Note from me: Bob Smiley left a fantastic comment on my blog a few days back. The comment was so rich, detailed and lengthy that it justifies a blog post all on its own. So, Bob Smiley summarises the advantages of Ubuntu Linux on SEOgadget.co.uk. Thanks Bob!
The advantages of Linux (Ubuntu in particular) are:
a) It’s free of charge (seriously, you can download and install it for free!)
b) You’re free to do with it as you please (no proprietary / closed source apps, unless you install them yourself.)
c) Ubuntu comes with a huge store-house of applications you can download and use via package managers that make installing things a breeze (if they’re pre-packaged)
d) Once it’s up and running the way you like it, it pretty much maintains itself. There’s no defragging, virus-scanning, spyware scanning, or other BS maintenance. The little maintenance needed (EG: periodic disk checking) can be automated to run when you shutdown the system using AutoFsck (a program a guy wrote to do such). Like Windows, Linux still leaves behind some “cruft” every now and then when things uninstall (EG: it leaves behind settings files, in case you want to reinstall). But for the most part, there’s little to no baby-sitting (unlike a Windows system).
e) Linux makes good use of older hardware. I’m running Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex with all the bells and whistles turned on on an old P4 2.4ghz box, and it runs smoothly and efficiently. Meanwhile, to get Win Vista running smoothly (with some of the bells and whistles on) I have to run it on on a dual-core 2.4ghz with 2gb ram. Linux is based on the Unix architecture, which has been around for ages, especially during the early days of computing when they had to optimize the crap out of everything due to slow processors and limited ram (IE: the 8mhz/64k days). Windows is still a pretty young OS by comparison, and was based on a sloppy OS (called Q-DOS, Quick-n-Dirty Disk Operating System) some guy slapped together and Bill Gates got a hold of. It’s had growing pains ever since (but has come a long way). Linux, by its very nature, just does more with less.
The disadvantages are…
a) You can’t just walk into the software store and buy software for Linux (rare cases, like some games now support Linux, but for the most part, no). Not being able to play the most recent comp games on it tends to be a major turn-off for younger folks. However, since consoles have pretty much taken over the gaming arena, this isn’t as big of an issue as it used to be. (Computers are mostly for file server/storage, internet, audio/video, etc these days instead of game playing.)
b) Things break-sometimes. Ubuntu tends to be “cutting edge”, so 2 steps forward 1 step back on each 6 month upgrade. EG: In 8.10 Intrepid Ibex, they made improvements in places over 8.04 Hardy Heron, but now the sound in 8.10 doesn’t work for some folks when it did in 8.04 (They switched to a newer, cutting edge sound server, and the integration has some bugs to work out). This may be good if you like getting your hands dirty (helps you learn the commandline some, and trouble-shoot a Linux system). But, even if you don’t like it, you can stick with an older version (EG: Hardy Heron 8.04 was pretty solid), and just stay a version or two behind the ones coming out. Or, stick with their Long-term releases, which are more stable and supported for 3 years.
c) Even when you install some things through their package managers (which have tons of different software), it can be a pain getting some of that installed software to work. It may not install a “start menu” item or icon, so you’re left hunting around for the application in the file browser, trying to figure out how to get it to run. They need to seriously flag whether software installs in “user-friendly” way or “techie” way, since some installs only a command-line utility which you then have to install a separate GUI front-end to use (if you don’t want to do command-line).
d) You usually HAVE to run it on older hardware (like a year or so old at least) since hardware support can be hit or miss, especially with cutting-edge hardware. The hardware manufacturers are still pretty anti-Linux, and usually don’t make Linux drivers for their hardware. So, the Linux crowd has to reverse enginneer or ad-hoc build some themselves. As such, some folks complain of their new, spiffy wireless card not working or such, and blame it on Linux “sucking”.
Overall, Linux is a good, solid OS. It is “ready for the desktop”, which is some bogus term people toss around. You install it as-is, like Ubuntu, you can pretty much be guaranteed it’ll work using the GUI and do what you need (since it comes pre-installed with most apps people will need, audio/video player, Open Office for docs/spreadsheets, email programs, firefox for internet, etc). The GUI pretty much operates like a Mac or Win GUI, too (since they’re all pretty standardised these days). It’s when you start screwing with it or adding cutting-edge hardware that you can have problems. Using it on a secondary computer to surf the net is a great way to get into it, since it’s very good at dodging spyware & viruses.
If you want to try Ubuntu – go to my how to install Ubuntu guide and give it a whirl. Great comments, Bill!