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Linux Operating System: Ubuntu Review
Why switch from Windows?
I made the decision to switch operating systems when a few things happened:
1) When I upgraded to Windows 8, it disappointed me so much that I actually wanted Windows 7 back.
2) When a Windows 7 update failed, my computer got stuck in an infinite boot-up loop. It would shut down immediately following start-up, promising it would fix the problem and re-install the update. However, it failed each time, kicking off a loop that could not be broken. When researching online, it was quite unanimous that the only fix was a clean install. (Awesome...)
And 3) I got tired of the entire Windows layout and all its problems - the boot-up screen, the start menu, the sluggishness of the OS, the "not responding" programs, the administrative errors, the task manager and its ability to work 50% of the time ... the whole shebang. It was time for a change.
I did not desire to spend several hundred dollars on another copy of Windows 7 and run the risk of another infinite loop. Because I try to stay on the legal side of things, torrenting was also not an option, leaving only the possibility of an alternate OS. Enter Ubuntu.
Standard Ubuntu Desktop and Wallpaper
Ubuntu is a Linux operating system. Although Linux has distributed others, such as Debian and Fedora, Ubuntu is the most popular. Its website is friendly, easy to navigate, and has simple instructions on how to install the system. It is also 100% free, no charge whatsoever. As soon as I confirmed this "free" OS was legitimate, I decided to give it a try.
I downloaded the ISO file and burned it to a flash drive. When booting from the flash drive, I was pleasantly surprised that Ubuntu allows you to try the OS before installing it. Upon choosing that option, the boot-up screen appeared, the desktop immediately following.
Ubuntu Start Menu
At first glance, I noticed a few differences from Windows, the first being the layout of the taskbar. It is placed vertically along the left side of the screen, serving as a shortcut tray to certain programs. You can move icons up or down, positioning them however you like. Personally, I find this much easier than the standard Windows menu. After two minutes of adapting to it, I was very much attached.
The second difference I noticed was the start menu, represented by the icon at the top of the taskbar. When clicked, it brings up a transparent screen where you can search the computer/internet for any applications and files. It's quite different than the Windows search feature, but much more simplified and efficient.
Having liked the desktop and explored a few programs, I made the final decision. Using Parted Magic, I wiped my hard drive and did a clean install of Ubuntu. Visit my article to learn how to do a clean install. (Note: Ubuntu also has a disk-wiping feature before initializing the install.)
***Here, I'd like to point out a very useful Ubuntu feature; you have the option of installing Ubuntu ALONGSIDE another operating system. It allows you to create another partition on the disk and install Ubuntu as a second OS. When you boot up the computer, you'll have the option of choosing either OS to use for that session. However, since my Windows system was already nonfunctional, I decided to replace it.***
The Positive Ubuntu Features
Here is a list of the greatest advantages that accompany the Ubuntu OS.
1) The Ubuntu Software Center: This is a program that connects to the internet and allows you to search for any programs compatible with Ubuntu. You simply search, click "install" and wait. No more Windows security popups.
2) LibreOffice: The Ubuntu equivalent of Microsoft Office, it offers most of Microsoft's features, including the ability to save your files in any compatible format. LibreOffice features Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (PowerPoint) and Draw (paint program). They are only the basic essentials; however, unlike Microsoft's overblown programs, they are entirely free and much easier to use. (Note: Writer does not include Microsoft true-type fonts; however, they can be installed via Software Center.)
3) Antivirus OS: In my opinion, this is the best Ubuntu advantage. Ubuntu needs no antivirus software because the operating system itself is an entire antivirus barricade; viruses do not affect the system because its files cannot be used by virtually 100% of all known viruses. I say "virtually" because there are two known Ubuntu viruses (Bliss and Staog), but the odds of infection are extremely slim. No more constant worrying about getting infected, and no more wasting money on antivirus programs.
4) Fast Activity: In my experience, it does not matter if Ubuntu is installed on a 750 GB or 120 GB hard drive, low or high disk-writing speeds; regardless, it is fast. Everything is done at lightning speed.
5) Easy Settings: All computer settings can be found in one place, a gear/wrench icon in the taskbar.
6) Terminal: Instead of command prompt, Ubuntu has a terminal. Like prompt, terminal allows you to run programs with command lines. However, it differs because you can also install programs through command lines, an alternative to Software Center.
7) Encryption Software: When installing, you have the option of enabling encryption software so that your files are more secure. While probably a cinch for the FBI, the software will nonetheless guard against the everyday hacker, making you feel safer. A word of caution: DO NOT forget your encryption password! You will be unable to access your system! You will have to reinstall Ubuntu from scratch, or find a highly-trained expert to crack the software - assuming it can be done - which is not cheap.
8) Workspace Shifter: Ubuntu comes with this handy application that allows you to switch back and forth between four separate screens. You can be working on something important on one screen, while running different programs on the other three screens.
9) BleachBit: You must install this program through Software Center. It is a useful system cleaner, the Ubuntu version of CCleaner. There are two parts, BleachBit and BleachBit (as root). "As root" allows you to clean system files, while the regular program allows you to delete temp files, history, cache, etc.
10) Second OS: I explained this before, but I feel it deserves another mention. Ubuntu allows itself to be installed as a second operating system, alongside another. You will have the option of choosing which OS you want to use when you boot up the computer. (Note: The only OS that is not compatible with this option is Windows 8, though I am unsure of Mac.)
11) Reusable: Although the antivirus aspect of Ubuntu is the best advantage, the reusability is my favorite. For as long as you own the flashdrive or CD on which you burned Ubuntu, you may install the system infinitely on as many computers as you like.
The Negative Ubuntu Features
Regardless of the perks, there are several disadvantages to the Ubuntu system.
1) Windows Compatibility: The number one downside to using Ubuntu is that you cannot use any Windows programs (e.g. iTunes, CCleaner, Microsoft Office, video editors, photo editors, etc.), unless they are also specifically created for Ubuntu. This is where its ability to be used as a second OS comes in handy; if you have Ubuntu and Windows 7 both installed on your computer, you are golden.
2) Wine and PlayOnLinux: These programs allow you to install and run Windows programs on Ubuntu. Although they seem like miracles to the Ubuntu user, their usability is actually very minimal; in my experience, they work with very few programs.
3) Terminal: Yes, this is a disadvantage, as well. It seems that if anything ever goes wrong with the system, then terminal is the answer. You must develop a basic knowledge of terminal's functionality and code. If you don't want to learn a new way of fixing system problems, Ubuntu is not for you.
4) Encryption Software: This can be quite the downside if you forget your password, but there is another disadvantage to the encryption feature. Once, Ubuntu failed to complete an update. When I restarted the computer, I found that I could not access my system because the encryption password screen would not appear. I had to reinstall the OS; luckily, I did not have any important files in my home folder.
5) No Task Manager: If a program does not respond (which rarely happens), there is no shortcut to open task manager and kill the process. This must be done via terminal. There is an equivalent to task manager called System Monitor, though I have never had to use it.
The Final Verdict
Thanks for joining me for this Ubuntu review! Ubuntu 12.10 is a great operating system. I have been using it for a year and would recommend it to anybody who is willing to try something new. It is not without its disadvantages; however, if you are willing to learn and adapt, you will be pleasantly surprised.
***Update: Ubuntu 13.10 is now available to the public. 14.04 will be available shortly.