My Experience After 3 Years On Ubuntu: Pros And Cons Of Linux
3 years and some odd months ago, I made my first plunge into Linux when I install Gutsy Gibbon. This was also known as Ubuntu 7.10. After reading up on this bold new distro, I decided to end my relationship with Windows and start anew with Linux(Ubuntu). As with any relation, there's bound to be road bumps. My experience with Ubuntu hasn't been perfect. In fact, I've had my fair share of problems. From xorg crashing to reinstalling grub. When I started using Linux, I reminded myself to stay objective. I left Windows because I had problems with it but expecting things to be perfect on Ubuntu is foolish and will lead to disappointment. Lets talk about the pros and cons of Linux.
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I am a user and not a fan boy. Also, this is my own opinion from my personal experience. Lets begin.
Positives Over Negatives
Since the positive got me in the door, we'll start with that. The first thing I love about Ubuntu to this day is its amazing message. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, says that Ubuntu mean 'humanity to others.' I think this is the core power of Ubuntu. Its name is also its spirit and mission. This is probably one of the main reasons why it's become so popular. Not only does it makes you feel good but it also gives you a sense of community. This philosophy will become a recurring message throughout this article.
1. Look And Feel
The next thing I loved about Ubuntu is its theme. This was a polarizing subject. Some people loved the orange and brown look, while others hated it. Personally, I loved it! It had an “organic” feel that I hadn't seen before. Plus, I loved the Gutsy “Elephant” wallpaper. The themes have shifted throughout the years and while I still like them, Gutsy still has a special place in my heart.
2. Anti Anti-Virus
Virus, trojans, and malware. After installing Ubuntu, I noticed things ran much quicker than Windows. I highly suspect it was due to malware/virus/ trojans, anti-virus software running in the background, or both. Not needing an anti-virus was a strange but liberating experience. I was so used to having an anti-virus that it was ingrained in me. Today, I've been so spoiled that I don't even think about it anymore.
3. Free Software
Free software. When I installed Ubuntu, I was surprise with the number of free quality software available. If I wanted free software on Windows, I either had to settle for a shareware or end up getting it from shady sources. I'll leave it at that.
4. More Control
I am a control freak. When I install or uninstall a program on Ubuntu, I know what's going on my system. When I install something on Windows, lots of extra “toolbars” and crap gets installed as well. I hate that! What's worse, when I try to remove it, I'm always paranoid. I always think, “Did I get it all?” When I convince myself that the program is gone, I end up finding it as a DLL file, taunting me or something. This paranoia periodically leads me to randomly open task manager and see if any fishy new programs are running in the background. Luckily, this paranoia is gone with Ubuntu.
5. User Interface
The UI on Ubuntu is much cleaner than Windows. Not just initially, but throughout the distro's lifespan. Sure things can get messy but not as messy as windows. All GUI based apps are neatly organized in the top left corner whereas in Windows, they are mostly dumped in Programs. Lots can be said and compared like Aero vs Compiz but for now, I'll just say from my experience, Ubuntu is cleaner than Windows.
6. Boot Up
When Ubuntu transitioned into ext4 file system, things, went from fast to blazing fast. Boot ups would only take about a minute. Also, when the desktop loaded, I was good to go. On Windows, I always had to wait a minute or two extra in order to get control of my desktop. The only time boot ups were slow was when my HDD was near full. And this was a hardware issue, not a Linux issue.
Scalability is great on Linux. It can run on new and old computers. It can even run on smart phones(Android). I've installed the full 32-bit Ubuntu on my Eee PC netbook and it runs much better than the Windows 7 Starter that came with the netbook. In Windows, I had to think about RAM and CPU specs. I never worry if my computer is good enough on Ubuntu. Ubuntu just feels faster and lighter than Windows.
There's lots to like about Ubuntu but there's also lots of things I didn't like. Some things are not Ubuntu's problem per se. I'll explain as we go along. Let's go through them now.
One of the things I don't like about Linux is fragmentation. I've come to accept it but I still don't like it. There's lots of versions of Linux and it makes things a little more difficult and confusing. Desktop environments vary from Gnome, KDE, to Xfce and LXDE. There's no one way of installing things. You have the terminal, Synaptic, and the Software Center. The different versions makes things scalable but it can make it difficult to get support.
2. New Hardware Adoption
Another thing I don't like about Linux is the slow adoption to some new hardware. To be fair this isn't technically a Linux issue. It's more of a manufacturer's failure to write or release drivers. For example, my brother purchased a new laptop with Intel new switchable graphics and as of Ubuntu 10.10, it is not supported. There were also some times when I was in the electronics store and didn't make a purchase because I worried if the hardware would work or not.
3. Third Party Support
Third party software is almost non-existent on Linux. Ubuntu is trying to change that by adding software for purchase in the Ubuntu Software Center but the library is very small. I would love to see Adobe bring Photoshop and Lightroom natively to Linux. One of the misconceptions with Linux users is that they are cheap pirates who won't pay for software and that is simply not true. I would gladly pay for quality software.
Speaking of Adobe, This brings me to my next point. Flash performance sucks on Linux. Yeah, I know this isn't a Linux issue but I feel like I have to mention it. Flash is a big part of the web. I visit YouTube every day and I always have problems with Flash. Before, I used to be a big 64-bit user but getting Flash to work was a pain. It literally was flooding the Ubuntu Forums every day. Ubuntu responded by offering the most stable version for your Ubuntu box(32 and 64 bit) on the software center. The frequency at which npviewer.bin crashes brought back bad memories of using Windows. Npviewer.bin is Firefox's Flash process. Flash has been relatively stable so far but performance still needs tuning. Every time I play flash videos at 720p in full screen for a minute, my laptop fan starts to cry. I have an i5 GMA which is nothing to brag about but Flash on a core 2 duo running on Windows is silky smooth. That should not happen.
5. Sound Issues
Moving on. The next thing I hate about Ubuntu is sound. I've witness the transition as Ubuntu and Linux try to standardize the sound server from ALSA to Pulseaudio and it has been a mess. When I was using Skype, it would always have trouble enabling sound. Things seem to be fixed in 10.10 but the experience was frustrating. If sound works out of the box, I don't touch any settings.
6. Bug Regression
regression is another annoying problem I've had with Ubuntu. It is
irritating when you install a new version of Ubuntu and find that
some of the things that work find no longer work. I've had this
happen with sound and video. This mainly happen with Ubuntu Hardy
Heron which I think was the worst release. Things that worked in previous releases should work in newer versions.
I am on the fence with support. Sometimes, you can Google a question followed by “Ubuntu” and get an answer in minutes. Other times, you will find dead threads without a single reply. Overall I do like the community. There are very few trolls. Almost everyone on the Ubuntu Forums are either looking to help or looking for help. I've yet to see someone pull a RTFM reply which means Read The F*cking Manual and I'd imagine that person's post would be moderated fast. The forums can either be as zen-like as the Ubuntu message or empty with unanswered questions. The latter is becoming more rare as Ubuntu gets more popular.
It may seem like there's lots of cons but I do like Ubuntu and I'm glad I made the switch. Lots of people only talk about the pros of Linux and I think that's dishonest. Some of the cons are not technically Linux/Ubuntu problems but I do think it's fair to mention if you are used to Windows. Gaming and Flash being some good examples. Having said that, I do think Linux will take a bigger share of the desktop and laptop market. Some Linux users don't like Ubuntu but I have to give them credit for bringing the Linux desktop to the mainstream market. Here's to another 3 years!
PS. I will be changing this hub. Adding and updating things as I experience new things. Or if my opinions change.