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After Ubuntu, Windows Looks Increasingly Bad, Increasingly Archaic, Increasingly Unfriendly
The Changing Trajectory of Software

My recent switch to a single-boot Ubuntu setup on my Thinkpad T60 simply floors me on a regular basis. Most recently it's had to do with the experience of maintaining the software. Fresh from a very long Windows 2000 experience and a four-month Windows XP experience along with a long-time Linux sys admin role puts me in a great position to assess Ubuntu. Three prior attempts over the years at using Linux as my daily desktop OS had me primed for failure. Well, Ubuntu takes Linux where I've long hoped it would go - easy to use, reliable, dependable, great applications too but more on that later. It has some elegance to it - bet you never heard that about a Linux desktop before.

There are many night-and-day differences between Windows and Ubuntu and, for a guy that does 80% standard office tasks and the rest of the time I'm doing Linux admin tasks, it was nearly all in favor of Ubuntu after the first few weeks of the transition. Overall, my productivity and the scope of things I can do with Ubuntu far exceed what I could do with Windows and just as importantly Ubuntu (like any Linux would) lets me easily create my own productivity shortcuts of a variety of sorts.

One of the things that's become clear as I've gotten used to the appliance-like experience of Ubuntu is that the future of software in an open source-dominated world is going to be significantly different than the world dominated by Microsoft. So what distant point on the horizon has Ubuntu shone a light on for me? Simple. Software will increasingly compete on ease of use in the total software experience more than on features. The future will be more about being simple than about any other dimension.

Here are some recent use cases:

_ I needed to rebuild my T60 with a fresh OS. Which was easier? MS Windows with a factory install disk, separate disks for Office and for Virus protection and then a lot of hunt-and-peck downloading for various apps like Thunderbird, Firefox, SSH, and Calendar or....Ubuntu with one CD and an OS that includes an integrated, extensible, and slick software package manager where all the software is approved and tailored to the installation?

_ I needed to rebuild a T43. I tried to use the rebuild partition included on the HD but it was corrupt. So I tried to make factory-install disks but the corrupt partition prevented it. Next option? Call Lenovo and get disks sent for $51. That process took five days and eight CD-ROMs from start to finish. With Ubuntu, this process takes three hours max, not four days and there's no software keys or other things to track down. The labor involved is less than a fifth with Ubuntu and the delivered product is a lot more productive - for my use models anyway.

_ I needed to resubscribe to Symantec on a Windows machine. Again this is a 30-60 minute timeout from production AND a $49 charge AND a hassle with product keys and sending data about my machine and purchases around to companies that I'd choose not have it if I had a choice. But I didn't since Windows XP needs Symantec's products badly even though these scanning and cleaning products degrade machine performance badly - even with a gig of RAM.

_ And I now hear that Windows Vista renames the partition it's installed on what used to be the C: partition. I need to check out this story but the very idea of automatic partition renaming is insane to even contemplate.

So my machine sings with Ubuntu. Having no virus scanning alone unleashes a responsiveness that makes the power of the T60's Intel dual-core shine. And what am I noticing most about all of this?

Well, first off Ubuntu is good as a productivity platform. Without that, the rest wouldn't matter a bit. But since Ubuntu is not only good on features but reliability then at least some of us would crawl over broken glass to get it installed.

But, in fact, there's no broken glass in the picture. It's the opposite. Ubuntu's installation is so easy, and maintaining it once it's installed is so simple that Ubuntu nearly falls into your machine like a ying to the hardware's yang. Once there, Ubuntu happily makes a home in your head with hardly a blip. I think Ubuntu actually dropped my blood pressure. Not something you typically find when switching ALL your software for something that's about as alien to Windows as it possibly can be.

Once that major hurdle is cleared, then the other big issues come into focus. Ease of install, easy updates, easy software maintenance, easy data backups. After experiencing Ubuntu, the world of Windows looks increasingly bad, increasingly archaic, increasingly like a neighborhood that makes life hard. Why should I put up with what Windows makes me go through if I don't have to?

I've used rsync for backups for years. I back up my mail, my Thunderbird data, and "my document" directory (i.e., /home/xxxx/). One of these backup commands looks like this and sits in a single shell script and runs from cron once a day (I've already sent the ssh key to the backup target server so no need to manually login to the backup server for this command to run):

rsync -avgz /home/xxxx/.mozilla-thunderbird/ root@mycomcastipnumber:/hdb/ibmt60-ubuntu-mozilla-tbird/ >>
/home/xxxx/backup-.txt

That little command executes in a few seconds to a few minutes no matter where I am on the Internet and even if I've added some decently sized files to my computer. I've got my home router set up to pass the ssh port 22 through to a Linux server sitting in my attic. Quick and painless backups run without a hitch. It's a thing of beauty. I use the same solution for my servers so having a single platform from server to desktop has benefits and this is but one of them. I used to sweat about my Windows backups in the old days - if I did them every two weeks, I was happy. Ubuntu dropped my blood pressure on backups alone by 10% and now I have to decide how often is too often to do a backup. Also, I'm up on the MIRRA product but, trust me, you don't want to forget a password there.

Through a similar setup, I can also print to my home printer from any Internet connection. This is not a Windows- or Linux-specific feature but it's nice to have and I use it more than I expected. This is just good fun but it may also drop my blood pressure a point or two.

So far, none of this is news to those in the know about Ubuntu. It's not news but it is a big deal. A very big deal. Ubuntu is getting rave reviews: it's a productive platform, it's a reliable platform, it's a durable platform, it's an upgradeable platform, it's an easy-to-install platform, and adoption is through the roof.

What's changing in all this?

In my view, once you realize the platform is viable from a daily productivity standpoint (exceedingly so), the #1 thing that Ubuntu is then changing is ease of access to software. If I had decided to rebuild my PC with Windows XP - we won't even talk about Vista - this is what I was looking at:

1) Buy OEM Install disks from Lenovo because my rebuild partition was corrupt - $51.

2) Buy a Symantec subscription because I was done with the 90-day free trial - $49.

3) Buy an extra 512MB of RAM because XP couldn't run Firefox, Thunderbird, MS Word, MS Excel, and SSH all at once with 512MB of installed RAM - $104.

4) Install all of the above with product keys along the way - four hours? Maybe six? Maybe more because the tools for getting 2GB-3GB of mail data back into Thunderbird in Windows aren't nearly as good as the same tools in Linux.

That's $204 just to get me back to where I thought I was two months back - i.e., a machine with XP and Office on it. Symantec alone is going to want to pick my pocket again at some point.

Ubuntu releases me from these costs and from these long-term headaches:

1) Viruses - I no longer worry and I no longer need to check my PC - that's a relief. You can pick nits here about security but the bottom line is Ubuntu is orders of magnitude better.

2) Vulnerabilities - Windows is like Swiss cheese with so many vulnerabilities that it's sick - you can't connect XP to a public Internet connection (i.e., behind a router is OK but direct to the net isn't). Ubuntu? It's Linux - no worries.

3) Thanks to #1 and #2, I'm free from products like Symantec and Norton and the dollar expense, the complexity of administering them (those pop-ups are annoying and a productivity hit), and wondering when they expire next.

4) Software updates for the entire collection of software on the machine are simple in Ubuntu.

5) Backups are automatic.

That's batting for the cycle. Am I missing anything? Anything at all? Yes. Printing is easier in Ubuntu for older printers like the HP Laserjet 4 on a D-Link print server in the office and the HP 6L on an SMC print server in the home office. Multifunction printers are more of a challenge. A little care in printer purchases going forward takes this issue off the plate and I'm fine with the printer solution in place that has largely been stumbled upon.

The one bit of software that was Windows-related was a QuickBooks Timer. I haven't needed it because I began editing the output of that program in Excel six months ago because the QuickBooks Timer was too much of a clod interface to be productive. When I switched from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice on Windows XP, I continued not using the QuickBooks Timer. Doing the same manual editing of these QuickBooks Timer output files in OpenOffice Calc on Linux is a breeze. If there were a QuickBooks Timer for Linux, I wouldn't use it so I haven't checked for it.

In sum, what's changing about software? The installation, maintenance, and use of software in Windows have become a burden. A huge burden. And I don't think the average Windows user realizes how much out of their way they are going to keep their Windows PCs working. Windows challenges users and makes for a very expensive user experience in time and dollars if users follow the book and use the latest virus protection, keep that protection updated, and avoid the pitfalls that are squarely on the path that normal users use. In the best case, you end up with a machine that has a lot of crapware installed on it and is slow and clunky to use. In the more typical case, you end up with a machine that spirals to a grinding halt over six to 12 months - like the T43 I'm working on right now. A machine that has trouble opening an Excel file in three minutes because it has so much software competing for disk access and CPU cycles.

My experience with Linux on the server with its multi-hundred day uptimes broken by hardware upgrades, not software reboots, and with no performance degradation even at high disk utilizations tells me Ubuntu isn't taking me down with it. My blood pressure is truly low now.

I'm literally running out the door to get the word rolling on this changing dynamic. It's that big. And a word to IBM and Lenovo: if you're listening, Ubuntu as an OEM install on your Thinkpad T and X series would be a huge win for you and for the the OSS adoption curve. This is a classic case of experience changing perception and it's got me to thinking about a seamless platform from server to desktop to phone - think about it.

About Paul Nowak
Paul Nowak first used Linux in 1995 while migrating from Sun to Linux at the University of Michigan. He used Linux in subsequent IT projects including web, telecom, telemetry and embedded projects and is currently CIO of a small professional association based in Washington D.C.

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Reader Feedback: Page 3 of 6

Everything you say in your article makes Ubuntu sound very attractive. Unfortunately I haven't had any luck getting Ubuntu server with LAMP working on my HP laptop. It seems the core is there but there isn't any GUI.

'startx' can't be found and all of the suggestions that I've found on the Ubuntu forums have not resolved the problems. I'm trying to run both the client and server on a single CPU machine and I can't determine from the documentation if this is possible or advisable. Maybe I also need to install Ubuntu desktop on this machine but, again, I can't seem to find any guidelines on that either.

Like yourself, I don't have much use for MS Windows, Norton anti-virus, etc. but, at least, I can get them to work on this machine. It's very frustating since the Ubuntu installation tells me everything is OK.

I'm new to Linux and would have loved to test drive Ubuntu but I don't have the time, energy, or patience to continue attempting to get a successful implementation.

Am I missing something?

Thanks,
Roscoe

I said is considered more secure, that doesn't mean it is in all instances. However, the *nix realm's security is by and large worlds ahead of Windows due to better design. The major problem Windows has as security is that it is designed to have an ever increasing complex feature set to be backwards compatible to so much other poorly designed crap. A good admin should be able to secure either system reasonably well. I'm not going to sit here and say you can't secure a Windows system, thats stupid zealotry at its finest, I am going to say that it takes alot more crack spackle to make it happen. Trusted Solaris or SecureOS are reasonably good examples that come to mind.

http://blogs.zdnet.com/threatchaos/?p=311
Here is what I mean by design issues. It is the same idea behind disabling services you don't use. You just shouldn't have so much crap going on that doesn't really need to be there. I won't even touch on some of the flaws inherent in how the windows GUI works, other than to say why the hell does a server in a rack need a GUI? Even if you argue its 100% secure, at best its a huge waste of resources. I am happy they finally decided to remove those stupid 3D screensavers from their server product, but it took them quite a while to do that when it should have been a nobrainer from the getgo.

Forgive me if I don't respond anymore. I am tired of the stupid autoplay win2k3 "We are more secure -- Highly important newspaper" video.

Donato Roque commented on the 7 Jun 2007: "My XP experience is one of increasing challenge and burden in terms of security"

Then, let it be a challenge to you to try what's in this URL link below, & a burden, no longer!

Try (or, @ least look at) this set of 14 basic steps (all work on Windows Server 2003, & 13/14 work on 2000/XP/VISTA (iirc)):

http://it.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=237507&cid=19410153

It's not that much harder to do, than it is doing .reg file &/or regedit.exe hacks for speeding up & securing a Windows NT-based OS (which IS also possible, & many in this thread noted it for the author's sake)

The thread I posted above is for your reference & possible future benefit (and, just may contain things in it you were not aware of is all, that work for massively securing Windows NT-based OS of today)

The tricks/tips/techniques within it secure these OS from Microsoft to a level I would like to see folks from the Linux world (especially SELinux) or other OS' (since the gauge I used was CIS Tool 1.x (from the CENTER FOR INTERNET SECURITY)) try to exceed, and specifically exceed my score noted on CIS Tool 1.x of 84.735 in fact.

(And, above all: Great if they do! I say that simply because I can grow stronger by it, learning now, & possibly even emulate/duplicate their techniques to the Win32/NT-based OS side of the fence, as well as secure up Linux rigs I run @ times (not now currently though)).

Enjoy the read, & know this: To do those steps? For an experienced person, it takes about 1 hour TOPS to implement, & a few more testing most likely (services part, but I provide a list to save them time there).

For an inexperienced person, longer of course, but a GOOD solid learning experience.

See - The MAIN point of that post's to learn, for everyone/anyone on computers & learn that securing Windows NT-based OS' of today (2000/XP/Server 2003/VISTA) is a 'snap/cake/walk-in-the-park', if you have guidelines & use the RIGHT tools for it that make it so, & also?

So folks not as "into Linux" also pick up tricks from their world, for security as well (see the P.S. in my post there).

APK

APK

I have been using Ubuntu Linux for 2 months now starting with Edgy and upgraded it to Feisty immediately. Before Edgy, I was a Windows XP user for 2years. My XP experience is one of increasing challenge and burden in terms of security. Running an antivirus software everyday and two or even three antimalware programs almost everyday too is a huge time off my productivity.
Ubuntu linux is my first linux distro. Everything you just wrote in your article just rings of truth by me. Don't get me wrong but at the start I was skeptical it would be this easy. Is there any chance multi media especially internet radio would play nice/nicer with linux?

Steve,

I understand you being a bit "bent" as I was @ slashdot (per my post below, regarding security of Windows vs. Dizzy's statement, for suppressing valid information on my part that seemed to upset their "Pro UNIX/Linux sensibilities)!

However, I think that there are a few folks here like yourself, you seem to be VERY grounded in the network engineering/administration realm (probably more, but that's what I gathered) & know what they're about to one degree or another in this post about computerdom.

Others seem more end-user oriented, but, by the same token, they made solid points on things (tools to use, how to go about doing alternate methods of the same task/thing/idea - albeit via possibly/potentially more sensible methods (like better wares or tricks/tips/techniques to make ANY Win32 OS run quicker/more nimbly in less RAM or lesser CPU types)).

I posted some of that myself, in addition to replying to dizzy on securing Windows & making it as good as, or better than, SELinux quite possibly on the CIS Tool 1.x benchmarks & where to download it, & TRY IT to beat the score I got (he may beat it, but odds are, not with LINUX out of the box & possibly not even with him using SELinux)!

(CIS Tool 1.x - Which again, runs on BOTH of them, & MORE OS' THAN THAT even)

Just to use it as a gauge of my statements below vs. his on those grounds - a fair challenge, one we all can learn by.

I think dizzy (in some of what he said only, regarding security) may just be the victim of what others stated here as well:

Folks tend to read things online & take the words as "GOSPEL/WORD OF GOD" but never investigate it themselves!

(Laziness? Apathy?? Maybe - or, just lack of time, (perhaps a combination of ALL of the above)).

The "halting" stuff may be apps the author is using, a beat machine, OR too little RAM or CPU for this test!

(The last part, too little of the RAM or CPU? Heh, that can be countered for with ease, in posts I did here earlier, about trimming services you don't need to run (YOU DO NOT NEED TO RUN ALL OF THE DEFAULT SERVICES WINDOWS HAS BY DEFAULT - far from it, as I am SURE somebody like you Steve, knows!)).

The same things or good analogs can be done on LINUX as well (daemons = services for example).

Anyhow - Tweaks for performance abound, & like I said earlier? MSCONFIG.EXE & SERVICES.MSC make this much EASY TO DO in Windows XP/Server 2003/VISTA!

I.E./E.G.-> Searching "Optimizing Windows" on GOOGLE will get you FAR more in the way of speeding up Windows via .reg file hacks galore, tips/tricks/techniques using the tools I mention that are EASY TO DO!

As simple as the link I posted for securing a Windows System (easier in fact) to a 84.735 CIS Tool 1.x score on Windows, @ slashdot & is a LINK URL to visit below in my preceeding posts.

All-in-all though - I don't think anyone will call yourself or myself a name here, but you must hit more than your share of tech forums, because it happens... just as YOU mention & I mention below, whenever it comes to Linux vs. Windows.

It's zealotry many times, or just plain being misinformed (I have been victim to this myself @ times, admittedly)!

Still - Others here DID make points like "instead of bitching about it - help recode the system OR offer tips/tricks/techniques to get around objections - they DO exist"!

AND, they do or did!

E.G. -> I offered a few for security & speed, as did others via diff./better wares for Win32 OS out there (and, there are, better than the mainstream most known/best "PR'd" stuff)!

E.G.-> NOD32 vs. Symantec (though I hate to say it, fan for years of Symantec Corporate 10.x series, NOD32's been getting the better of it on tests out there this year @ least).

Perhaps the author IS biased & did not test long enough, perhaps he is just trying to pull the wool over others' eyes & get away with it, perhaps he is not that versed on Win32 systems?

I don't know.

What I do know is & I said it here already:

Folks, we have GREAT STUFF today, by far, vs. the stuff I started out on PC's with 15++ years back, onwards in time in DOS/Win3.x/Win9x/NT 3.5x/NT4x/2000/XP & that's Windows Server 2003 & yes, VISTA (though it may need some "ironing" to get rid of some wrinkles - this is why I am holding off on buying it until SP #1, personally).

Still, I do NOT like how folks from the LINUX camp will say things like "LINUX IS MORE SECURE" & others believe it. OR, when they are challenged to a test or evidence posted, they run or toss names, or just blow it off (this last one I can understand though - when you can't win? Walk away).

Still - Windows CAN be made just as secure as SELinux, perhaps moreso, using tricks/tips/techniques that take 1 hour to setup & implement tops, shown here:

http://it.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=237507&cid=19410153

I am not busting on anyone, I only ask others to try this & if they can on Linux of ANY kind? Beat my score, I welcome it, because I will ask & learn HOW THEY DID IT, & GET STRONGER!

The simple fact of the matter is: None of us are 110% "up-to-the-second masters of all things MYSTICAL" in computing & totally informed users (and, we are ALL users, even if we are coders &/or network admins/engineers)... but, some ARE better informed than others!

AND? There is ALWAYS SOMEONE BETTER THAN YOU, if only in some niche category.

Above all Steve - Don't let it get you down though man, it did me earlier as regarding slashdot in my posts prior to this one...

See, imo @ least, today?

The world's full of spinmasters & "3/4 dentists chew trident types" (even if those dentists were sent crates of free samples or were paid to say so - statistics ALL MATTER ON THE SAMPLESET taken, after all) trying to pull the wool over most folks' eyes for MONEY... not the absolutely undiluted impartial & fair truth!

I don't see the problem. You have a windows xp license? just get a install cd from a friend and use this to install the laptop.

Good luck opening word documents and maintaining the layout. Running word/firefox/ssh/excel on xp and 512mb is not a problem!!! maybe you should not install google toolbar and online casino?
There are free anti-virus programs. Symantec is the WORST antivirus ever. Sucks up all your system resources. Everybody knows this. I use nod32.

I mis a lot of windows programs on linux (mostly adobe software). On linux i spend ages finding a similar program to do the same job my favorite windows program does.

it is possible to do a good reinstall with all apps and settings in about 3hours. If you keep your systeem clean, there's no problem running this installation for several years.

Wanna save time(=money) and keep all your favorite programs and keep compatibility with other people? use windows!

Like your viewpoint. Ruined by the crap page it sits on. Why the blankety blank do you allow not one but TWO intrusive flash movies on the same page? And both advertising MSlop to boot.

APK,

I think we may be the only ones who really are grounded. I host about 200 web sites using an n-tier Unix (Freebsd) server farm, and I feel that I'm a little more than qualified to pass judgment on the technology. When I say this article is garbage, I mean it. I never post comments, until I read this from a /. RSS feed. I'm angry that I wasted my time looking at it, reading it, and subsequently posting to it. It(the article)is garbage, and will never have true credibility in the eyes of someone who regularly works with the stuff, or a person interested in converting. His examples of how Windows slows to a halt form running x,x,x and,x aren't true for someone who uses their machine for it's intended purpose. I follow safe browsing practices with a modest anti-virus software package and behind a very cheap hardware firewall (Linksys router w/ integral firewall <$100) and guess what? Never a virus, or a hitch with my XP box. I do all of my serving and dev work on BSD and/or Fedora6. I'm as close to an unbiased user as you'll find.

So enough ranting. This article is garbage and belongs in the trash. I invite you guys to call me names or whatever you do when you have nothing left to say. If you have something constructive to contribute, light me up.

Steve, see my last posting below, before this one... UNIX/LINUX people are funny this way - you show undeniable contrary evidences to their statements? They either RUN & HIDE, or suppress information (then they begin calling others names etc.)... pitiful, honestly!

See the material about /. (slashdot, a very PRO UNIX/LINUX/MACOS X site mind you) suppressing my attempts to show the information in my last post below on their FIREHOSE section, which I put here instead (turning that b.s. around & exposing THEY here for it instead).

Pretty lame imo...

APK

You guys are ridiculous! If you agree whole heartedly with the person who wrote this and keep calling it a "(very nice)" or "great" article, I think I'm going to be sick. I was cordial yesterday, but this article is garbage. It makes us look like a bunch of crybabies. Microsoft wahhh! They took my money wahhhh! If you have a problem with free enterprise and getting paid for your investment, not to mention being successful, then keep on crying. No-one can just take your money... You volunteered it and felt like you got burned. Your fault, no-one else's. Did Bill Gates sneak into your bedroom while you were sleeping and steal the money off of your dresser? Probably not. People with ambition and drive to move forward (like the devil himself, Bill Gates) will always come out ahead of you. Stop whining and make the stuff that linux lacks. Make the drivers for the hardware, make the interoperability stuff for the gamers, make the security bulletproof beyond a shadow of a doubt. These would be constructive things you can do with your time rather than complaining about windows or gushing over this poorly written article.

Isn't the -g in your ssh already part of the set of options that -a represents?

Funny how in a linux site, the only (really annoying) ads are for windows...
So much for your street-cred...

So now you finally experience what we Solaris users have had for years... and I do mean desktop users! :-)

I love aticles like this. Some computer professional goes off on how great some flavor of linux is over Windows. If you google search, you can find about 100 testimonies just like this for every distro of Linux and then it gets reported on all the major tech sites as "OMG Linux > Windows!!!111"

It reminds me of bnet kiddies stopping around proving their epeens to the world on forum boards. Now, not to sound too negative, i like linux. I really do. If i could find the same functionality and easy of use for what i do on a linux box, i'd be all for it.

But lets face it, Linux is great for the office environment and downright sucks for any home use. Yes, as you can tell by now, i'mma gamer and also do alot of heavy encoding and decoding of various video files and formats.

Linux hates PC gaming. I'm serious. How much crap do i need to install and learn to install something as old as "Starcraft", much less something newer like Oblivion? The support for high end gaming just isn't there. And to top this off, finding and installing vid card drivers for any distro is even more of a pain in the ass then dealing with Window's security flaws.

In ending, my hats off to you for finding yet another ho-hum application for any given linux distro and be sure that when the OS becomes applicable for home use, send me an email. -Veji

"me, biased?"


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