics' and 'Sound & Video') do the job quite nicely in my opinion.

    I think the fact that Spotify runs under Wine is great and perhaps Wine should be installed by default in Ubuntu. And also when it comes to Adobe Flash, Adobe Air and the multimedia codecs, I do agree that there should be an easier way of doing this. But it isn't too difficult and a quick Google search usually brings a number of 'how to' guides.

    Personally I cannot wait until the release of Karmic Koala next week as it is going to bring a very sexy looking desktop! I look forward to your promised blog post (or perhaps even news article!) about it next week. Just make sure if you install it on a notebook or desktop to grab the full desktop version and not just Netbook Remix!

  • Comment number 22.

    I made the move from PCs to Macs about five years ago and simply can't see myself making the return trip any time soon. I've played with Ubuntu off and on since version 6 but - and it's a big but - Macs make the whole computing experience so easy that my willingness to get involved in configuring and all the other nonsense is not what it once was. It's a case of "Why learn to double declutch when you can fly by autopilot?"

  • Comment number 23.

    Not all Linux distros are alike. Most come as an .iso file which can be burned to a CD. You then boot from the CD directly into the operating system, which gives you a chance to try things out and see how well it could meet your needs before clicking a button to install it to your hard drive.

    It's obviously easier to install to a blank disc (or to wipe any existing Windows installation), but some will offer to repartition your hard drive for you. As far as working out partition sizes, many distros can handle that automatically.

    Software installation - I use Mandriva, which has a fairly extensive software repository. Installing anything from the repository will also install any necessary dependencies (additional 'stuff' [i.e. programs, libraries etc.] needed to make it work).

    Wine is in the Mandriva repos and installs without a hitch, so installing Spotify (or, indeed, a lot of Windows software) shouldn't be too much trouble - except that written in .NET - the Linux equivalent, Mono, has only caught up to .NET v2.0.


    Generally speaking, while Linux is not yet ready for the 'newbie', if you have moderate experience of computers, and are not afraid of Googling for solutions to computer hiccups / problems (something many Windows users get very familiar with!), then Linux shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Many versions should be able to install proprietary graphics drivers plus Flash and multimedia codecs either automatically or as an option (some are reluctant to do so as they're generally not FOSS [free and open source software]). Once these are installed, it should be able to handle almost any multimedia file you throw at it. OpenOffice isn't as 'gee whizz' as Microsoft Office, but it should be more than adequate for most users. There's often a built in PDF writer, and if you're after fancy effects and eye candy, Compiz is considerably better than Aero.

    I generally only need to dive into a terminal (command prompt) if installing something that isn't packaged in .rpm format, using ImageMagick to batch process images (although there is a GUI interface available), or (very rarely) doing advanced level configuration as root.

    Security is excellent - not just because hardly anyone writes viruses for Linux, but because it was designed from the ground up with something akin to UAC. Applications are designed to write user data / configuration info to the user's home folder, while keeping the programs themselves locked away.


    As a final point, perhaps it's worth mentioning that Canonical isn't just a company that uses Ubuntu, but the company responsible for funding and publishing it...
    And that UI you described doesn't sound like a standard KDE or GNOME setup, so it sounds as though they've done a fair amount of customisation themselves...

  • Comment number 24.

    Just a simple question from me:

    Why spend a mere 24hours with Ubuntu, when you spend a Week with Windows?

    Seems very unfair and biased.

  • Comment number 25.

    I have been using ubuntu Jaunty Jacalope for the past couple of months, I got sick of the slowness of Vista!

    When I first took the huge step of using Ubuntu instead, I didn't think I would miss the glossy, complex world of MS Vista but now I cannot wait to install Windows 7.

    On installation of Ubuntu, I found everything working straight away (Something you don't get on a fresh windows install!). I got flash working on my own, I installed a couple of programs from a CD I got in a magazine and I had instant messenger and Internet (the two things I used my PC for the most).

    The only problem I have had is that I cannot watch video's (such as Iplayer) in full screen.

    I preordered windows 7 and I cannot wait to get home so I can put it on to my PC.

    my final word is that Ubuntu is good and there is a lot of support but it still cannot touch the look, feel, and ease of use of a Windows O/S

  • Comment number 26.

    I follow Ubuntu with interest and am continually pleased to see it getting better and better with each release.

    I think it's good for people in the sort of "middle ground" of computing.

    I'd never really recommend it to anyone unless they already knew a great deal about computers/technology (in which case it wouldn't take a recommendation from me...) HOWEVER... if I know that all someone wants to do is a bit of web browsing and the odd bit of word processing, then it's great.

    We should all be aware of the pros and cons of all main systems ie. Windows, OS X and Linux (various variants) and realise that they all have their good and bad points.

    Looking foward to having a play with the new Ubuntu :)

  • Comment number 27.

    It is absolutely riduculous to try and give a full and fair appraisal of any operating system within 24 hours if you have never used it before.

    I have been using Ubuntu for six months and am in no way a power user.
    To be honest, it took me about three weeks to get familiar with the differences from Windows, but there is certainly nothing to be concerned about, and I could use it straight out of the box
    I have always found the on-line forums very helpful and not at all elitist when I have had any questions or needed advice.
    There is nothing I cannot do with Ubuntu that I could do with Windows including...
    Stream media to my PS3
    Surf Net with Firefox
    Use Open Office (compatiable with MS Office and free)
    Have better bling - yes the start up screen may be brown, but once you start playing there is plenty of customisation out there
    Watch movies and play music
    Viruses and spyware are not a problem and the Linux platform is very, very stable and quicker.
    IMO it is far easier to install new software than Windows
    As for the command line prompt where you can input text commands....yes it exists, but it is in no way scary. I do use it occasionally as it helps improve my own productivity.
    Also.............its free (as in beer and freedom)
    It costs nothing, and you are free to adapt it and improve it yourself and share with others.
    I bought a new PC recently without an OS installed which cost £229. With Vista or XP installed it would have cost £314
    I will never have Windows on any of my home PC's again.
    Rory - come back in three weeks having spent some more time with this and I would be very suprised if you want to return to return to Windows again

  • Comment number 28.

    Rory, I'm a little puzzled by some of your problems with Ubuntu.
    Audacity is definitely in the repositories for Karmic, so I have no idea why it didn't simply appear in Ubuntu Software Centre as a possible install. (It would have appeared in the marginally-more-complex-but-only-slightly Synaptic interface, but we can't expect you to try using the "manage software" menu items in another menu ;) .)
    Wine, however, definitely *is* in Ubuntu Software Centre on Karmic (I know this because I installed it only yesterday on a Karmic system by this route), so I can't see how three clicks and a password authorisation are "too much bother".

    Also, whilst I have some personal issues with it, you should have noticed that on inserting media containing photos, Ubuntu asked you if you wanted to use F-Spot to manage photos... which is a fairly clear indication of a (default) option for organising, well, photos.
    (Amazingly, if you typed "photo" into Ubuntu Software Centre, you'd have gotten a list of other options for managing photos if you decided you hated F-Spot...)
    Similarly, there are utilities for managing your music (Rhythmbox, which is perfectly respectable in most versions of Ubuntu, and (I've not checked this yet) Banshee in Karmic) - it's under a sensible heading in the program menu, so you can't possibly have missed it.

    I shall, however, put a lot of this down to "first 24 hours" issues. When I first got a Mac for work, I spent the first week or so hating OSX (vs Ubuntu), but after I got used to its foibles, I warmed to it somewhat (I even switched back to Safari from Firefox !). Similarly, you probably need a longer period of adjustment to fully overcome the subconscious feeling of wrongness you're getting... how about trying it for a week or two, and giving us another update?

  • Comment number 29.

    Not all Linux enthusiasts are anti-Microsoft. I have run various flavours of Linux at home for about 10 years - and I love it - but my software-engineering job requires me to work almost exclusively with Microsoft products. And I don't have a problem with that - Microsoft seem to be addressing the needs of businesses and developers pretty well. I also probably would not recommend Linux for most of my friends who ask me about what they should choose.

    However, the existence of Linux (and other open-source software) serves a critical purpose. It ensures that the standards and protocols used by all that under-the-hood digital communication and storage remain open and accessible to all. The entire Internet depends on two such pieces of software: DNS and BIND. If these were not in the public domain and owned by a single corporation (and their usage commanded license fees), we would have a very different Internet.

    Open standards ensure that all our digital stuff is accessible to us now and in the future. For example, say you had some important documents created about 15 years ago in Microsoft Word 1.0. If Microsoft drop support for these early formats in their latest products (what if Office 2010 had no support for Word 1.0 documents?) - you might never be able to open those documents again. And because the document format is not an open standard (it is a closely-guarded secret of Microsoft), then no-one else can produce a system which can open those documents. So think 10 years from now - will you still be able to open your cherished photos and documents, whose formats are the property of a corporation?

    Open standards do exist, and the small but critical mass of open-source operating systems and software (such as Linux and Firefox) should continue to ensure that the big corporations play ball, and adhere to standards. The mere existence of Firefox has already forced Microsoft to adhere to Web Standards (as Internet Explorer 6.0 famously did not!).

    It should be noted that Linux is particularly strong in the commercial server market - the home-user market share is not a reflection on the commercial server market share, which is significantly larger.

    So while Linux is not for the masses, it's existence will ensure that hardware manufacturers make systems which won't tie our stuff into specific vendors. It's all about CHOICE.

  • Comment number 30.

    But when I tried to install a free open-source audio editing program, Audacity, it appeared more complex to get hold of an Ubuntu version than the one I've used on a Mac.

    I'd love to know the approach you took. Did you try going directly to the Audacity web site to download something, or did you use the built-in application manager?

    If you did the former, you've fallen into one of the most common traps that catch people conditioned to the failures of Windows and MacOS; downloading binaries from some random website is a horrible way to install software. In the free software world we have a better way, you get to browse available packages right on your system, then install them in a uniform manner from a cryptographically authenticated source, and be certain that they've been tested and integrated so that they work well on your particular distribution. There really is no contest between the two approaches, but if you try to follow your old habits on a new system, you will inevitably find that they're not a comfortable fit.

  • Comment number 31.

    I bought a new Dell laptop in January. I didn't want Vista, having heard the scare stories, but the only XP ones they offered had a lower spec than I wanted. I toyed with the idea of getting an Ubuntu pre-installed one, but eventually decided to just go for Vista.

    A few weeks ago, I started getting told updates couldn't be downloaded. After a LOT of Googling, I eventually found what the error code I (sometimes) got meant, and tried to find a solution that didn't involve reinstallation. None of them worked, so I just had to go for the reinstall. Ever since, there have been a variety of niggling problems and it has been very slow, so I decided to try a dual-boot of Ubuntu.

    Installation was far easier and swifter than Vista's reinstall. When I realised my wireless card wasn't working, I thought I was in for a big struggle, but a quick trip to the Ubuntu forums and I had a script and instructions that had me going in no time. Flash initially seemed troublesome, as I thought I was going to have to dig out my UNIX books from uni to relearn gunzip etc and do it all from scratch, but again, a quick trip tot he Ubuntu forum and I had instructions for getting it done automatically. Ever since, I've only used Vista when I need to use iTunes or when something occasionally just refuses to work without Windows. That might sound pointless, but it's just so fast compared to Vista, and there are never any situations where the CPU starts churning away and stops you doing anything.

    Okay, so installing things is slightly more onerous than in Windows, but at the same time, you never have to bother restarting just because you've installed something new, something I hate doing on Vista due to how long it takes to completely boot up. Oh, and you know how Vista keeps repeatedly asking you if you're sure you want to install something, even though you're clearly an administrator user? None of that rubbish in Ubuntu. I'll have to give Wine a spin next and see if that stops any need for Windows completely.

    Just think how much money would be saved from the public purse if all central and local government systems used Ubuntu,, Google Docs, Firefox, Thunderbird etc, instead of paying for Windows and MS Office licences...

  • Comment number 32.

    Hmm, me again! Sorry, I can't keep away lol!

    So I was reading the Ubuntu Forums as this blog is mentioned on there in their 'cafe' and someone's posted a rather interesting links but one in particular (page 2), they link to the netstats page for the domain:-

    " was running Apache on Linux when last queried at 19-Oct-2009 08:43:14 GMT"

    Now, please excuse me why I lol all the way home ... ;)

    Seriously, Rory, I tried Linux once many moons ago, I'd re-installed XP within 48 hours as it was so different, I didn't understand it! Where was C: ? What's /? Who's root and why is "he" so important?! But after I gave it some serious time, I am now very happy with it.

    I challenge you to work on your nice new Ubuntu laptop ALL WEEK and be a real user of it, come, join the Ubuntu forums, ask real life questions and see the kinds of responses you actually get, not what someone else told you to expect; plus, you might even learn something in the process.

    "Ubuntu - Linux for Human Beings", if I read their marketing right ;)

  • Comment number 33.

    i have been using ubuntu for 3 months, since finally losing patience with windows xp. i would have to say that i have never had so much help from an online community before.
    using computers should be fun, linux definitely is. if Rory is too old to learn any new tricks perhaps he should let his kids have a go with it.
    wine is installed in ubuntu by default by the way.

  • Comment number 34.

    Before I put any comments, let us be clear about some fundamentals issues before comparing Windows and Linux. If I have spent about 10 years with Windows environment, whereas only one week or so with Linux, my comments would be biased as the effort spend on learning the two is absolutely unbalanced.

    I spend money on Windows and very soon a new version is released, I have to spend again. I purchased legal copy of DOS 6.22 way back in 1994 or so. Soon Windows was released. I realised that as an individual I shall never be able to cope up with this race. Result was trial versions, pirated copies etc.

    An associated issue is of viruses and anti virus. I kept wasting time and money. Ultimately, I had to settle with some free antivirus like AVast and others. But the antivirus has never been able to give me comfortable computing. Never sure whether my system was clean or infected.

    Start adding the cost of other softwares - Microsoft office, Corel Draw or photo shop for graphics, Nero for CD burning, etc, the list is a long one. Spending money on all these unless I am using these for commercial purposes, was a herculean task. Even if I purchase them, how to remain updated with all the new versions! More and more money in required.

    By this time I have already spent about eight months with Linux (starting with Ubuntu 8.10, 9.04 and now 9.10). To a limited extent, I tried other flavours also like Fedora 11, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 as well. I have put in lot of efforts in using Ubuntu 9.04 Server edition as well.

    By now I find the following advantages with Ubuntu (9.04 and 9.10 as compared to Windows XP:-

    1. No cost for operating system.
    2. All updates free of cost.
    3. OpenOffice is free and compatible with Microsoft Office. OpenOffice is free.
    4. Almost all additional packages in Linux are free.
    5. Free CD Burning software.
    6. Free graphics image editor.
    7. In general the hardware printers, scanners etc got recognised quickly. Very little time was spent on installing the hardware.
    8. Free MySQL database server.
    9. Free Apache WebServer.
    10. I can do almost everything in Ubuntu that could do in Windows.
    11. The is much more . . . . . the list would go on.
    12. Most important, No viruses, therefore no antivirus required. The system therefore operates with full resources in terms of CPU time and RAM. This means no slowing down of system due to virus/antivirus!

    Despite, initial difficulties, I felt highly comfortable with Linux (Ubuntu 9.04 and Now 9.10). I still use Windows when I am stuck looking for solution to some typical problem.

    I scan the pen drives in Linux for virus. If I copy only one file on a pen drive from a Windows system and see its directory on Ubuntu, I generally find more files in the pen drive. Additional files are Virus files. Deleting these files means cleaning the virus. As simple as that! All this is for a laiman, technical persons need more discussions on technical grounds.

    I am very happy with Linux (Ubuntu 9.04 and 9.10) and I am grateful to the Ubuntu community.

  • Comment number 35.

    I recently installed Ubuntu on my little Acer netbook, because it looked easier to do things with than the version of Linux that came pre-installed. I used Unix desktops at work in the early 90s before Windows 95 came along but it's been a while.

    To me it is a delight to use something other than Windows (XP at work, Vista at home, Windows Mobile on the phone) and that if you follow the philosophy and install the pre-checked software in the repositories it is easy and works well. Rory mentions not being bothered to install WINE to run Spotify... well it was pretty trivial to do (and is Spotify's own suggestion) and I now have Spotify, Evernote and a few other Windows favourites on my lightweight computer.

    Why? Well it doesn't cost anything for a start, and it is a bit different... it seems ideal for my 512Mb netbook and the more consumer use there is of "Linux for humans" so the support and tools will become less geeky and more widely adopted. And it creates competition and alternatives, if nothing else driving the cost of Windows down to consumers.

  • Comment number 36.

    Ubuntu is ok, ive tried it on my netbook, but a few things didn't work and i had to go back to Windows.
    I think its ok for such devices, i dont need Windows power or compatibility on a netbook, but its no good (for me) as a desktop OS. For a start i use my PC as an HTPC with Blu-ray capability. Linux Blu-ray is a no go really. Its possible in a round about sort of way, but you cant just put in a disc and have it play immediately.

    Gaming is still a long way behind windows as well.

    Sure there is Wine, but why fake it? You may as well just use real Windows and save yourself the bother.

    For me Linux is second behind Windows, but ahead of MacOS. If you really have to be different and dont mind the limitations of not using Windows then at least dont pay extra for the privilege, that would be stupid.

  • Comment number 37.

    Just to echo badger_fruit at 32; you should absolutely try getting help from the community because it's one of the major strengths of the OS. You'll undoubtedly hit problems, as you would with Windows or MacOS, but if you're running Linux you'll have hordes of smart and knowledgeable people falling over themselves to help you out.

  • Comment number 38.

    One of the things that amazes me about people who try Ubuntu is that they never seem to try out the help. Its on the top bar of the screen its the button with a question mark on it. If that is too obscure you can also find it listed under the system link also on the top bar of the screen. This has lots of very useful information for new users and a very obvious section called "Adding, Removing and Updating applications".

    Basically to add an application click on Applications on the top bar of the screen click on Add/Remove. On the following screen search for the application you want e.g. Audacity and install it. Alternatively you could try typing in the name of the application such as Audacity into the help applications are often mentioned in help with direct links to install them. Wine is easily installed using this method.

    Once wine is installed all you have to do to get Spotify to work is to download the Windows install binary to your desktop and run it. The only problem with Spotify is to get the web links (e.g. to purchase a song) within it to work. The Spotify site has instructions on how to get this working if its important to you.

    The iTunes is the popular application that there is no easy fix for in Linux. Personally I think thats a very good reason for not using iTunes.

  • Comment number 39.

    Ubuntu desktop and Microsoft desktop as well as Apple all have their devotees.

    I have all. I've been in computing since Kennedy was U.S. President, used Microsoft since DOS, and used Linux since Clinton was U.S. President. My 1st home computer was a MacIntosh. My first practical and useful Linux desktop was Ubuntu.

    I'm locked into Windows because of commercial concerns, but I use Ubuntu primarily at home. Order of importance and use of desktops at my home office: (1) Unbuntu amd64 (2) Windows XP Pro (3) Windows XP x64 (4) Ubuntu intel86 (5) Vista Ultimate 64 (6) Windows 98SE (7) Red Hat Enterprise 4.6 (8) MacIntosh. All my servers are Linux.

    I'll sum up my personal opinion like this: "With Ubuntu you will stub your toe, but Windows will cut you off at the knees and charge you for it." My ears are still ringing from the thumping I took from Vista.

    Worth in computer desktops is about disappearing while enabling. Like a good pencil will. OS and Desktops enthusiasts are wont to forget the disappearing part. Asking a computer expert (or journalist) about desktops is kind of like asking your barber if you need a haircut. (Note: we still need barbers, &c.)

    I suspect soon, if things progress as they have the last five years, employees who use Windows at work will begin to use open-source desktops at home. Then…

  • Comment number 40.

    Very interesting article.

    A few points:

    Is it really harder to use than Windows?

    My dad (who is a computer heathen) has an XP laptop, which regularly dies a horrible, slow death as XP reaches 6 months of age from the latest install, and grinds to a slow halt. I decided, on my most recent attempt to resuscitate his machine, to install ubuntu, very worried that it would go disasterously wrong. It hasn't. So far. In fact there haven't been any problems. Everything he needs is there, already installed. Wifi works beautifully (much much better than XP) - it's terrific.

    Is it really not mature? (as a reader mentioned)

    Given ubuntu's roots come from UNIX (1969), most people who know about linux know it is probably the most mature operating system around. Not to mention that the development for it is gradual and not the windows 3.1->95->me->xp->vista->7 or Mac OS 9 -> 10 paradigm shifts.

    Is it 'not quite as good as Windows'

    How about the opposite question - is Windows up there with Linux? Well does Windows have a central application server in each country? Er no. Does this mean that on windows you have to update all of your individual software in turn when you want to use it? Er yes, let me update adobe/office/windows/flash/realplayer etc.. before the annoying pop-ups stop. Linux is based on Unix, the quintisential network operating system, which explains why it is so au-fait with the internet. Does Windows have inherent file permissions? Er No. Does Windows have an inherent 'root user' system, which prevents accidental damage to important files, and much more importantly, does not allow software (i.e. viruses) to damage your system? Er no. Does Windows allow others to see their source code so that other programmers can easily create software that works seamlessly with the operating system. Er no.

    But probably most importantly, Linux gives you autonomy over your own computer. With windows, you don't actually own your laptop - you use a service under Windows terms and conditions. In Windows 7, you will not be able to refuse 'updates', even if it means the update does something detrimental to your computer. I left (genuine) Windows XP, after frustration that I could not prevent WGA notifications installing on my machine. I didn't want another piece of software already slowing down the 2-3min boot time.

    If only the writer could spend more time with linux, and discover all it's advantages, rather than just simply writing straight away about all it's initial differences (yes differences, not deficits). I'm a doctor, and as a profession we change hospitals on a regular basis. It's always a joke that whenever we change hospitals, we're very quick to say something like 'this hospital is crap! In my last hospital we had useful bits of tape with our venflon-stickers! It was SO much better!' Despite ignoring the 10 day wait for scans at the old hospital which is now not a problem. It's very easy to initially criticise a different product, but I can tell you that now that I'm used to Ubuntu and it's advantages, there is unlikely to be anything that will tempt be back to Windows (and yes, I have Windows 7 installed on another computer - I don't use it).

    If you're intested...

  • Comment number 41.

    I use a computer fulltime for music composition in my little studio, and have built a system up myself using Gentoo Linux. I'm no coder, and it was easy to follow the instructions. I still don't get why using the terminal at times is such a fear inducing anathema to users. It's much faster than cranking up a big GUI based app, and a lot more friendly on CPU cycles. Is the average user lazy, frightened, incurious, or a combination?

    As a former user of both mac and win OS's, for what i do, since their inception as desktop based music production systems, i'd never go back. With a well setup linux box, i do the same as 5 boxes in the aforementioned OS, in 1 box, with headroom and power to spare.

    I don't care that much about the brand on the box, as productivity, configurability, and user defined workflow is everything for me, but practically, linux is way ahead of the rest for stability and power in my particular field. There's no comparison, and most importantly, i get a lot more work done in the same amount of time, minus the crashes.

    And let's stick the intent of a sometime lack of linux drivers exactly where it belongs. At the feet of the hardware manufacturers. Those that jump on board make new profits and get heavily promoted and supported in linux circles by knowledgable users who effectively "sell', and promote those companies for free, and those that don't are definitely missing out, as the linux domestic userbase grows.

    Rory, you know as well as we do that using a new OS for a day is not nearly enough time to give a fair appraisal.
    I'd ask the following.

    If you'd been a Linux user for the last ten years, to the extent of running it by instinct, would a day have been enough to give a fair comparison of Win7, or Mac SnowLeopard? How long would it have been before you'd scurried back to the comfort zone?


  • Comment number 42.

    #2. At 1:43pm on 23 Oct 2009, CompactDistance wrote:

    Linux has a fanatical anti-Microsoft following, but they can't actually make their product work any better. Compared to mature consumer operating systems like Windows there are too many shortcomings, too many things that don't 'just work.'

    Ask any Linux power-user how to do something and often the first thing they'll do is point you to the command line. This isn't 1994!"


    Erm, i'm not getting at you here, but workflow wise, there's a lot to be said for using a terminal from time to time, particularly when you were previously faced with a crash from too many gui windows open, as is usually the case in commercial desktop based os's.

    So far from being 1994 and giving the impression that using a terminal is somehow.. "old school", i'd venture that a little user effort would open up a whole new opportunity for you, and speedup your machine no end, here in the smart user 21st century world we live in.

    I'll bet you're addicted to the mouse as well, aren't you. :)

  • Comment number 43.

    Is he indeed being racist when he says "offensively brown background", whats offensive about a brown background?!

    He says that things are easier on a Mac/Pc, but how long had he used a mac for?!

    This is one thing which really annoys me, when people care to write articles after spending a minimal amount of time trying to learn an operating system! Go spend as long as you did learning to use Windows or a Mac, then get back to us!

    Linux can just simply work, I think that the "Ubuntu Software Centre" shows this, after more apps in there get screenshots I think that Ubuntu will stand up on top of Windows 7 and OS X after all, it's free!

    You aren't locked into a stupid company who wants to rule the world either.

  • Comment number 44.

    One of my several multiboots on several of my computers is Kubuntu (latest version except for the multi-monitor office machine because of the ATI drivers needing to be proprietary and somewhat unstable - but hey the windows XP on the same machine can't be successfully upgraded for the same reason to Vista and still work as well as it does in XP pro.) My servers only use Linux.

    My reason for still sometimes using Windows is the ability to synchronise to a mobile phone - true MS Outlook has design flaws as does Windows (the Registry agggrrrrr!!!) But Windows does synchronise with Windows Mobile 6 and the plugs-ins to Kmail and Thunderbird just don't work. I have also been a Mac use since 1984 and again they are OK, but too expensive and the software tend to be too limiting and too expensive.

    [ I wonder if it is possible to virtualise and divide the Window's Registry into application registry's to eliminate its odious consequences - I'll think on it.!! ]

    We also develop for all platforms and write software and cross compile on one system for another for which we quite like Lazarus - an excellent free product (based on the Borland product Delphi) and Free Pascal as well as Assembler, C, C++ and Java and have experimented with D and many many other development languages over the years.

    I think the point that we are missing is that users want to do something with their PC - they do not want to waste time. Unbuntu and other desktop Linuxes are stable and work and you can do most things with them and there is essentially no reason to be locked into a proprietary operating system. OK so if you 'must' use a particular software product that is only available on a particular operating system they you will have to get it - but there is no reason apart from fashion for most of us to use one rather than another.

  • Comment number 45.

    i am a guy who play software for fun, from my perspective, ur review is extremely narrow, i sign up for bbc membership just to post this...
    one comment posted that u are in your comfort zone in using windows, which i absolutely concur, to the point that it makes me wonder did u ever done your research as a tech. cor. on linux ?
    i don't even know where to begin, so i'll start with bluring out whatever thoughts i have...

    win is based on linux, so is OSX, so is ubuntu itself
    taking a 24hr usage of ubuntu and post it as a review, omg, i can't believe you can held ur job THIS long.
    i tried using it for at least a week before i defend it against my ms-based roomate in ease of usage, trouble shooting and time it took to bootup.

    frankly, im so tempted to troll this review, after a minute has passed, i'll just say for now, read the comments posted before me, and you'll realize u ran head first into a big stone that is the foundation of computer, it didn't budge, while ppl are defending it as u stand to rub ur head. :P

  • Comment number 46.

    "To be frank, no, because it would not make my computing life any simpler and more pleasurable than it is now."

    Not as an attack on Rory, because we all have the right to make individual choices, but more as a reflection on how well this illustrates the slowness of adoption of alternative operating systems, I find this part of the article most telling. If a technology correspondent resists investing time to discover the true potential of technology, it for sure will take more time for the general public to do so. However Rory's comment surprised me as being less about technology but more about complacency (I found it very odd that as such the writer didn't even question what protocols that are used for communication between computers; how many *nix computers would for example a Windows PC by default find in network?).

    Personally I'm from the Windows camp, both at work and at home (IT-administration of Windows environments is still my profession). I'm curious and quite stubborn if I decide to learn something and hence the oddity or difference in Linux, from a Windows' perspective, wasn't a problem. My journey has brought me to computing habits that I didn't look for, but found more efficient and productive than my previous Windows' ones. Today Windows isn't even an option for me, because I can't imagine computing without my tools of choice. Since I don't have any grumble with neither Microsoft or Apple, I don't lack money, my choice is solely based on what user experience I prefer, and to some degree on how I prefer media technology to be used.

    Sure I'm not part of the "mass consumer market", but I'm enough to keep a lot of people belonging to that group up running Linux. On the other hand the whole PC concept (let's add MacOS to the mix as well since I'm talking about a concept and not a computer box identity), has been a success with huge failures. We've got a enormous gap between user ability and system possibilities, a dilemma that has been too easy to exploit for fame or greed (viruses and alike). Add to that another problem I now encounter, children that lacks the ability to concentrate more than a few minutes, something that makes them even unable to enjoy computer games that demand thinking and solving things.

    This tells me that even if Linux would continue to be viewed as niche operating system, it's to some degree a necessity since the "mass consumer market" isn't interested in computing per se. What would otherwise be left to the ones who want to know what they're doing, and/or for example don't agree that "clicking" is the most efficient way of computing? Someone here referred to Linux user as uber-geeks, but even though it's a plain wrong description what's wrong with a system that geeks like to use? Must everything be dumbed down to a predetermined level? Even among the so called "masses" you find people who naturally do what most others view as difficult, so natural that it for them is the easiest way. Some people ask questions to find answers, some don't, and hence their ways differ.

    Instead of focusing on some of the peculiar complaints in the article, I find the attitude behind them more interesting. The article could work as part of a case study.

  • Comment number 47.

    I just wanted to add to the point that Hellwyn said in comment 29 "The mere existence of Firefox has already forced Microsoft to adhere to Web Standards (as Internet Explorer 6.0 famously did not!)." .
    Microsoft at that time tried to use their dominance to sway away from the web standards in place. If they had succeeded in this you would not have the Choice of other Operating systems/web browsers etc that we do today because they where trying to own the web and stopping us from using any other software/platform but Microsoft. I think Ubuntu and Linux mint are great distributions of Linux that people should give a try , a chance, a fare chance. When i first started with Linux i was always going back to windows because thats what i knew. Over a bit of time though i slowly found my self in Ubuntu more than i was windows until now i honesty don`t go into my windows partition anymore. That dose not mean i will get rid of my windows partition because some times their is something that only works in windows that pops up eg, Games etc. I think what I'm trying to say is that Linux is going in a better direction that any windows or mac could ever go because Linux belongs to YOU , it belong to the people and the more folks that use it and as demand for it grows the better Linux will get for EVERYONE. The more venders like Dell that see the demand grow will use their powers hence more Linux hardware support will become available. Oh and it`s free!

    I was quite impressed with the look of windows 7 so i thought I'd give it a try. After install though i thought ok nows time to install software... I personally don`t know anyone that does not pirate software and that is what i used to do on my old windows xp install and as someone that has seen first hand what cracked software can hide eg Keylogger,Trojans etc. even with scanners in place, they can only find what they know about. At that point of the windows 7 install i realized why would i pay for an OS that is so vulnerable when i can get in my opinion a better and safer OS for free? and at the same time contribute to the great community that evolves around free software. Freedom hippy rant over ;).
    Just give it a Fare chance. Oh and Rory by the looks of it you where given the Netbook Remix of Ubuntu that is specially designed for low power low spec machines. Try the desktop Version on a desktop box. Thanks!

  • Comment number 48.

    I could not agree more with you Rory and "CopactDistance" (and probably others speaking the truth about Linux). Linux is just not yet ready for the big time desktop deployment that it's fanatical followers wish it could be. They are so anti-Microsoft and so closed minded about it that they choose to ignore all the suffering they go through just to get one tiny little application working.

    I'm a techie in my own right, and I suffered just to get my Dell 1721 Inspiron working with initially Ubuntu 7.10, which was available at the time time I got my laptop. It took days of pain to get it to work with RAID 0, for which the distro had very limited support. I had to go through yet more hell and pain to get the WiFi working, resorting in the end to using an app called Ndiswrapper, which essentially takes Windows drivers and fakes the Linux OS into believing their native drivers, because there is little Linux support for a lot of new hardware.

    However, I must put things into perspective. From my personal experience, I think Linux does a good job of supporting legacy devices, unlike Windows (as I found out with Windows 7), and you can also get very good and quite serious server applications for 'free' on Linux. You can get up and running with server applications on Linux at 'little' cost (if you don't factor in the time it takes to get it up and running).

    As for the desktop, it's a complete shambles. Hence, I dual boot my laptop between Ubuntu 8.10 (which at least was painless in supporting RAID 0), and now Windows 7 to get the best of both worlds.

    It's gonna take Google and their Android to make Linux cool for the desk top. Untill then, the Linux brigage can keep wishing.

  • Comment number 49.

    I do not understand how Rory could have missed the "Ubuntu Software Center" icon on the main menu. Both Flash and Audacity are simple one click installs from this easy to use menu. Perhaps Ubuntu's interface is a bit too simple for someone accustomed to the bizarre multi-level menus in windows. And to complain about not being able to run spotify (invitation only *beta software* that has not been widely released) is unfair in a review targeted at mainstream users,

  • Comment number 50.

    Linux is just not yet ready for the big time desktop deployment that it's fanatical followers wish it could be

    You know, some of us don't actually care that much. If the rest of you want to suffer the hassles of being locked into unreliable proprietary software then you deserve our pity, but really, it's up to you. We have our fully fledged easy to use desktop already.

    there is little Linux support for a lot of new hardware

    That really is a nonsense; Linux has built-in support for most hardware as part of the OS (supporting hardware rather being the purpose of an OS) so I can generally plug things in and have them work straight away with no driver CDs, no hunting manufacturer's web sites for updates, and no pointless reboots. Aside from all the usual internal kit my Fedora Linux systems have had a USB headset, webcam, graphics tablet, various digital cameras, a bluetooth controller, a bluetooth headset, and a mobile broadband dongle plugged into them, all of which have been supported instantly. I don't know about you, but that works pretty well for me.

  • Comment number 51.

    48. At 11:16pm on 23 Oct 2009, MrFaulty wrote:

    I could not agree more with you Rory and "CopactDistance" (and probably others speaking the truth about Linux). Linux is just not yet ready for the big time desktop deployment that it's fanatical followers wish it could be. They are so anti-Microsoft and so closed minded about it that they choose to ignore all the suffering they go through just to get one tiny little application working....................................It's gonna take Google and their Android to make Linux cool for the desk top. Untill then, the Linux brigage can keep wishing.


    I simply don't get this. There's no pain in installing "1 little application."
    And i'm a user not a coder, or a techie. I'm using Gentoo, which has often been described as a geeks distro. It's not true. With a little effort, anyone can do it. Ubuntu is even easier still, with the auto install manager, Synaptic.

    I defy anyone to tell me it's any easier to install Win or Mac drivers or apps, as years of having to do this told me otherwise. I'm not a rabid anti-microsoft flag waving tux user, but neither does it make sense to me that a "techie" can't install a simple application. Are you serious? Use what you like, and i hope you enjoy yourself, but let's be real and objective about this.

    Most negative comments here seem to be based around "it doesn't do what windows does, so it must suck badly". And yet there's no mention of linux multiple workspaces, highly user definable key commands, and so on. That tells me a lot of users have done the same as Rory, tried it for a day, and gone back to their comfort zone, however better or worse that may be.

    Again, i wonder how many users would have a different view if they tried linux based systems for more than a day, kept an open mind, and see what they come up with.

    Accusing Linux users of being anti-microsoft and closed minded is singularly ironic, given the nature of successive Win releases, and the what seems neverending inability to deal with security issues, compulsory pay again updates, and "Your computer has stopped responding", with the inevitable reboot to follow.

    As a techie, you would surely understand there are those in every camp, espcially the win userbase, that interact with their system in the pursuit of a greater skillset for efficent use, and the rest, who when confronted with something new, or different, retreat into their burrows, screaming "linux sucks! linux sucks!", because they think it'

    There's enough FUD in each OS community, without jumping on the bandwagon, simply because you can't install 1 little application.

    That's not our it.

  • Comment number 52.

    Really, an OS should be transparent with the application being the key.

    I am a professional composer and writer. Although I use Debian for my servers, really I am stuck to windows and/or mac because the software I use does not run on Linux at all.

    But that does not bother me - when I get down to my work, my focus is the application, not the OS.

    My mother got very confused about the difference between MS Office and MS Windows. She did not appreciate that there was a difference between the application, Office, and the OS.

    Although it would be easy to be critical of her naivety, actually she had a point. She only uses a computer to write - MS office is her total focus. What interest has she in the rest of the rubbish that comes with her box?

    I think this is partly what Google are looking at with Chrome OS. It will be interesting to see how "transparent" that really turns out to be.

  • Comment number 53.

    "I also gave up on attempting to use the music streaming service Spotify, after a warning that, as there was no Linux version, I would first need to get hold of something called Wine which allows you to run Windows apps. Too much bother..."

    It's easy, I was amazed by how well it worked (free music on a free OS on a free computer... nice) (I'm new to linux) - Imagine if all reviews were like this? 'I was going to read the last chapter but I gave up... Too much bother... I give it 5 out of 10 as the story didn't really go anywhere'

  • Comment number 54.

    Rory wrote:

    I also gave up on attempting to use the music streaming service Spotify, after a warning that, as there was no Linux version, I would first need to get hold of something called Wine which allows you to run Windows apps. Too much bother...


    perhaps you could send the Spotify team an email, and ask them to produce a linux version.

    It is up to them after all, and just maybe they'll see the potential for an even bigger user base..........

  • Comment number 55.

    The biggest hurdle that faces Ubuntu (including all other variants of Linux) is gaining public awareness and confidence, that other (more) capable choices do exist beyond the realms of Microsoft.

    The marketing force behind Ubuntu has been fairly non-existent, so it's no surprise it's still relatively unknown within the mainstream.

  • Comment number 56.

    Just a thought, how above getting Mark Shuttleworth (Ubuntu Founder) and/or Jono Bacon (Ubuntu Community Leader) into the Breakfast studio in time for the Karmic Koala launch next week?

  • Comment number 57.

    Written before? Can't be arsed to read all the posts? Flash need to be installed? Get the relevant OS version. Windows , version of Linux, Mac OSX? You're supposed to be a technology nerd. What's the problem?
    Reason why programs don't work on Linux? We don't have driver support from the tech companies. Horrendous amount of virii? Cheap and cheerful programing. Hidden source code? Windows. Windows did create modern computing for the masses but the price we pay. Is it worth it?

  • Comment number 58.

    Ubuntu is easy to use.
    'Shopping delivered to Great Grandma, by Ubuntu Linux'

  • Comment number 59.

    Interesting comments. I see a number of emotional "linux users are fanatic losers" type comments from those clearly advocating Windows and yet the so-called "fanatic" Linux user's comments seem quite sane and pragmatic. What does that say?

  • Comment number 60.

    Where do I start? This piece has no balance whatsoever. Oh no, you have to run software designed for Windows using a compatibility layer which has been so successful in implementing Microsoft proprietary APIs that you can actually run a lot of games on it - please call the police! You say it as though it's a disadvantage that a program exists which allows users to run software designed for another Operating System. Even if you were taking on the perspective of an average user, and I fully accept that average users do have a problem in using Wine to run Windows software if they so need, what you fail to do is to say it in a balanced way. Had you said:

    "One problem associated with Linux is the lack of support from software vendors. This means that some of your Windows programs will not run under Linux. However, the Linux community has written a program which will run a lot of Windows software with minimal effort including Microsoft Office and many popular games."

    then I would have no issue with it whatsoever. Instead you opt for, Wine, oh too much bother. There’s not even a semblance of real understanding of the situation - or at least an attempt to explain it, nor the inclination to at least try out Wine to see if it works. So, you write off what is in actuality a fantastic program which broadens your software options as, ‘too much bother’.

    It's clear to see that you haven't made a genuine attempt to use Ubuntu. "I struggled to work out how I would organise photos, music and video with this system." Well, that's just making an argument out of ignorance, besides the plentiful options available, many of which have already been named in the comments above, maybe that's something Wine could have helped you out with had you bothered to try it?

    Whilst you seem keen to stress the downsides of small market share - lack of official support from hardware and software vendors alike, you seem less keen to mention the advantages of a smaller market share; far fewer problems with malware. You think installing software under Wine is difficult? Try dealing with some of the messes I've had to clean up for friends and family under Windows due to malware - the amount of times I've had to reformat and reinstall is unbelievable. Even if you're lucky enough that your Windows machine never succumbs to malware or identify theft, you still have to undergo the bother of installing a vast array of security software. That's not to say you should be complacent when using Linux, but is it safer than Windows due to a smaller market share? Yes, yes it is. Didn't care to mention that though did you?

    What about other Linux advantages; repositories (mentioned briefly but unexplained); stability (not mentioned); the ability to personalise way beyond what is possible in Windows (not mentioned); multiple desktops (not mentioned); Linux-specific software such as Compiz Fusion (not mentioned). Yet, failing to install Spotify, due to his your own lethargy and/or ignorance, that's good reviewing.

    This is a poor attempt at impartiality. I hope that, if you try Linux again - perhaps you could try another distro, you're more willing to approach it an open-mind and to increase your knowledge by experimenting more thoroughly and for a longer period of time before dismissing it so readily.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    It is all very well slagging off this article, but:

    1. It says there will be a fuller review later
    2. Rory has a point with the phrase "too much bother"

    Most users of Linux on this board love messing around with their machines and installing one bit so you can install another bit is what they live for.

    However, for the other 99.99% of the world, they dont want to even think about it. They have expectations of a system out of the box - they want it to work exactly like their friends' machines and to be able to download and install, or buy a cd and install simply and easily without thinkings about it.

    If they find they have to edit the list or repositories because they want Java from Sun rather than the OS version, or they want commercial versions, or whatever, then they will give an immediate thumbs down.

    If they have to start a terminal as root every time they want to install something, then they will give a thumbs down.

    If they are sold the system on the basis that "it is wonderful, you can take it apart and reconfigure it a million different ways," they will give it the thumbs down - it sounds far to messy.

    Basically, the various Linux OS are amazing, but when it comes to the vast majority of computer users, they are just too Clunky. One mouse click more than Windows or Mac, and that is too clunky.

    Linux has moved much closer to the usability of Windows, but it needs to move closer still. Most people dont give a hoot about the politics of all this, they just want an easy life - they dont want to have to find a sysadmin as a best friend somewhere in case.

    To most people Linux has a feel about it - way too geeky. Even when you install Ubunto, for example, it looks really old fashioned and techy - you have scared people off even before they have chosen their language and keyboard layout. I know it seems an irrelevant small thing, but the one thing that Gates and his team really have understood is that people are affected by irrelevant and small things - those are the bits that sell a product at the end of the day.

  • Comment number 63.

    MrFaulty wrote: Linux is just not yet ready for the big time desktop deployment that it's fanatical followers wish it could be. They are so anti-Microsoft and so closed minded about it that they choose to ignore all the suffering they go through just to get one tiny little application working.

    I've never had a problem with installing any application in Linux, I go into add/remove (now Software Center) and then just pick the one I want and it installs. Just to make it clear, those are graphical interfaces, not console. As for being anti-MS, many people aren't, personally, I'd rather not use Windows because of the insecurity and problems I've experienced with it. I support a small network of Windows machines and have to deal with the random "it threw this error" and "it just didn't work all of a sudden" on a way too common basis. If they weren't locked into certain Windows only programs, we could switch to Linux. In fact, we are still looking for ways around (virtualization, alternate programs, wine, etc) the issue but currently, none exist. Considering your average user won't know what to do on those random errors, I can't see how Windows could be any more "ready for desktop deployment". Might explain how the various computer "repair" groups make so much money doing so little work.

    MrFaulty wrote: It took days of pain to get it to work with RAID 0, for which the distro had very limited support.

    Ok, cutting this one off there because you are looking at it completely wrong. Your average Windows user hasn't a clue what RAID is, never mind want to set it up. The group that has the most issues with Linux is actually Windows Power users because as mentioned before, it's out of their comfort zone. You would be falling into this category. Take a step back and look what most people do on the computer and what their needs would be, email, word processing, web browsing, photo manipulation and organizing, music organizing and playing. With that in mind, explain how RAID 0 support (or not) assists your argument above?

    A few years ago, I doubt I would have been able to switch to Linux but now, I wouldn't switch back. The amount of work to set this computer up (laptop) was insert disk, install OS (small number of easy to read steps), change background, download and change theme (in same window as background), install dock, fiddle with it's colours and look.

    All together, can be done by an experienced user within 40 mins and a non experienced user in around an hour and a half, mostly because the dock has alot of options and it'll take some wandering to figure it out. Obviously the dock can be considered optional.

  • Comment number 64.

    Over the years I've dipped in and out of various Linux distros and found them interesting and a quality replacement. I'm fairly competant but I wouldn't say I'm close to an expert. It has been a while since I last used it, and back then if an application wasn't in the list of preprepared software installs (Software Center?), I had to use the terminal to install, which was easy enough once I rtm and found the correct command to do so (most software uses the same commends to untar and install).

    My question about the current situation is this: Has a method been developed in which applications for linux (any flavour) can be packaged in an executable which installs with a double-click and a wizard? Or any kind of one click install package. Not all software is going to be in the Software Center and so an alternative "easy" method would be very useful. Mainly for software I find on the web and just want to try out. If there isn't this system available, then what is the primary method of installing software that is not in the Software Center?

  • Comment number 65.

    Did you manage to install Compiz? It gives you a 3-d desktop and so many windows management functions it's impossible to list them all. Once you've spent a few days working with such a great interface it's hard to go back to a flat clunky windows system.

  • Comment number 66.


    I can't help but think you're blind-siding a bit. There are difficulties and complexities in Linux, of course there are, but you're making that argument that everything is simple in the world of OS X and Windows when it clearly isn't. I'll give you two examples of complexities in the Windows world which occurred to me and a friend of mine in the past two weeks. This is the issue I encountered. These are the instructions I had to type into a command line:

    "net stop WuAuServ


    cd %windir%
    ren SoftwareDistribution SD_OLD

    sc config BITS start= auto
    sc start BITS

    net start WuAuServ"

    Ah, don't you love one-click simplicity.

    The issue my friend came across was that she had just done a reinstall and couldn't find the sound driver. I told her to run Unknown Devices and had to give her very specific instructions on how to find the hardware vendor number and the device ID, before we could find the right driver. That is NOT easy for someone who doesn't know what they are doing. I could go on and on with stuff like this. I get asked for help all the time from people with Windows machines, especially when they have human-unfriendly error codes.

    I'll give you one more example from Windows 7. I like Windows 7, it's much better than Vista, but already I've encountered the need to use the Compatibility Mode. I really like it and I personally think it's easy to use. But again, tell an average user, oh you have to use Compatibility Mode for that software. Erm, what? *blank expression* I can talk them through it of course but it's not different from talking them through how to add another repository in Linux.

    OS X can also be really complicated if you want to do advanced configuring or if you use a hackintosh and have to mess around with kexts.

    Both Microsoft and Apple obscure the difficulties of installing an Operating System because they can sell masses upon masses of computers with their OSs pre-installed. Most people have never installed an OS and so installing an OS is a scary experience for them and makes Linux seem more complex than it actually is.

    Basically, I think you're making out that OS X and Windows are simple and that you never encounter problems which require technical know-how whereas the inverse is true of Linux. I don't see it like that and nor do the people who perpetually come to me for advice. I think the only reason why people would consider something like Ubuntu more complicated than XP is because they're not used to it. I also think that anyone trying to insist that using a repository is more complicated than going to individual websites to download, install and update software is clearly mad. It's far less complicated, it just happens to be different from the way things are done in other Operating Systems. People are afraid of change and of venturing into the unknown. That's the real issue. Would people really have the same problems with Linux if they'd been brought up using it at school and at home? Not a chance in my opinion. Imagine such a world where everyone is used to using repositories. Then imagine telling them they have to visit individual websites to download, install and update all their software. Erm, what? *blank expression* Why can't I just download, install and update everything from one place?

  • Comment number 67.

    I can't believe people are still 'at it', promoting brands of UNIX as if their lives depended on it. In my 25 years of professional IT, some brand of UNIX has always been just about to take over the world. Do the majority of people care? I doubt it. Each to their own, but please, please, ditch the holier than thou 'UNIX is the only true religion' attitude, because that in itself will ensure UNIX stays relatively marginal.

  • Comment number 68.

    Wow, I really don't know what to say or where to begin with Rory's comments. I am simply gobsmacked.

    "But, even after some help from a Canonical advisor who came and installed a few add-ons such as Flash, I struggled to work out how I would organise photos, music and video with this system."

    Er, when we connect a smartphone, digital camera or SD card or, in fact, any storage device with photos to *any* of our Linux machines, via usb or bluetooth, a dialogue box pops up, asking us what we'd like to do with the pictures and files that are on it....are you honestly saying you really are incapable of selecting image files like jpegs, and moving them into a 'pictures' folder in your home area??? or creating a folder called 'music', and copying across your mp3 collection??? Coming from a 'technology' correspondent, this is simply shocking. :-o

    "I also gave up on attempting to use the music streaming service Spotify, after a warning that, as there was no Linux version, I would first need to get hold of something called Wine which allows you to run Windows apps. Too much bother..."

    Oh come on, Rory, this is just pathetic. You didn't even try. Do you have any idea just how *easy* it is to install programs on Linux?? If using the point and click method is too hard, have you tried this: open a terminal window, (yes, that little window with the prompt) and type in: sudo apt-get install wine
    (in fact, typing in apt-get install 'program name' is the standard way to install stuff. How is this hard???? If you can type words into a word processor, you can do this...)

    Moreover, in a single sentence you have pretty much dismissed all the hard work WINE developers, from all over the world have contributed to the WINE project over the years, in their own time and without being paid. WINE is an incredible program, do you not think that the fact that you can run loads of windows programs on another platform entirely is nothing short of amazing?

    I was able to get my wife to install her favourite programs like Kaffeine and Amarok this way via text message when she asked me. Now, she's used to Linux, but has not previously used a debian-based distro like Ubuntu that uses apt to install stuff. But if this is too 'geeky' or 'hard' or 'scary' for you, then seriously, turn off your windows and mac PCs, step away from the keyboard and don't go near them again...

    Oh, I dunno. I shake my head in disbelief...

  • Comment number 69.


    In Ubuntu, the software repositories can be increased to give access to an even greater range of software & applications some of which are not supported by Ubuntu, hence they don't give access to them by default. Two clicks of a mouse and they are all enabled.

    On the rare occasion that something is needed that isn't in the repositories, a package can be downloaded from the website, just like downloading an .exe file in Windows. The file can be saved and then opened to install but personally I've got Firefox set up to automatically open those files with the package installer; it runs and installs the programme.

    There is no need to scan the file with a virus scanner, no EULA to read, no file path to select where to install it, no "would you like a shortcut" question.

    It's a very simple process indeed.

    This is why I (and other posters here) are so surprised at Rory's problems with installing Audacity.

    Some set up is required with whatever OS you use. If I was setting up Windows 7 today, I'd be installing Firefox (and plugins), Thunderbird, VLC, iTunes, Disc-burning software like Nero, anti-virus/malware software, Java, Flash, MP3 codecs, etc etc.

  • Comment number 70.

    66. Skashion

    Oh, I quite agree - Neither Windows or Mac offer tech-free sailing.

    However, the development of windows over the years (possibly to the detriment of some security at various stages) has been orientated towards the non-technical user as much as possible.

    Linux has only far more recently taken that approach and it is lagging behind.

    I am no computer wiz-kid (and in fact am several decades off being a kid), but because my job relies on computers to such a great extent, and I am a one-man band, I have gotten used to getting my hands dirty, to some extent. But my family round me, especially the teen members, have such a complete disinterest on how things work that it is amazing.

    I have tried to get them onto Linux (it would save me money), but it doubled my work because so much they wanted to do didn't have an instant plug and play aspect to it, and with the Teans, didn't have the same brand-name as their friends, and that was just a complete no-no!

    Office 2007 made my life worse. With 2003 and Ooo being pretty close in looks, I was moving them happily to OpenOffice. Then MSO 2007 come out. Far sleeker and more fun to use (remember, people really dont give a hoot about the compatablily politics and so on). OpenOffice has been soundly dumped!

    So, my point is that there are a thousand really solid reasons to move over to Linux and some Open Source applications (there are some commercial applications where the open source version is not up to scratch).

    Unfortunately, most of those sound reasons don't cut it with the majority of users. They want the "looks like money was thrown at it" feel of Mac and Windows and the hope that they will never have to lift the bonnet and look at the engine.

    I think that is one reason that cloud based OS's might make a large impact - though I am holding my breath for the day when the internet goes down for an hour and nobody can do anything at all!

    PS: I am a great believer that the modern young generation are NOT as computer savvy as commentators like to tell us. They are great at knowing which button to press and how to text gibberish at an alarming speed, but when it comes to it doing something odd, they are as much out of their depth a the rest.

  • Comment number 71.

  • Comment number 72.

    sudo apt-get update
    enter your password
    sudo apt-get install wine

    Watch it reboot required. Simples.

  • Comment number 73.

    @ "_Ewan_"

    What is nonsensical about me giving account of my own experience of Linux? I had a brand new laptop which came with Vista and I tried, for days, to get Ubuntu 7.10 working on it, primarily because that distro had dodgy support for RAID 0. That is a fact! In the process of trying I even lost my Vista partition, at the hands of fdisk or some crappy partitioning tool. I eventually got it to work, thanks to some guy with lots of time on his hands who had figured out how to do it. It also took me ages just to get the sound working. It is THIS time, that is the hidden cost of Linux. And that is the lack of support for new hardfware I am referring to.

    Then Ubuntu 8.04 was released and I made the mistake of trying to upgrade from 7.10, an act which rendered my Linux installation useless! Lucky I had my dual boot Vista working. I later found out that 8.04 had NO support for RAID 0. Thanks, Canonical. Before long version 8.10 was released which had support for RAID 0 and finally my system was rescued, because Canonical had eventually caught on with the new hardware in town.

    I don't know about you, but I just don't have the time Linux demands. Goodness knows I love it for server systems, but for desktop, it's a NO from me. Just check how many of Google's cool applications support Linux. The Linux brigade can argue all they want, but in the real world where time is precious and commercial interests are paramount, Windows will rule the desktop! At least until such a time when Google takes away the pain from Linux, or when Apple Macs match PC prices. I personally can't wait.

  • Comment number 74.

    We use Ubuntu at home on a daily basis, I have Linux mint on my netbook. We use computers a lot, but we are not power users. I am dyslexic, and use the graphic User Interface, it is easier for me.

    We have no problems using iplayer or any of the other things we want to do. My 7 year old happily navigates around the CBBC site, and my 15 year old uses photo and graphic software (The Gimp) to do her art projects, open office for her homework.

    Occasionally I have to use a Windows computer. I get frustrated by only having one desktop to do everything in. It feels loose and buggy after what I am used to.

  • Comment number 75.

    I've just re-read Rory's post 'A week with Windows' - ironic that he went to the bother of installing Firefox and iTunes but with Ubuntu couldn't figure out Audacity and found installing Wine 'too much bother'.

  • Comment number 76.

    Erm Rory,

    May i ask what your work at the BBC is? You've tested Win 7 for a week so i imagine you are some sort of tech correspondent. So your lack of enthusiasm in giving ubuntu a chance is a bit of a shock to me. Sounds like you declared it unuseable even before you tried.

    I only started using Ubuntu a couple of years ago and i'm no tech geek. Far from it. But having re-installed my windows over 10 times in the last 4 years i've had my laptop, its been a breath of fresh air with ubuntu. Granted some things can be annoying to do because many of the programs i've been used to in windows dont work straight away. But there's always a way around that. And once you get things working, they stay working.

    I go to windows every now and then to use my printer (lexmark dont give the drivers for my printer in ubuntu) and Office occasionally. When i do however, its worrying. XP gets really slow and my laptop over heats. Ubuntu does give old laptops a new lease of life.

    I'd recommend you give it a bit more testing.

  • Comment number 77.

    Pixelvision: I just installed World of Goo, it's not in the repos, I got off the company's website. I downloaded the .deb file, double clicked on it, clicked install and when it finished, was installed.

    So yes, on those rare times you end up not using the repos, there is definitely a one click install. Oh, and I didn't have to do any configuring either, just ran it from my Games section of "Applications"

  • Comment number 78.

    Most of it has been said, I'll try to say some things that got left out. Not one person made a point about how simple Ubuntu install can be for a Windows user who wants to try his toe in the water: wubi (ubuntu installer for windows)! Just download wubi.exe, run it from Windows, define how much space to use for Ubuntu, choose login creds, take a coffee/ lunch break, return to your comp with a dual install! Days of Linux install have become simpler since Knoppix launched a live CD that announced vocally on what devices are detected and installed! Just when I thought it doesn't get any simpler than that, Ubuntu gets better with each release.

    Microsoft is so greedy, that when I bought my Toshiba laptop, I was forced to buy it with Vista, with a caveat that said "Installing any other OS voids the warranty". Even if I wanted to have dual boot, I couldn't do that in warranty. Funnily enough, any reinstall of Vista and other Windows flavours arrogantly overwrites any other OS! Why?

    For almost everything that Linux can do with a command line for a desktop user, Ubuntu can do with GUI. Another thing about people who just hate to use keyboards are missing a loud point even in Windows GUI: all those menus have keyboard 'short'-cuts! Sometimes, keyboard is faster than the mouse.

    If you've tried detecting and transferring files between XP and Vista on your network, that would tell you why expecting all your Windows machines to just popup on your Ubuntu map, without any protocol setups, is plain bias.

    MrFaulty talks of WiFi install issues as a techie. WiFi on Vista has been a pain for me; it gets some godforsaken IP on a DHCP mode and I need to hardcode it to work well! Windows should have perfected it by now, but no; OTOH, it works smoothly in Ubuntu. And he also talks of RAID 0 when the article is about a layman desktop user. What you can do with Win for RAID, a similar experienced person on Ubuntu can do it in a jiffy too. But then again, if you are a technology person, you ought to mention developers, rate at which bugs get fixed on Ubuntu and umpteen development tools that come free, all of these things beat down Windows to death.

    Getting hold of Wine to run Spotify is not as much of a bother as needing to get hold of Win7 pro version to do something as simple as getting an XP app/ device to work! The latter means shelling more money out to get Win7 do something that your XP did initially, which you'd already paid for, and MS made you buy Win7 instead. The former means installing Wine with a couple of steps and you're ready to go... simpler than buying local wine! :)

    Finally, Rory, I think Ubuntu survived your 24 hours with it. Had you been a Linux user as long as you were using Windows and had to spend 24 hours with Windows 7 instead, I'm certain you'd have flushed the Windows netbook/laptop by now! :)

  • Comment number 79.

    @ MrFaulty What's nonsensical is your wild extrapolation from a singular failure to support a particular fakeRAID setup in a laptop, of all things, to asserting that "there is little Linux support for a lot of new hardware".

    Linux support for fakeRAID cards is indeed rather poor because it's only used by unfortunate Windows refugees. Full time Linux users ignore it in favour of the considerably more flexible, more reliable and more open support for RAID 0, 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 that's built into the operating system as standard issue.

  • Comment number 80.

    @ _Ewan_ For your info, fakeRAID is not the only problem I've had with Linux. I've had countless times where I've had to spend hours searching the Internet for that obscure driver and "howto". The fact is Linux has poor hardware support, whatever you say! Why do you think the whole of Dell had to make specific laptop models to support Ubuntu? For the fun of it?? PC makers like Dell are in it for the money, not to faff about or satisfy blind Linux followers like you. The day that people subscribing to your school of thought (on Linux) get that message, will be the day that Linux will begin to make serious progress. Canonical had to send a guy to help Rory out. That says a lot! I rest my case.

  • Comment number 81.

    To be fair, Rory was apparently incapable either of clicking three times to install Audacity or Wine (and he knew about the Software Centre, since he mentioned it in the review, so he has no excuse!), and was incapable of looking in the menus to find the (clearly labelled) solutions for photo and mp3 library management, so I'm not sure that Canonical "having to send a guy to help him out" can be unambiguously said to be a criticism of the OS itself. :D

    (And, for what it's worth, installing Flash on Karmic is a three step process, all of which can be accomplished without the use of a command line interface. Not sure why Rory needed help with that, either, if we're using this as an argument for Ubuntu being horrible.)

  • Comment number 82.

    "Canonical had to send a guy to help Rory out. That says a lot!"

    I think it says more about Rory than Ubuntu.......

  • Comment number 83.

    Oh, and a sort of meta-comment, not so much about the review as the presentation of Linux that Rory did on Breakfast.
    Indeed, it is true that 90% of home computers (probably) have some copy of Windows installed on them. However, a majority of computers not for home use run some variant of *nix - all of the LHC physics is done on linux, for a start. Perhaps if Rory had picked his phrasing more positively, it would have served to edify people generally (maybe even Bill Turnbull, who seems to be grumpy about anything invented after 1960, would have been impressed ;) ).

  • Comment number 84.

    Yeah, I tried some of these 'Distros' and had to give up, just couldn't get any of them to recognise my good old USB modem. So no internet. Oh yeah, I know, why not just change the hardware blah blah blah? Well, why not just change the software and save me the bother. Pity though, as I really wanted to dump Microsoft.

  • Comment number 85.

    I've had countless times where I've had to spend hours searching the Internet for that obscure driver and "howto".

    With a recent desktop distro like Ubuntu or Fedora? What on earth were you trying to do? As I said above at #50, I've thrown loads of random hardware at my systems and they've run it all without a whimper, using drivers that were built in and ready to go, and I don't think I'm just lucky. On the other hand I've certainly had the problems you describe with Windows.

    I've also been following a discussion on Vodafone's forums about the various OSes support for their mobile broadband dongles. On Windows you have to install extra drivers, on Linux, you plug it in and it works, and on Snow Leopard it either does nothing or crashes the OS. So much for 'it just works' there.

    blind Linux followers like you

    Interestingly enough, I used to run Windows. Then I had a dual-boot system for a while, and wasn't completely convinced by Linux, and then I found that things that I wanted to do were just easier in Linux, mainly because of two things - the easy availability of a huge collection of software all freely available, and a large and helpful community to assist me with any tricky bits. Over a period of time I just found I wasn't using Windows any more, and now on the occasions that I do have to use it it's many deficiencies (no virtual desktops, no central source of software and updates, appalling documentation, and more) just annoy me. I really do think that for most people's computing needs a Linux system is a better fit that a Windows or MacOS one, but if people give it a fair go they can find out for themselves.

    Twenty-four hours, however, is not a fair go.

  • Comment number 86.

    I use Linux because I find it easier to use than the other OSs. The only time I need the command line is when I need to compile an application that is not very popular so it's not part of the official release.

    I'm surprised that Rory found it hard to install Audacity, a few clicks should have been enough. Also, I use samba to connect to the other network devices and it's pretty easy.

    Using Linux is easier because almost all the programs I need are in the official repository and there are no surprises in Linux. Linux program repositories existed long before the mainstream companies came up with "application store".

    I think it took me about a week to get used to Linux, GNOME and KDE are not that different than the existing OS UI, but the naming of the programs is different and one needs to get used to them. 24 hours is not a long enough time.

    I use Windows as well and I have nothing against Windows, but in my opinion it is not Windows that just works but Linux. Given two brand new PSs, one with Windows and one with Ubuntu, the one with Ubuntu would be ready to work out of the box whereas Windows would have to update itself 5 times before it is happy to let the user do anything on it. Installing Office would also take a long time on Windows, but it would be much quicker on Linux.

    The automatic updates in Win and Mac can and do bring a few occasional surprises. One time, I had a few open files and when I came back from lunch I realised that my PC updated and restarted itself and I lost a few hours worth of work. My Mac user friend also had some problems with his updates.

    It is a myth that Linux isn't usable... Give it a proper try!!!

  • Comment number 87.

    The hard drive on my 12 year old autistic daughter's XP computer was on the way out so I took a hard drive from a redundant computer as a temporary replacement. I decided to try Ubuntu as the operating system so I burned a disc and left it sitting next to my XP machine until I time to do the installation. I came back one day to find she had installed Ubuntu as a dual boot option on my machine! She has been using computers since was a toddler but I did not realise how much she had picked up.

    The Ubuntu instalation on her own computer was a success so I bought a new PC with no operating system and set it up wih Ubuntu. I downloaded a program that let her perform her favourite computer activity, downloading YouTube videos. Sometime I will set up a virtual Windows machine to let her play some of her games, but at the moment I hardly get a look in on the computer.

  • Comment number 88.

    So, here's a slightly related question for Rory to ask around the BBC:

    Linux and it's friends are installed on (supposedly) 0.5% of desktops, Apple's OSX operating system has just about 4.5%, and the rest is pretty much MS Windows.

    So, how come whenever there is ANY computer shown on TV they are pretty much ALWAYS Apple Mac windows, never the MS Windows that will be familiar to 95% of users? Obviously it's because pretty much all graphic designers are Apple fan-boys and girls, but why are they allowed to get away misrepresenting the computer population in this way 8-) ?

    It's a small point, but it irritates me!

  • Comment number 89.

    I have worked in IT for 20 odd years and am currently Head of IT for a large Further Education college. I am therefore fortunate to have access to multiple different operating systems and network operating systems. I've used them all from Windows 2 to Netware 2.x. Apple OS's, right up to the latest Windows 7 etc, etc. Even obscure ones like OS/2! On a daily basis I support well over a thousand pc's running different OS's, but mainly Microsoft ones.

    What do I use at home 100% of the time? Ubuntu. Enough said :)

  • Comment number 90.

    I have been using Windows for more than 15 years and my use of computers (1x laptop and 1x desktop) are mainly for business use, and from that perspective Ubuntu is superior to Windows in every important area for me.

    I have yet to find a single piece of hardware that does not work out-of-the-box with Ubuntu. That has especially been a blessing on my Sony Vaio laptop, which used to take hours to set up with finding the right drivers, using registry hacks to get some of them to work and so on. (I used to install Windows every 3-4 months just to get it running fast again, so I've installed it a fair few times). With Ubuntu everything “Just Works” out-of-the-box - sound, webcam, wireless networking, secondary display, video-out, etc. To my surprise even my 3G ExpressCard worked out-of-the-box when plugged into a PCMCIA slot! In fact, I have yet to plug in a device that has not been recognized immediately.

    It is paramount for me have a secure system with encryption of important data combined with the automatic synchronization of my Dropbox account, so that it can be shared between two (or more) computers. I have yet to find a product for Windows that can do it, but with the built-in encryption file system in Ubuntu, it was actually fairly easy to set up and works perfectly.

    In terms of software, well, must-have applications like Skype for Linux works perfectly, including the use of webcam and sending SMS messages, Google Earth for Linux works perfectly too, as well as Picasa and Adobe Reader, both Linux versions. With my iPods I use Rhythmbox, which is great because I can fully manage the music and films on my iPods instead of them being locked to iTunes. This is just a few examples as there's a huge number of applications.

    The concept of repositories are pure genius. It makes software installation simpler and updates a doddle. Add a repository and you immediately have access to more software though the usual Add/Remove Software shortcut including, of course, automatic updates.

    Then there's the regular effort and time you save because you don't have to do registry cleaning/fixing, clearing of junk files and defragmentation just to keep the system running smoothly.

    In short, for my use, compared to Windows, Ubuntu provides the functionality I want and saves me a lot of time so I can get more work done!

    Oh, and then I didn't even mention the many hundreds of pounds in savings for software and software upgrades...

  • Comment number 91.

    24 hours with linux/ubuntu (not really a fair trial)
    I have been using Linux for about 4 years now, currently on Ubuntu Hardy Heron, shortly to up grade on 29/10/09. Was introduced to Linux by my son who was then at Uni studying computer science.
    All the programs I used on windows I found easy alternatives including Audacity for Ubuntu. Excellent music from Amarok. Ubuntu forums for people having problems is faultless.There are not many companies that don't have Linux servers. And no hackers.
    And best of all no Microsoft huge cost's. It all comes free, as does your upgrades.
    I'm in my sixties and find it very user friendly

  • Comment number 92.

    80. At 5:03pm on 24 Oct 2009, MrFaulty wrote:

    @ _Ewan_ For your info, fakeRAID is not the only problem I've had with Linux. I've had countless times where I've had to spend hours searching the Internet for that obscure driver and "howto". The fact is Linux has poor hardware support, whatever you say! Why do you think the whole of Dell had to make specific laptop models to support Ubuntu? For the fun of it?? PC makers like Dell are in it for the money, not to faff about or satisfy blind Linux followers like you. The day that people subscribing to your school of thought (on Linux) get that message, will be the day that Linux will begin to make serious progress. Canonical had to send a guy to help Rory out. That says a lot! I rest my case.


    You can rest your particular case all you like, but you're barking up the wrong tree here, however you want to spell it.

    The single reason why some hardware devices aren't provided with linux drivers (modules) is because some hardware companies lack the courage, business acumen, or a mixture of both, to build them in the first place. you only have to look at HP for instance, to see what happens when a hardware manufacture includes linux modules in their software portfolio. HP printers are strongly supported, in a plug and play setup, AND you don't even have to install the module yourself. It's already coded into the linux printer framework, called cups.

    And others have already posted here with their plug and play success stories for various types of equipment they want to use. This isn't linux fanboy stuff, it's a simple fact.

    Once again, those companies that actively support linux get not only an additional customer base for their products, but in the linux community they get strongly supported, and the viral/word of mouth marketing from users regularly communicating with each other and sharing experiences and knowledge is priceless for any company seeking to make a profit on their wares.

    Any company that is brave enough to include linux, and resist the sometime legal and often oppressive business pressure to stay 'inclusive' of proprietary closed source software (google Dell, and find out why they were "required" to make separate laptop configurations for linux, for fear of losing special/financial support for closed source exclusivity), gets a lot of continued and sustained support from linux users, and are rewarded with ongoing sales and a giant "free" marketing team as a bonus.

    Those companies are widely listed in communities and targeted websites (often paid for and maintained by appreciative linux users) as "Linux Supported', and reap the benefits as a result.

    The hardware companies who DON'T support linux are the reason some users may struggle. That's not the fault of the OS, as common sense will tell you, because Microsoft and Apple don't write drivers for third party hardware. The companies involved do, and it's up to them.

    A fact that's hard to ignore, if objective appraisal is your intent.

  • Comment number 93.

    73. At 2:35pm on 24 Oct 2009, MrFaulty wrote:

    but in the real world where time is precious and commercial interests are paramount, Windows will rule the desktop! ...........


    This might seem true in your case, but it's certainly not true in mine. So attempting to present this view as a "final" fact is nonsense.

    As a fulltime classical/film composer with a particular requirement for working on a box, there's no comparison, Linux is way ahead of the curve. I use 1 box instead of 5 now (saving power costs, and doing my bit for the planet as a bonus), don't get crashed regularly (and no longer the embarrassment of trying to reboot in front of the client, as he or she waits "patiently" to hear their masterpiece in all its glory), and in a time/profit calculation, i get far more value per hour now, than i ever did with Win or Mac. The unlimited audio framework in Linux, a requirement for large and complex scores, audio and midi, is unavailable in Win and Mac, no matter how much money you want to throw at it. Multiple workspaces make handling multiple apps, another requirement of use here, a simple and powerful daily addition to saving time, and effort. Just two examples.

    One only has to cite the now legendary acceptance of poorly written software, i.e., the blue screen of death, "your computer has stopped responding", or sat mesmorised by Apple's hypnotic spinning beachball to know that your idea of paramount commercial interests, could do with an update, or a new perspective.

    Each user to their own, and personal satisfaction is the best result no matter the OS, but trying to imply only Win is the key to commercial user nirvana is frankly a complete nonsense, and easily refutable, with sound evidence, and personal experience.

    More FUD, in other words.

  • Comment number 94.

    A few notes. One, what they seem to have sent you is Ubuntu Netbook Remix, which is intended for netbooks and has a customized interface as you describe early in the article. The standard Ubuntu has a more 'conventional' desktop interface.

    Two, installing software on Linux uses a different paradigm from Windows. It used to be a bit complex to explain this, but now there's a short-cut - it's much like the App Store on the iPhone. :) Instead of you generally going out directly to the app developers to download their apps, like you do on Windows, on Linux you usually go to a central system, provided by your distributor, which provides access to all applications from a unified interface and set of sources (usually called 'repositories'). I don't run Ubuntu so I can't give you exact instructions, but somewhere in the menus will be a software installation tool, which you can run and search for 'audacity', and it should find an audacity 'package' you can install. This is the general process for installing software on any Linux system, rather than the Windows process where you'd normally go to the Audacity website and look for an installer to download.

    There are many applications available (use the same install process outlined above) for managing media on Linux. I'd recommend Rhythmbox for handling music, and F-Spot or Gthumb for photos. I don't really 'organize' my videos with an app (I just have a methodical directory structure). There should be a video player included with your Ubuntu system, just listed as 'Movie Player' probably (it's actually called totem).

    Adam Williamson
    Red Hat

  • Comment number 95.

    Adam: Any chance of Red Hat lending Rory a laptop with Fedora? We can't be letting our brown wallpapered friends get all the attention.

  • Comment number 96.

    I've had a fair bit of experience with Linux distros but my love for *nix just isn't as strong any more.

    Years ago, when I was younger and had more time on my hands (with a keen interest in computing) I used to play with Linux quite a lot, I spent two years running Gentoo Linux, a very hardcore distribution that required you to literally compile your own operating system and software before you could use it.

    After getting to University and becoming less and less inclined to bother with the tinkering aspects required to run Linux I gave up interest. Although I have dabbled with things like Ubuntu since.

    However Ubuntu is far from perfect and is a long way off being the ultimate contender for Windows, in my experience anyway. If you're the average computer user and just require things like word processing and web browsing then it's probably fine but anything more then that and it's incredibly labour intensive to get things working.

    Windows isn't a shining butterfly either but it's ultimately very simple to use, something which has made its dominance so prominent.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ Alex1658 wrote:

    The single reason why some hardware devices aren't provided with linux drivers (modules) is because some hardware companies lack the courage, business acumen, or a mixture of both, to build them in the first place.

    What a load of nonsense! I will repeat what I said above to someone else; PC makers like Dell are in it for the money, not to faff about or satisfy blind Linux followers like you. The numbers speak for themselves, and if you really believe that the Linux fraternity are onto something so good and the rest of the world are missing out, then dream on!

  • Comment number 98.

    I'm a recent user of a Linux OS (Mint r.7) - having used both mac and windows in the past - and I love the intuitive nature of the linux distro, you make of it what you will and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants at times. Much support and advice is given freely in forums and on pages. The open-source nature is very rewarding to the user in that not only are apps freely available but you can actively contribute to their development (in many different ways). As a home media centre (my main use) the linux system works superbly with music, movies, and pics.

    Let's begin to hear Linux in the same breath with microsoft and mac by so called 'technology' experts/journalists in the media......

  • Comment number 99.

    That was a fun mini-review. It's really interesting for me, as an Ubuntu user, to see how people with a Windows background approach Ubuntu. I regularly install it on other people's computers so I see a lot of these stumbles in the first few months.

    Familiarity is extremely important, I think. If someone is happy with XP, Vista, 7 or OSX and they know the ins and outs it can be daunting to the point where it's not worth changing. I know that feeling because I have it ever time I have to use a Windows or OSX machine.

    I tend to say to people who want to switch that they'll spend 3 months in slowly decreasing frustration and at the end of that, they'll probably not want to switch back. The thing is, who has or wants to spare three months? Changing OS is a bit like renting a car in a foreign country where they drive on the wrong side of the road.

    Just by the way, I think Ubuntu as it comes is not fit for the average user. I spend several hours (despite having automated the majority of the tasks) preparing a vanilla Ubuntu install for use. Out of the box you can't play mp3s, view flash based websites, play dvds ... the list goes on. The steps I currently take involve adding the medibuntu repositories (for skype etc), downloading 64 bit flash from the adobe labs site, installing every codec under the sun (admittedly OS will do this for you when you hit a file it can't play), installing wine, installing Spotify (which works well) ...

    This takes a free OS from being able to deal with open formats to one that can use all the proprietary stuff that people _need_. The world would be better if this was not necessary and that people used ogg or flac for their music, no sites used flash (or silverlight, though that's pretty much the case anyway) etc.

    My biggest gripe with Ubuntu at the moment is dealing with Office 2007 file formats (it doesn't very well) and Ubuntu uses Novell's tweaked version of Open Office that supposedly is better with these files.

    Anyway, that's the really boring downside of changing OS. I wouldn't still be on Ubuntu if the grass wasn't greener.

    I'm looking forward to the fuller review and I generally enjoy your take on things. If you throw the computer at a wall or anything, please take a pic :)

  • Comment number 100.

    Linux isn't windows, so it is going to take a little bit of effort to use it. For some it is a little bit too much. For others, like myself, it has become as intuitive as the familiar windows is for most. It is free, great, but clearly not as well supported as an OS with the penetration, marketing and the money as Windows. Linux fanboys may be easily provoked into a flame war, by remarks as RCJ makes. But I think RCJ (and he won't be alone) is perfectly within his rights to refuse to give Linux that little bit of extra effort. But I will tell you one thing. That pressure from open source is the reason why MS is not standing still, why windows gets better, and why I can get MS Office 2007 for 9 quid from Microsoft. Not that I can be bothered to go back to windows...too much effort.


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