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Why I chose Ubuntu after trying Windows 7

A couple of years ago I would probably easily dismiss the idea of trying out a new version of Windows on the basis of a Free Software ideology or the chorus of voices of Free Software or Open Source fans saying how it just sucks and I better not bother. But things have changed and while some may accuse me of betraying my own four freedoms or even worse the sin of promoting subjugation of computer users, my "evolution" (or de-evolution, perhaps, in some views), has exactly a lot to do with freedom. For what that's worth to would be detractors, it's freedom that I rediscovered, not that I betrayed.

But that's a much deeper topic so I'll suffice with saying that I found freedom to be a far more fundamental a concept than the legal crumbs you call "four freedoms" (hint: beyond copyright and government).

That's a part of what opened me up to the idea of trying out Windows 7, but partly it was also the recommendations of a friend who actually switched to it on his home computer and kept giving it rather high praise. He too used to be a big Free Software guy and a Linux advocate. Microsoft actually offered a release candidate of its new OS for free testing for almost a year, a fully unlocked ultimate edition so I downloaded it and first tested it in VirtualBox and was quite impressed by the UI changes. It was enough to get me to consider installing it for real on another partition as a dual boot with Ubuntu, which I did after some time of putting it off.

This isn't a full review of Windows 7 so I wont get into all the boring details. I will describe my thoughts and feelings about it instead. I do think that this is a significant improvement over Windows Vista, let alone XP and would agree with those who would say it's Vista done right. I've been told this is solely because computers today are more powerful than they used to be when Vista came out, so nobody is noticing the ongoing high requirements. Even so, however, changes go beyond just reducing the resource requirements. Most notable is the new panel, especially with regards to how open windows are handled. It seems like an amalgam of Mac OS X' dock and the old Windows panel.

Another thing are neat window management improvements such as the ability to quickly tile windows to half a screen by just moving them to the right or left border of the screen or maximize them by moving them to the top. And of course, it's flashy as hell, like Vista. The glow of panel buttons actually follows mouse movements (which looks pretty cool), window border and titlebar blurred transparency is everywhere and window buttons glow like traffic lights when hovered.

Overall, however, much of what I would consider the pros of using Windows 7 are the pros of using any windows, except now it actually feels like using a modern OS that doesn't feel as bloated as Vista so I would say that Windows 7 is merely a "bonus".. Perhaps those who characterize it as a service pack to Vista aren't too far off. In any case, the biggest advantages of using Windows that I personally find are:

  • Production software availability - with windows you pretty much know that you'll be able to find software for what you need such as for instance good video editing applications. And Windows 7 seems to be compatible with programs made for Vista, which has been around long enough.
  • Better 3D support - while there is no Windows 7 driver for my video card (ATI Radeon X800) probably for the same reason why there isn't one for Ubuntu 9.04 (AMD discontinued support), the Vista driver works and offers complete support not matched by free Xorg drivers I'm relegated to on Ubuntu, making sure that all 3D needs are met properly.
  • Gaming - which is a no brainer. Like it or not, unfortunately, most good games will still run best on Windows (and I have a few games from Steam).

As you can see this isn't particularly specific to Windows 7, but Windows in general.

On the other hand, the ongoing advantages of using Ubuntu are:

  • Cleaner, more flexible and customizable UI - despite all the improvements Windows just doesn't compare with something like a GNOME desktop with workspaces and compiz powered expo effect. And you can completely change how the desktop looks and feels. I'm spoiled by this.
  • Easily available software from central repository (synaptic and Add/Remove Programs), offering software that covers majority of all of my needs and never contains ads or requires registration.
  • Peace of mind that comes from knowing that Ubuntu is based on a platform with a good security track record, and which is Free Software, widely disseminated and reviewed, which alleviates some of my paranoia.
  • It keeps improving faster than Windows constantly showing potential for addressing whatever issues I may even have. Trying stuff out is also a good way to simmer thoughts that I can share on Nuxified.
  • Familiarity. I am at home with console, GNOME, KDE, apt-get, synaptic etc. I get things running faster.

I think it is becoming rather obvious why Ubuntu rears itself as a better choice here. Availability of production software is an issue that I face only a small minority of time. I mainly do web development or writing which I can easily do with tools readily available. Fun stuff like watching movies, listening to music, watching videos online, chatting etc. is all well supported. So the things that are missing are things which I need too sparsely to warrant switching to a new OS, let alone paying for it.

The same goes for gaming and 3D support, which are most related to each other. While I can't quite game on Linux (especially now with only free Xorg drivers), a dual boot is an acceptable option given that I game so rarely, and there are technologies on the horizon which may completely remove that need as well, such as Onlive which will allow anyone with a web browser and broadband to game easily and without compromise regardless of which OS they're on.

I think many others may find themselves in similar situations. It's always about a few productivity applications, 3D support and gaming, isn't it? However, WINE supports more and more of the windows applications better and better and there is virtualization for the rest and dual booting as a last resort. Onlive will pretty much bring modern gaming to all platforms. And 3D support keeps improving. I happen to own an old card for which there isn't a native driver for Windows 7 either, but the free driver is improving and proprietary drivers work for all newer cards better than they used to.

All in all, a good case is being built for popular, well supported Linux based OS's like Ubuntu.

Comments

What I was referring to was from experience which was that it's always generally been easier to install a game on Windows than on Linux if the game wasn't already in repositories or packaged as a deb package that works on my 64bit system. If it isn't then it's a matter of luck. If they package a .run for 64bit and it works, great, but that's never assured unlike usually in Windows. Also, what you say assumes that there is a good quality video card driver. If there isn't, as is mostly the case with current free drivers and especially in latest Xorg then again, games might run worse than they should or not at all.

In addition to above I also mean games in WINE which clearly open a whole new can of works. Some will work beautifully, but a lot of good games will probably have issues or difficulties just getting to run.

I should probably have worded what you quoted me say a little better, but the bottom line is that gaming-wise the situation still remains better on Windows, and yes that's unfortunate. I still use Linux though and in terms of 3D graphics and gaming it's much better with the new nvidia card mentioned.

Thanks for the comment

Re: Why I chose Ubuntu after trying Windows 7

 

"if the game wasn't already in repositories or packaged as a deb package that works on my 64bit system. If it isn't then it's a matter of luck."

Compiling's not that hard, sudo ./configure --prefix=/usr, sudo make, sudo make install. And if it's not 64bit, ia32-libs.

"never assured unlike usually in Windows"

Wait, so... "never assured" = "not always", unlike "usually in Windows" = "some times in Windows"?

"a good quality video card driver. If there isn't, as is mostly the case with current free drivers and especially in latest Xorg then again, games might run worse than they should or not at all. ... in terms of 3D graphics and gaming it's much better with the new nvidia card mentioned."

You know, all new ATI cards' source is free, well some of it. I don't know the license, but I think they are accelerated, unlike the unofficial free nVidia drivers. The proprietary driver is also updated very frequently, and supports all of their newest cards, there are drivers for the older cards still available. Plus nVidia cards suck :b

Here are the free drivers:
http://dri.freedesktop.org/wiki/
http://utah-glx.sourceforge.net/

When you have an ATI card, and you install Ubuntu on the machine, it automatically has Compiz enabled, because the driver is supported it from the start, from there it can run all the games out there for GNU/Linux. This is not true for nVidia.

True compiling isn't that hard, but only when it actually works. If a dependency is missing however it's pretty much back to dependency hell that package managers were invented to resolve, albeit in fairness most dependencies can usually be installed by a package manager if they're known. Sometimes however it just wont compile. I've had issues which seem like nothing but some errors in code which as a non-programmer I can't bother fixing. Not to mention that it takes time to compile.

Compiling simply isn't a good answer to the issue of there being no packages and it wont sell anyone on Linux as far as gaming goes. It's a non-solution.

> Wait, so... "never assured" = "not always", unlike "usually in Windows" = "some times in Windows"?

By "never assured" I mean I'm never confident about it running because I know there's so much to go wrong even if I ignore all the multiple inconsistent methods of installing something, especially for 64bit. On Windows, yes I'm quite assured because just about everything I ever tried worked and the installation method tends to be the same (run the installer and follow it). 32bit binaries work on 64bit Windows because they ship by default everything that's necessary in the system for both 32bit and 64bit while having separate Program Files folders for both. There's never a situation in which something would refuse to install or not work because I'm running a 64bit system and I don't need to install anything to get that (at least this is how it is on Windows 7).

> You know, all new ATI cards' source is free, well some of it. I don't know the license, but I think they are accelerated, unlike the unofficial free nVidia drivers.

I know. I advocated their use. Smiling But they are still not complete and so they don't work for certain things meaning not all games will run properly. Proprietary drivers were working fine lately, but AMD dropped support for my old card just at the time Xorg switched to a version which is incompatible with the latest version of proprietary AMD drivers that worked leaving me in the cold. I decided to buy a new card then and bought nvidia after hearing of problems from AMD users even with proprietary drivers on new cards, and nothing but praise for Nvidia drivers.

> When you have an ATI card, and you install Ubuntu on the machine, it automatically has Compiz enabled, because the driver is supported it from the start, from there it can run all the games out there for GNU/Linux. This is not true for nVidia.

Compiz out of the box is a small convenience. On nvidia all it takes is going to hardware drivers, enabling it and restarting Xorg. I'll take that any time for the benefit of having drivers which smoothly run everything I could throw at them under Linux (really..). And no, AMD doesn't run "all the games out there for GNU/Linux" using just these free drivers because both R300 (slowly reverse engineered and now pretty much useless for everyone using newer Xorg) and RadeonHD are incomplete.

Re: Why I chose Ubuntu after trying Windows 7

 

You win this round, Sherman. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzIgynzhMDo#t=2m03s)

Though, I'd still never use Windows again, despite these few difficulties I might have to avoid. I don't play that many games anyway.

Funny video that is. Smiling

Of course that's understandable. I don't play too often myself either, but I kinda like the possibilities open. But I still use Linux primarily and at this point really don't know where I'll end up in the long term. Linux is kinda the default and easy choice for day to day stuff since it's free and familiar, but anything's possible in the future. I'm in an OS limbo basically, being a little perfectionist about it.. I wish Haiku OS was finished and already popular. Smiling

Re: Why I chose Ubuntu after trying Windows 7

 

Eeeeh, Haiku OS really just looks like an older version of GNU/Linux to me. It doesn't seem very interesting. Plus it's like if Microsoft released Windows 95 under the GPL, and someone forking it. But it could improve.

Cheers,
-Jake

I do know about the utah-glx driver Smiling however in my old computer (with the TNT2 card), everything except Quake2/3 is broken with utah-glx Sad And it was unmaintained for ages.

Anonymous wrote:

Eeeeh, Haiku OS really just looks like an older version of GNU/Linux to me. It doesn't seem very interesting. Plus it's like if Microsoft released Windows 95 under the GPL, and someone forking it. But it could improve.

Cheers,
-Jake

Well the theme is still an old BeOS theme, but that's not what makes HaikuOS potentially great. Unlike Linux Haiku isn't an UNIX like system, but a distinct BeOS like system designed for multimedia and desktop use from the ground up. Like UNIX, Linux was primarily made for workstations and servers. Here is the Haiku FAQ which explains what it's about and also what differs it from Linux.

It's still in development and pre-alpha so the interface redesign wasn't a priority, but there are some cool mock ups here. Check this out for one nice example. Smiling EDIT: Oh and here are a couple of great ones too: this and this.

Still it's likely gonna be a long while before Haiku OS catches up.

Re: Why I chose Ubuntu after trying Windows 7

 
libervisco wrote:
Anonymous wrote:

Eeeeh, Haiku OS really just looks like an older version of GNU/Linux to me. It doesn't seem very interesting. Plus it's like if Microsoft released Windows 95 under the GPL, and someone forking it. But it could improve.

Cheers,
-Jake

Well the theme is still an old BeOS theme, but that's not what makes HaikuOS potentially great. Unlike Linux Haiku isn't an UNIX like system, but a distinct BeOS like system designed for multimedia and desktop use from the ground up. Like UNIX, Linux was primarily made for workstations and servers. Here is the Haiku FAQ which explains what it's about and also what differs it from Linux.

It's still in development and pre-alpha so the interface redesign wasn't a priority, but there are some cool mock ups here. Check this out for one nice example. Smiling EDIT: Oh and here are a couple of great ones too: this and this.

Still it's likely gonna be a long while before Haiku OS catches up.

Yeah! That looks great! I think if they go in that direction I might try it out, if only they'd supply a Live-CD Sad

I don't like the license they have chosen, but it shouldn't be a problem if they remain the most innovative Haiku developers, I wouldn't want to see a really good version of Haiku become developed as proprietary software, which the MIT license permits.

What I am most curious of is security, is Haiku going to have the same security that GNU/Linux and Unix has? That's one of the things that makes GNU/Linux great.

The other thing is because Haiku uses the GNU toolchain, which I would think includes most of the main components of the GNU operating system, would this make it GNU/Haiku. I don't think so, because with GNU/Linux, Linux is the kernel, with Haiku, Haiku is the operating system laid on top of another operating system, or tools of the operating system. Hmmm.

It doesn't really matter as far as I'm concerned and I doubt many will want to call it GNU/Haiku either way. Sticking out tongue I think it uses GNU Project stuff less than "GNU/Linux" and is otherwise a complete self contained operating system. Maybe the biggest difference is if Haiku doesn't actually require GNU to be functional whereas GNU/Linux pretty much does. But I'm not sure.

About security here's an interesting thread on that. Apparently special security measures are currently not a priority, at least till R2, but they already discuss some ideas. It's probably a good idea to not just copy what Linux does and try to innovate beyond it. Linux being a clone of UNIX has a lot of very old legacy concepts in it. Haiku is a chance to do something really new. Smiling

the most noticeable thing is that it does not use glibc. It's also possible to use other libc's with Linux, but in that way it will become a totally different and incompatible system.

still though, I don't actually think there is a strict standard of what should be called with "GNU/*" and now I only use the word "GNU/Linux" to avoid giving credit of this whole big thingy to one "hero" or one finnish programmer or whatever Smiling

Re: Why I chose Ubuntu after trying Windows 7

 
libervisco wrote:

It doesn't really matter as far as I'm concerned and I doubt many will want to call it GNU/Haiku either way. Sticking out tongue I think it uses GNU Project stuff less than "GNU/Linux" and is otherwise a complete self contained operating system. Maybe the biggest difference is if Haiku doesn't actually require GNU to be functional whereas GNU/Linux pretty much does. But I'm not sure.

About security here's an interesting thread on that. Apparently special security measures are currently not a priority, at least till R2, but they already discuss some ideas. It's probably a good idea to not just copy what Linux does and try to innovate beyond it. Linux being a clone of UNIX has a lot of very old legacy concepts in it. Haiku is a chance to do something really new. Smiling

Yeah, it's an operating system by itself, Haiku it is.

The Haiku developers seem really concerned about keeping Haiku as BeOS as possible, so much even to reject any security measures that are not similar to BeOS. Really conservative. I hope at least they look at the security of the system before they get to the looks of the system.

Re: Why I chose Ubuntu after trying Windows 7

 
Whistler wrote:

the most noticeable thing is that it does not use glibc. It's also possible to use other libc's with Linux, but in that way it will become a totally different and incompatible system.

still though, I don't actually think there is a strict standard of what should be called with "GNU/*"

Well, I think it's actually just any variants of the GNU system should use the GNU/* naming terminology, GNU/Linux is a variant, it is not in of itself an operating system. While GNU is a complete system, kernel an all, even if HURD doesn't work very good Smiling

Whistler wrote:

and now I only use the word "GNU/Linux" to avoid giving credit of this whole big thingy to one "hero" or one finnish programmer or whatever Smiling

That's exactly the attitude you should have towards the matter.

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