I’m in the middle of migrating most of my home PC’s and laptops over to Ubuntu. Which is why reading a blog post by David Drake’s entitled “25 Years to Mac – How Ubuntu Pushed Me Away from the PC” got me raising my hand to respond.
The first thing I have to admit is that David certainly has some valid points, however I think he is an edge case thus perhaps not a fair representation of the experiences of most users.
David mainly focused on Ubuntu, to be clear I’m very fond of Ubuntu so naturally this post is indeed biased.
I do not wish go over each issue that David raised, I think the problems he raised are problems for his specific case. I can only conclude that David has been sadly unlucky with his combination of hardware.
Beside the issues related to hardware the other major gripe that David had was regarding Unity and desktop customization. On this point this is an area which I personally feel it is more a case of personal taste. Unity is not for everyone, however there are many who do like it (myself included).
As for customization, sure Unity is more locked down however it would be untrue to say that it can not be “customized”. There are huge lists of themes and icons to play with should you wish to install them. If you want to move the Unity bar, that is changing its core character in my view. If you want a taskbar at the bottom then you may be better suited to another Linux distribution.
My Ubuntu Experience:
Why have I felt the urge to fire a blog post back in response to David?
Well for one I feel that while David’s experience is a genuine one. Ultimately it is his personal choice. For someone who is an outsider weighing different options. Reading a negative experience may form an initial bad impression that is unbalanced. For this reason I wanted to redress that balance.
I’ve been a windows user for as long as I can remember, although I was well aware of Linux and Mac operating systems. I did not have any real need to try anything else as windows did everything I needed to.
Being a DCC (Digital Content Creator) user, I cover a diverse set of use cases. This ranges from 3D modeling, animation, rendering. Video/sound editing, video composting, desktop application programming, web application programming, mobile application development, and finally 2d image creation and 2D CAD/CAE. So in essence gaming and scientific number crunching aside I’m a humble computer user.
A few years ago out of pure curiosity I decided to try Linux, I had heard so much about it at University and thought why not?
I did the usual distro hopping for a while, nothing really quite felt “right”. Then there was always some problems and issues to fight with. Then I come across Ubuntu, and a lot of those same issues went away. It was an interesting experience but I stayed with windows, I thought Ubuntu was “nice” but still not fully ready for prime time.
Over the next few years I kept an eye out for Ubuntu, and would give the new versions a quick go (usually inside a VM). I didn’t feel I could fully commit.
Over the same period, my interest for free tools increased. I think it was Blender that really got me hooked. Having been a 3d Max user, I had known about Blender but the earlier versions didn’t appeal. The recent versions however was a massive transformation!
The more tools I migrated over the more I realized that my dependence on windows was reduced (as usually these tools are generally cross platform).
The more exposure that I got would Ubuntu (and Linux in general) the more I liked it. Finally I decided that for most of my development, I could migrate over to Ubuntu for prime time. Of course some legacy work has to still be done in windows (eg Visual Studio). To handle windows related work, I just use a VM. This gives me the best of both worlds.
In terms of hardware, perhaps I’ve been lucky. While there was certainly issues in earlier versions of Ubuntu. However I’ve noticed a marked improvement. While migrating my existing machines (desktops and laptops) I have not yet had any hardware issues.
When printing to my wireless printer, on Ubuntu this worked effortlessly, I hate to use the Apple phrase but “it just worked” ™. The same machine on windows required around 20 or so minutes just to “install” a network printer. Installing applications are one liners in the command line. Using Dash and Hud I can move very fast with a few keystrokes. Shutting down, and starting up and updating are all fast. Everything feels snappy and light weight. Going back to windows makes me feel I’m going backwards now.
It use to be that Ubuntu was running as a virtual machine, nowadays its windows that is run as a virtual machine. How the tables have turned, I no longer need windows for my day to day work. Are there issues? certainly I don’t always have the all the tools I would like. Some of the free tools are not quite feature complete. Some are still down right ugly. But I have hope, things are changing. My frustration nowadays are the tools and not the operating system.
Ultimately if you are reading this and sitting on the fence, both my experience and David’s are simply that personal experiences. Is windows better than Ubuntu? is Ubuntu better than Mac? I don’t know, why don’t you experience it for yourself?