Jun 122008

My laptop runs Windows XP and its not likely that I’ll be going upto Windows Vista any time soon. Nor is it likely that I’ll be getting a Mac (the cheaper/older ones won’t be able to dual boot to windows if/when I need it, and the new Intel ones are…expensive). So, what’s left? Linux.

I dabbled in Red Hat Linux a few years ago but found it to be terribly lacking in a few areas: It was hard to install anything, the GUIs tended to be slow even on a fast computer and sorta bloaty and it just wasn’t slick at all. The last criteria may seem strange, but it wasn’t nearly as smooth as Windows XP and XP isn’t except super-slick.

Today, I burned myself a LiveCD of Ubuntu Linux which allowed me to pop it in my CD drive, reboot the computer and play with linux without having to install it or touch my harddrive.  First impression? Super slick! I’ve been using Mac OS X lately and I can tell you that that is SUPER slick and Ubuntu was almost as slick as Mac OS X. And PRETTY. I never thought I’d say that Linux was pretty, but by god Ubuntu is pretty.

They also fixed up that annoying application problem by adding an Add/Remove Programs app similar to the Windows one, except you can search for, download and install whatever app you want from within the program itself. You can uninstall things the same way. Super easy. Two down, one to go.

I found the LiveCD to be amazingly responsive even on what’s now an old computer. I do believe it’ll be much faster if I actually installed it. Programs were fairly quick to load, too, especially Firefox.

As an added bonus, most linux flavours have a multiple workspaces feature, which is essentially like having two or more monitors and you can group different programs on different monitors and select between them using some buttons on the bottom. This is one of the features I really missed going back to Windows after Linux the last time around.

The other thing I really liked about Linux was how customizable it is. I’m a tweaker by nature, and I love the way everything is customizable and the source code for most things is available. Previously I’ve tweaked/hacked satellite boxes, bikes and a few other things. These days I’m messing around with my cellphone and Palm. Some interesting hacks on these things, so its just in my nature. And I know I’m going to love playing around and exploring Linux.

Verdict: Linux has come a long way since I tried some of the earlier versions and I’m certainly impressed. While I’m not completely sold yet, there’s a very good chance I’ll be installing Ubuntu on my laptop and trying it out for a while dual-booted with my Windows XP. You can’t beat the price: Free. I highly recommend you download a copy of the LiveCD ISO and burn it to a CD or order a copy of Ubuntu Linux, pop it in your drive and testdrive it without any commitment at all. You, like me, may well be pleasantly surprised.

Interested? Still have doubts? Check out this list of linux myths. DownloadSquad is having an excellent and easy to read series on switching to linux.

BTW, you can try out linux on PCs and Macs.

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