A Newbie's Reports on Ubuntu Show How Far It Has Come
Whether you're new to Linux or an old salt, it's worth following Tony Bradley's series of columns, currently being posted on PC World's site, where he describes his effort as a Windows user to go through a self-imposed 30 days of immersion in Ubuntu. You can find Part 1 of his series here, and Part 2 is here. Bradley's reports on installing and learning to live with Ubuntu shed much light on how users familiar with Windows and other proprietary operating systems approach Linux. The reports are also good fodder for discussions on Ubuntu's usability, or lack thereof.
Bradley makes reference to Ubuntu's "scorched Earth, leave no prisoners" installation process, which jettisons Windows from the hard disk and dedicates the whole thing to Ubuntu. However, he quickly revises that assessment and moves on to discussing Wubi and tools that allow users to have Ubuntu and Windows together on one system.
It's easy to install Ubuntu in a disk partition, and run it and Windows concurrently on the same computer. I have done so on more than one machine.
On one older system, I have Ubuntu running in one partition, and Windows XP running in another. The computer is an older IBM Thinkpad X40 laptop, and I can report that Windows XP on that system has given me endless Wi-Fi headaches, constantly dropping the connection. Ubuntu on the same system never drops the Wi-Fi and automatically sniffs it out every time I boot up. This is a far cry from the Linux experience of a few years ago, when issues with Wi-Fi compatibility, and drivers in general, were common.
With these thoughts on Wi-Fi in mind, consider this from Bradley:
"When the system rebooted, it went into the Ubuntu desktop environment to complete the installation. I have to admit--I am impressed. The Ubuntu desktop interface is pretty clean and simple, with a very familiar look and feel for a Windows user like me. Ubuntu had already installed and configured my wireless adapter, and instantly detected the available wireless networks for me to connect to. A wireless network password later, I was connected to the Internet and ready to rock."
Seamless Wi-Fi connectivity may seem like a small thing, but troubles connecting to Wi-Fi and other compatibility problems were in fact a plague to desktop Linux distros for years. As those problems fade, it's good news for users.
Bradley sums up his second day of Ubuntu immersion with this:
"The Windows security blanket is still right there only a reboot away, and if you don't like Ubuntu you can simply uninstall it from the Windows Control Panel like any other application."
Indeed, if you have Ubuntu on a Windows system, you remove it with Control Panel and without headaches. There is no risk involving wiping the whole system.
Slowly but surely, Linux will gain more desktop users as people familiar with proprietary operating systems realize that they can quickly and easily be running what they know and what they're new to at the same time. As far as I'm concerned, one operating system is not enough anymore.