I recently installed Ubuntu on my home laptop (and subsequently on my work laptop also, but thats a different story). The primary motivation for this was to get Vista off my home laptop (a Dell Vostro 1700). So why ditch Vista?
Well for starters, I never wanted it in the first place. When I went to buy a laptop last December, the best deal by far was for the Vostro, but, there was no option to get it with XP, it had to come with Vista (damn you Dell!) Secondly, Vista really is as crap as everyone says, here’s a summary of the problems I had with it:
- blue screens: I thought blue screens were a thing of the past, but no, happened about once a month or so, for no apparent reason.
- explorer really unstable: this happened quite a bit, explorer just bombs out and restarts itself, quite annoying as you loose all your open explorers, etc..
- no improvements: ok fair enough I thought, the first version is bound to have some teething problems, I’m sure a lot of things will be fixed in SP1. Nope, SP1 came and not a single noticeable difference. I also have zero confidence that it will ever improve. I also have zero confience that Micrsoft will ever do anything innovative on the desktop either after my Vista experience, XP will be around forever.
- slow, slow, slow: I bought a pretty kick ass machine (dual 2.4GHz processors, 4G memory) and I was quite disappointed with its performance under Vista, it just felt sluggish.
Now that I’m up and running and fully migrated all my apps/work over to Ubuntu, how has it worked out? Quite frankly, it couldn’t of worked out better! I did have some installation issues, which I’ll blog about again, nothing major just a few things that cost me some time that really shouldn’t of. I also should point out that I have used Linux on the desktop in the past and had to take an 7 year break as such (as the last company I worked for developed software explicitly for windows) so I’m not a complete linux novice (although close enough at times!)
The most notable difference is a general increase in productivity, which is what I had hoped would happen. The Vostro performs so much better under Ubuntu, its sharp, its snappy. It’s also incredibly stable, and I’m finally feeling happy about the machine and seeing some bang for my buck in buying a slightly higher spec machine.
I should point out what tools I use to do my work and their equivalents on Ubuntu (as there isn’t that much difference between the two operating systems from a tools perspective):
- Emacs, Eclipse and Firefox: I spend most of my days flicking between these 3, all work identically on Ubuntu as they did on windows. My personal email is Gmail/Google Apps so all browser based.
- lots of command shells: Gnome Terminal replaces both Putty on windows (which is a great tools but sucks when you spend a lot of time in it) and the default windows command prompt, its so superior to both its not funny.. This coupled with the workspace switcher is where my biggest gain in productivity has come from.
- the odd presentation & word/excel documents: Open Office has done the trick here so far here. Just about though, some really screwed up word formatted docs just don’t appear right. This hasn’t be a real issue so far, but its for this reason that I still have a windows partition to boot to on the off chance that Open Office can’t handle some critical word document at some point in the future.
- on a slightly negative note, the one tool I’ve yet to adequately replace on Ubuntu is the Tortoise windows shell for Subversion. I’ve tried kdesvn and rapidsvn but both fall well short of the simplicity of Tortoise (who knew Tortoise was a killer app, eah?). I find myself using subversion from the command line on Ubuntu more and more (which feels like a step backwards). I use subversion a lot (both at work and for personal projects, and I also use it as a backup of sorts for stuff I don’t want to loose) so I need to spend a bit of time figuring out what works best for me now on Ubuntu.
So now that I’ve moved, and never going back, how do I get my ‘Vista tax’ back from Dell? (and Dell if your listening, note that I’ll never buy a machine from you again thats preconfigured with any flavour of Windows!)
(Creative commons, courtesy of Hannes Pasqualini)