Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My leap of faith to Open source: Ubuntu 10.4 LTS

About a year ago there was no way I could be convinced to try open-source software. An ex-colleague of my wife used to talk about how he would never pay for proprietary software again after experiencing the value of open-source software. I would rant on about Windows based applications and all the nice things that I could do. I just failed to understand how he could not consider proprietary software at all.

At the time I was so chaffed with my Windows Explorer and all the automatic share buttons in the info bar. It was just so easy to share any article to my blog , or Facebook, or Twitter. I was also not prepared to make that change from Windows Office to Open Office. What could Open Office offer me in terms of MS Projects and MS Visio. I had downloaded the Open Office program and was not at all impressed with the Open Office Writer program. It just looked so dull, I thought.

My mind was about to change. I struggled with relatively slow processing speeds. I defragmented and scan my hard drive regularly but it did not do much the processing speed of my laptop. I knew it was important to install updates and got fed-up with the massive files of Windows updates that Vista had. No wonder the reaction time on my laptop was suffering. Norton Antivirus was another huge file that needed constant attention even with yearly subscriptions. Granted, it is an excellent software package. The final straw came a couple of months ago when I experienced my second system crash in a year. One of them required a new hard drive.

I made a choice. What could be worse than to look into an open-source operating system. After floating some ideas with a couple of friends, well versed in the Open-source environment, three major options came up. OpenSUSE, Ubuntu and Mandriva, with my final decision on Ubuntu Linux.

I backed up all information onto a separate hard drive in case Murphy's Law would catch up to me. Cleared my laptop's hard drive, accept for the Windows files. Downloaded the Ubuntu software online and burnt the ISO image onto a DVD. It was a struggle at first to burn the ISO image onto a DVD but managed easily with ISO downloader(Linux based) which I found online. The windows based CD/DVD burners did not offer the option to download the ISO image.

The installation was pretty easy by restarting with the ISO Image DVD inserted. The installation process was a breeze. Shock took hold of me at first realizing the once nice screen with icons was replaced with a purple screen with a couple of icons. What have I done was the only thought occupying my mind. Remove of Ubuntu immediately was my first thought, but after a bit of exploring I realized that everything I needed was there:

  1. Firefox Browser

  2. Evolution Mail and Calender

  3. OpenOffice Presentation

  4. OpenOffice Spreadsheet

  5. OpenOffice Word Processor

  6. Many other applications

Firefox is an amazing browser and less virus prone. The setting up of mail was very easy. Changed the server option from IMAP to POP and received emails from local provider. I had concerns about printer drivers but Ubuntu picked up my printer immediately. The media player plays all of my music and video files, so no conversion of files required. Skype has a Linux application which works perfectly.

The biggest benefit derived is my laptop processing speed has increase many many fold. It is fast on all levels, for eg. start-up, interaction between different applications, web-page opening etc. Ubuntu Linux offers almost everything, at least of what I use, that Windows Vista offers. It is not as flashy, but it works, and it works fast. Ubuntu runs regular updates to keep the system updated similar to Windows. The big difference is that the updates are not megabytes and megabytes of files that lead to unnecessary virus infections.

I have broadened my perspective on possibilities on both the proprietary and open-source end. This is the beginning of my relationship with the Open-source family. I have been using Ubuntu Linux for 3 weeks and I am happy with the results. I am never going to pay for software again.


  1. Thanks Hylton for sharing your experience. It's very interesting. I will follow suit soon when I acquire a new PC. Do we find new PCs or laptops already preloaded with Linux? I haven't checked but I guess it should be. We have been so brainwashed with Windows and Apple that we never bothered to take real interest in the OpenSourse movement. However, the wind of change is blowing over the IT landscape, isn't it?

  2. The winds of change are certainly blowing. You're absolutely right, we only knew Windows and Apple operating systems. I'm not surprised that not much marketing is done on Linux operating systems since the software is distributed free of charge. I'm sure the awareness on the open-source movement is growing. Dell has a laptop with Linux pre-installed. I'm certain there are others. Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment.