My netbook was running out of space and I decided to try Ubuntu out. I’d been dipping in and out of Ubuntu’s beta version on a USB drive so I gave that a try. I installed it on all my machines to give it a good run. Installation is a breeze and extremely quick compared to a Windows installation. When the installation was over all the hardware just worked – no drivers needed. A full installation took a little over 2Gb and the machines were extremely responsive. One or two applications lacked a little polish – movie editing software didn’t seem very intuitive. I use several specialist pieces of Windows software – I was impressed that I even managed to get Writing with Symbols 2000 working under wine. Unfortunately I couldn’t get all my software to run under Wine, and I had a few problems with Openoffice which cost me time sorting them out.
A new 16Gb SSD had arrived in the post so I decided to V-lite Windows 7 (trim some of the fat before installation). The installation from CD took significantly longer than Ubuntu! I also had a little accident while I was adjusting the partitions on my main laptop – I managed to trash the partitions including the recovery partition. Having backups of most of my data on USB HDD and online backups of recent made me decide to totally wipe the laptop and give Windows 7 a go on that machine too. Installation went smoothly although it took a little rooting around online to find out how to kick-start Aero for my transparent windows. I liked the built in collection of Themes from Microsoft – although this isn’t really a reason for choosing an operating system! (The customised login screen is nice but you can do that in Ubuntu too!)
I’m not sure which I prefer – Ubuntu has a lot going for it and it’s only the need for some of my specialized software which brought me back to Windows.
I decided to summarise my thoughts in a table.
|boot up||Fastest||Still fast|
|Installation size||2.5Gb max plus swap partition||8Gb with no swap/hibernate|
|Wireless||Worked out of box||Worked out of box|
|Internal 3G support||Works out of box||Needs Dell’s Vista drivers and connection manager software|
|Proxy||Built in proxy swapper||Needs extra software running (in XP compatibility mode)|
|Speed||Fast and responsive||Fast and responsive|
|Video editing||Not very intuitive||Needs downloadable add-on from Microsoft site|
|Use of SSH for SSH tunnel||Gnome SSH tunnel manager in repository||Use Putty|
|Samba/Peer to peer Networking||Shares files and printers without issue||Shares files and printers without issue. Windows Homegroup simplifies sharing files between PCs.|
|Interface||Easy to navigate. Works well on any size screen||Task bar takes getting used to. Lots of window changes and mouse moves over buttons|
Anti-virus not needed
|Time will tell. Most secure version of Windows yet (?)
Anti-virus software still needed (free for home users)
|Office software||Open office fine for basic tasks but becomes frustrating for more complex tasks||Office is a market leader and powerful once you master the ribbon. It isn’t free but is cheap if you are a teacher!
Open office is available for the PC too
|Personal finance software||Couldn’t get the better packages to sync with my bank.||MS Money syncs with my bank and has the biggest feature set.|
|Blogging||Software a poor second to Microsoft Live Writer||The best off-line blog writing software I’ve used.|
|File sync software||Jungledisk
|As for Ubuntu plus MS Live Mesh – which works much better than Dropbox|
|Other software||I managed to get one piece working under wine. Several did not – would need a virtual machine to run (problems printing etc)||All my windows software worked fine.|
|Versions||Several – Desktop, server and netbook remix (other minor versions too)||Too many to list – MS is hoping to shaft netbook owners by making them pay to run more than 3 apps (is this the 1990’s again?)|
|Price||Free||TBA (but likely to be costly)|
|Updates||Most software updates automatically – easy to add repositories to make more auto-update||Microsoft software updates automatically. Other software varies|
|iPod support||Basic – needs some tweaking to get podcasts to update and show in correct section||Love it or hate it, iTunes works straight out of the box|
|Community||Small but lots of experts
Many “fan boys” or die-hard fans
Sense of pride using Ubuntu s/w
|Divided but several large forums
Lots of information about previous versions on net
I’m still not sure which I prefer – time using Windows 7 (I’ve only installed this weekend) will tell. Another factor which may decide for many people is the price. Ubuntu remains free of charge – Microsoft have been cagey about the pricing and version-specific limitations that will affect net books.
Leave a comment if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said.