Why Ubuntu?

There are literally hundreds of different Linux distros (Distributions) out there. No kidding. If you don't believe me, take a look at this website http://distrowatch.com/stats.php?section=popularity. There are so many Linux distros that, at first glance, it would be impossible to choose one over another. What makes Ubuntu stand out from the rest? What made me never willingly look back to Windows? What made me change my mind completely about computers? Let's take a look.

How I Got Started

“$150?! What?” That was my response when I found out what it would cost to get Windows XP for my old laptop. The hard drive had died just weeks earlier, and it was time to move to a newer version of Windows than 2k. This was ridiculous. I didn't have that kind of money sitting around. My old laptop wasn't worth even that. Fortunately, I finally found an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) installer for $70 at a local computer shop. It was still pricey for what I was using my laptop for. But, I installed XP on the new hard drive, and surprisingly it ran faster then 2K. It must have been the faster HD rpm that made the OS (Operating System) perform at a faster speed.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks of updates and viruses, the laptop was getting slower. It would give me the nightmarishly scary BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) about once a week. And, it seemed like the anti-virus software wasn't working, and in fact, it seemed to be slowing the whole computer down; this was not a good thing.

Then, a couple months later in November, I decided it was time to move away from Windows. I had held off on this move for the last year because, quite frankly, I was peevish about learning a new OS. I'd been using Microsoft since the MS-DOS days. I grew up with it. I could use the computer before I could speak. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to move to a different OS. The thought scared me. But, it was the time to start OS shopping. With the release of Vista, Windows was out of the question. Far too demanding and unfriendly. What about Mac? Quite a few of my friends used Macs and were very happy. But, the OS cost more than Windows, and it only works on Apple machines, which are priced for the rich.

With Mac and Windows out of the question, what else was there? My dad, being a software engineer and programmer, often told me about the software world. I'd heard him mention Linux a couple times, and decided to get some more info. He uses Solaris at work, which is a Linux based OS. But he used it for work, and didn't seem to recommend Solaris for a home desktop system. Not what I was looking for, so I looked around some more, and soon found a list of distros. Um, there were hundreds, which was unhelpful. So I did the next best thing.

I posted “Looking for a Good Linux distro, anyone got any ideas?” on Facebook. Within a day, my friend David recommended a free distro called Ubuntu. He said that it was quite good, and once I started using it, I'd most likely never look back. He was right. I installed Ubuntu on an old machine we had lying around. And I was soon exploring the system.

Before I move on, I just want to mention that the old computer I had installed Ubuntu on had been dead the last couple of months. The computer literally took 15 minutes to boot up, and you could forget running any applications on it. That was with Windows XP installed. With Ubuntu installed, it was 90% faster. The hardware was sort of dead, so the computer wasn't able to get fully revived speed wise. But it boosted my laptop by a couple horsepower. I installed Ubuntu on my old laptop and it was back to its good old fast self.

The Price

Here is one aspect of a Linux based system that made me hesitant about the switch. It's free. Yeah, doesn't cost a cent. You just buy a blank CD, burn the ISO to the CD and install it on the computer. That's it. No licensing fees, no support fees, not a single fee. CRAZY AWESOME!!!

Not all Linux distros are free. I believe that you have to pay for RedHat Linux. But Ubuntu is completely free. Is that not incredible?! Now this is also the reason people don't switch to Linux. They may think this, “How can something free be better then something I pay $$$ for? It doesn't make sense!” I have to agree. You don't expect fine china to be sold at the Dollar Store. Or a brand new leather sofa with a free sign on it, when you drive through a neighborhood. So how does Ubuntu, a free product, raise the bar so high?

The Community

The answer to the last question is the Community. Yes, that's right. The reason it is so reliable and, simply put, amazing, is because of its community of users. “Wait,” you might say “so the reason this OS is so good is because of the people who use it? Just because Brad Paisley may drive a Masarati doesn't make the car reliable.” Well here's the deal.

Linux is open source. That means all the source code, or the code that makes the OS run, is freely available. Anyone can read, write, and edit it. There's no patents on the code. Well so.....how does this make it good? Because it enables the community, the users, to fix the problems. They don't have to wait for some high paid programmer to fix their problem. Instead, they can get help from others who use the software, and contribute themselves, even if they're no geek.

This also means that geeks, who love what they do, and know how to code, can fix and edit the code. This makes the OS better for the user, because the software gets edited with the user in mind. There's no competition or worrying over losing a job because of messing anything up. The community can fix and help in a relaxed environment. Pretty cool huh?

The other great thing about the community is that everyone wants to help everyone else. It's like a family. Can't get your graphics card to work correctly? Just head to ubuntuforums.org and ask for help. Within and an hour, or sometimes instantly, someone will have responded with some tips. I've never seen that kind of community from Microsoft or Apple. Have you?

The Interface

One of the main hesitancies that kept me from switching was the fear of a new interface. I never even though about what it would be like not to have the start button. I was afraid that it would be like learning an entire new language. And for a slow language learner like me, it terrified me.

I was quite surprised after booting into the Live CD for Ubuntu. The desktop was clean and professional looking. There where two task/menu bars. The one on the top contained the drop down menus for Applications, Places, and System and, the system tray was on the far right of that bar. On the bottom was the window bar, more commonly known as the task bar. Everything was clearly labeled and VERY user friendly. In my humble opinion, the desktop environment is easier to use then the Windows environment. Besides the layout of the standard desktop, everything else was the same as any other OS.
Now it's time to look at some of the options with applications.

The Endless Options In Software

The software options for Ubuntu are seemingly endless. Need an Office Suite? Open Office is freely available. Need a music organizer and player? Check out Rhythm Box. All the software is completely free. From video editors to games, they have any type of software you need. You can find all the options by going to “Add and Remove” at the bottom of the Applications Drop down list. Another great thing about the endless choices is that if you don't like one of the applications, but need one that does the same tasks, there are a couple different applications that you can install in its place.

The Support

For a free OS like Ubuntu, you might expect that there would be little to no support. Not so. Everything is being improved and updated regularly. Bugs will be reported, and, before you know it, it'll be fixed. There's no waiting for hours on the phone trying to get your monitor to work. You just go to the forums and post your request. Everyone is glad to help.

The Compatibility

Compatibility is another major issue when it comes to multiple OS's interacting. You might create a document on your Mac, only to find out it won't work on Windows. Or you may buy a song on iTunes, only to find you can't play it in Windows Media Player. In Ubuntu, everything is compatible, whether it's saving a document or playing a song. All file formats are supported or can be easily converted. With compatibility layers that are freely available, you can even install your Windows applications and games on Linux.

The Security

No viruses, No spyware, not hackers can get your stuff. Ubuntu is VERY secure. You don't have to worry about your data being stolen. It's safe, as safe as an OS can be. Unbelievable I know, but it's true. No kidding.

The Customibility (chuckle, there's a new word for you)

My favorite part of Ubuntu is the fact that you can make it look like anything you want. Whatever you have in your mind, you can make you desktop look like that. It's easy to customize. You no longer stuck with three color options and no room for customizing. You have an endless supply of screenlets if you're into those, special effects, window borders, and even desktop environments.

In Closing

Well, I've now finished a complete review on why I like Ubuntu. I've never looked back. It's a complete, user friendly, customizable, secure, supported, and compatible operating system. And, you don't have to pay a cent for it. One more thing about the different Linux distros is you can try them out without installing them. Most Linux distros have what is called a Live CD. It's basically an OS on a CD. You just boot into the CD and, without any change to your computer, you can explore the OS. The CD won't be as fast as when it's installed as your main OS, but it gives you a chance to really explore the environment and interface. Oh and guess what, it's all free. Happy Ubuntuing.

The Little Tin Man