Linux again

In 2003 I gave up on Microsoft Windows 98. It was old and I was frustrated at having the "Blue Screen of Death" (BSOD) and being unable to turn the thing off properly. 12 months previously I had a conversation with my brother and he introduced me to Linux and the whole open source philosophy. Although I have no background in programming (and still don't) I understood what he was going on about, namely that software which is open for anyone to contribute to is less likely to have security flaws or bugs and, if they do, then they are patched up quickly. Compared this to closed sourced proprietary software, where security flaws and bugs can go unnoticed for months or even years before virus writers begin to take advantage of them, and then being dependent upon the software owner to fix it (which they may not do since such actions might not be profitable and because keeping the bugs and flaws there might force people to buy their brand new software).

My first foray into Linux was Mandrake 9.1. 2003 was still early days for desktop Linux and I found it difficult to work on - which admittedly was also because I had newly migrated from Windows and had to learn a whole new set of tricks to use. While I enjoyed the change, Mandrake didn't suit me and I got frustrated enough to make a wholesale change to Kubuntu - Ubuntu using KDE - in 2006. In 2008 KDE 4 came out and I was one of those who decided to ditch it. I then discovered Xubuntu - Ubuntu running Xfce - and made that my new Linux desktop. Now I have migrated to the most popular Linux distribution - Ubuntu, which runs GNOME.

The great thing about Ubuntu and its various offshoots (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc) is that a new distribution is released every six months. So every six months there is an incremental improvement in the Ubuntu operating system - software becomes slightly better, slightly more user friendly, slightly less buggy, and always, always, reliable. The thing is that Linux started off as a creation of engineers - ugly but functional - but has evolved into an easy to use, user-friendly operating system without compromising its structural integrity.

The advantages are:
  1. Linux is free. Anyone can legally download and install and copy and modify it. While Linux is based upon the work of many volunteers, most of the work is done professionally by tech companies such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Google (to name a few). Ubuntu itself was created by Canonical, an organisation created and funded by billionaire Mark Shuttleworth.
  2. Linux is widespread and thus reliable. While it is only running on 1% of desktops, Linux forms the backbone of the internet. Most web servers run a Linux/Apache system. All supercomputers run modified Linux operating systems. Even the London Stock Exchange has ditched Microsoft to run a Linux based trading system.
  3. Linux is secure. The idea that open source software is more secure than closed source may seem counter-intuitive, but those who program the code are not as affected by profit motives as programmers who work on proprietary software. Security and utility are more important than usability, a fact which kept Linux out of popularity but which has ensured a bullet proof reputation that has had usability built upon it as the years have gone by.
A new version of Ubuntu is ready every six months. The current version is 10.04. The number 10 represents the year, the 04 represents the month. The next version will be out in October, which will naturally be called 10.10. It will be followed by 11.04 next year, and on it will go.

I made the decision this year to delay my upgrade to 10.04. I kept running 9.10 for three months beyond the upgrade date. This was to ensure that when I finally did upgrade, I could also download all the software and security upgrades at once. The fact is that Ubuntu and Canonical are not perfect, and each new release brings a new set of problems - security holes, bugs that need to be fixed, and so on. Despite all the work they do in ensuring that the official release is workable, only once it is out being used by millions of people will the real issues begin to emerge. Since I had a few problems with my previous upgrade (from 9.04 to 9.10), I decided to delay the upgrade for three months. A few weeks ago I finally upgraded to 10.04 (I should call it 10.07 I suppose!).

And what has been the result? It has been a pleasure. I'm finding this the best Ubuntu version yet. The software is usable, there are no bugs annoying me, there are no things that stop me from doing what I used to do in the previous version. Of course it's not perfect and I'm certain that there are some out there who are unhappy, but not me. Moreover I think the choice to delay upgrading for three months has meant that most of the bugs have been ironed out (as soon as I installed Ubuntu, I downloaded a mass of software upgrades and bug fixes). I look forward to upgrading to 10.10 (once January 2011 comes around of course).

Here is a short list of free, open source software that I use on Ubuntu:
In short: consider moving to Ubuntu Linux. It really is a better alternative to Microsoft in my opinion.

1 comment:

DeBaas said...

Glad you are happy with Buntu. As for new Linux users I suggest buy yourself a bunch of CDR's or CDRW's and download and burn the different ISO liveCD/DVD flavors of PCLinuxOS or Ubuntu.
My advise, PCLinuxOS KDE or the Ubuntu spin off, LinuxMint, for the older PC PCLinuxOS LXDE. But whatever Linux distro you choose, you will be happy surprised, testing an playing with all those superb software collections.