Digital Edition

SYS-CON.TV
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.

In order to post a comment you need to be registered and logged in.

Register | Sign-in

Reader Feedback: Page 6 of 6

Not all Slashdot readers are jerks.

I recently installed Kubuntu -- and am not going back.

Not all Slashdot readers are jerks.

I recently installed Kubuntu -- and am not going back.

APK -- just to add, I'm not saying Vista's ideal. You've got some really good stuff in your post. God knows out-of-the-box both XP & Vista require some fine-tuning to get them humming. I've using Vista right now (checking compatibility on our flagship product) and while there are a lot of things they do very well & very right, there are a number of things they dropped the ball on. A few of them I have hopes that they'll correct; others not so much.

I mostly just get annoyed when someone picks really stupid things to complain about. I mean, really, Vista gives you plenty of ammo, there's no need to go grubbing around at the bottom looking for crumbs! It's particularly galling because I'm rooting for the Linux desktop in a big way; stuff like this doesn't convince people, it just gets some of the already-convinced to chant "Preach on!" :P

Let me first say I am a linux user(dual boot with XP).

The idea that Linux is virus incapable and security hole free is incorrect. There has been a proof of concept virus that could infect linux and OSx. There also has been reports of security holes in the kernal which have yet to be patched.

With that being said I do understand how bad Microsoft gets hit with things. But to say that linux can't get hit is setting yourself up for a fall. If a man can code it and man can break it.

With that I must say that my experience with Ubuntu has been enjoyable. It is by far the easiest distro I have used. I would definately recommend it to any user that need not conform with the Corp world.

After seeing Andrews comment above mine? I do have to say that on "VISTA" (or, any NT-based Windows OS), there are ways to make it lighter/more nimble: Simple things like cutting off services you DO NOT NEED TO RUN for instance (many can be stopped, or set manual & used ONLY when needed, & MOST of them respond to this - calling apps can turn them on (PerfectDisk defragger can do so, iirc, as an example of this in this capacity)).

Some simple registry hacks help for speed, locally & online as well (Windows IS very flexible this way) and cutting off trayicon apps is another very simple way via a native tool in XP/Server 2003 called MSCONFIG.EXE (which is doubtless in VISTA too)!

It's doable, to make Windows cut down on its memory, disk, & other forms of I/O & resource consumption... if you try to, that is. It's not tough to do, & the net ABOUNDS with this type of info. online!

Search "Optimizing Windows" for instance on GOOGLE, & you get a PLETHORA of results you can use to do so.

Also, Windows CAN be secured to levels of 84.735 (that's my current score running Windows Server 2003 SP #2 in its default "workstation/pro mode" (for lack of a better expression) on the CIS Tool 1.x (invaluable for securing personal computers, & it has ports to ANY OS almost (Solaris, Windows of most types post 2000/XP/Server 2003, Linux, MacOS X etc.).

Just doing things noted here:

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

Can make it just as secure as ANY Linux, including SELinux, & perhaps, moreso!

They're all good stuff nowadays imo & experience - I wish I had stuff like we use TODAY, 10-15 years ago!

APK

Okay, let me understand this. Vista looks bad because they don't combine various applications -- sold separately -- on one disk? Vista is terrible because Symantec charges for their product and doesn't do a good job?

And you think the OS initializing the name of it's partition after a fresh install to something is 'too insane to contemplate'? It takes all of three seconds to rename it. Jesus Christ man, get a grip.

Vista has it's flaws -- as does Ubuntu -- and you might be able to make a strong case for how it's better than Vista. But when you open with those moronic things on your checklist, you downgrade your credibility to 'zealot' before you even get out of the starting gate.

Linux has always amazed me. Yes, I am primarily a user of Win32 OS' (mainly of the NT-based genre/build), & I code around them, because that is mostly what I have seen in "Corporate America" the past 15 yrs. or so as a developer (Delphi/Access/VB36/VB.NET/ASP.NET). What amazes me MOST about Linux though, is the fact it proves humanity CAN do great deeds/things/accomplishments, altruistically (for free/no monies involved)! It has come a LONG ways since I tried Slackware 1.x releases back in 1993-1994, & I truly like KDE (which I can create programs for, for the MOST part (avoiding Win32 specifics like the registry OR direct Win32 API calls usage & some Tcp/IP issues mostly - using Delphi for Linux (& that's Kylix!))).

So, all-in-all?

Well, it's good to see that Linux, though it is becoming more & more LIKE Windows (just as DOS became Win3.x-> Win9x -> NT & folks that used DOS said folks that used Windows were (insert putdown here)) is coming along & gaining ground/support/functionality/flexibility each release!

Linux is, imo, VERY nearly as capable as Win32 OS' are nowadays, & for most folks? It will cut it, just fine, even @ the home level, & certainly as a server in many capacities!

(However, it has lacked in device support - this is understandable though: The monies are in Win32 mostly, & developer time is NOT cheap!)

BUT, I look around lately & even device driver support is gaining ground with the BIG "oems" in this business who create the hardwares we use, on x86 rigs @ least & ones like IBM are staring to give them backing/momentum...

(x86 based rigs is where I work the most, the most used platform really - & Linux supports more than that, & I truly WISH Microsoft hadn't removed MIPS/Alpha/PowerPC etc. et al support out of Windows NT-based OS' back around NT 3.51 or shortly thereafter - bad move imo! This is an area Linux has ALWAYS had on Microsoft's stuff, & clustering's STILL another, but not by as big a margin of "error" so-to-speak & costs are in favor for the most part, for Linux (freely available) though Total Cost of Ownership studies tend to disagree with this, such as those shown @ the Microsoft "Get the Facts" campaigns via case-studies examples (I do take those with a 'grain of salt' though, admittedly)).

Anyhow/anyways - Congratulations Penguins: You're getting there, imo! apk

Linux has always amazed me. Yes, I am primarily a user of Win32 OS' (mainly of the NT-based genre/build), & I code around them, because that is mostly what I have seen in "Corporate America" the past 15 yrs. or so as a developer (Delphi/Access/VB36/VB.NET/ASP.NET). What amazes me MOST about Linux though, is the fact it proves humanity CAN do great deeds/things/accomplishments, altruistically (for free/no monies involved)! It has come a LONG ways since I tried Slackware 1.x releases back in 1993-1994, & I truly like KDE (which I can create programs for, for the MOST part (avoiding Win32 specifics like the registry OR direct Win32 API calls usage & some Tcp/IP issues mostly - using Delphi for Linux (& that's Kylix!))).

So, all-in-all?

Well, it's good to see that Linux, though it is becoming more & more LIKE Windows (just as DOS became Win3.x-> Win9x -> NT & folks that used DOS said folks that used Windows were (insert putdown here)) is coming along & gaining ground/support/functionality/flexibility each release!

Linux is, imo, VERY nearly as capable as Win32 OS' are nowadays, & for most folks? It will cut it, just fine, even @ the home level, & certainly as a server in many capacities!

(However, it has lacked in device support - this is understandable though: The monies are in Win32 mostly, & developer time is NOT cheap!)

BUT, I look around lately & even device driver support is gaining ground with the BIG "oems" in this business who create the hardwares we use, on x86 rigs @ least & ones like IBM are staring to give them backing/momentum...

(x86 based rigs is where I work the most, the most used platform really - & Linux supports more than that, & I truly WISH Microsoft hadn't removed MIPS/Alpha/PowerPC etc. et al support out of Windows NT-based OS' back around NT 3.51 or shortly thereafter - bad move imo! This is an area Linux has ALWAYS had on Microsoft's stuff, & clustering's STILL another, but not by as big a margin of "error" so-to-speak & costs are in favor for the most part, for Linux (freely available) though Total Cost of Ownership studies tend to disagree with this, such as those shown @ the Microsoft "Get the Facts" campaigns via case-studies examples (I do take those with a 'grain of salt' though, admittedly)).

Anyhow/anyways - Congratulations Penguins: You're getting there, imo! apk

Well said! I've also tried in the past to convert to Linux on a personal level(Red Hat and Debian), but have always gone back to Windows because the platforms just weren't quite up to snuff yet.

However...

Once I experienced the flaming turd that is Vista, I knew I had to make a change. I thought about moving over to Apple (which I also love), but decided to throw Ubuntu on my home laptop first for a go.

I now use it for EVERYTHING, and never cease to be amazed at how much I love this platform. I installed it, and everything on my laptop just worked. The internal wireless, printers, graphics, mouse touch pad, all of it works great - and the machine is super-fast to boot!

Great article, Paul! You're right, Linux makes an old machine new again and with the money saved on third-party software, I can spend that on hardware now. As a disaffected Vista user, I've spent several months testing distros. Loved PCLinuxOS. Loved Ubuntu 7.04. But settled on Fedora_7 over the weekend. Love the Package manager in Ubuntu, too.

Unlike Windows, there's a lot of excitement on the open source side of the fence, and for good reason. Distros like Fedora_7, Ubuntu, and PCLinuxOS are removing the traditional excuses why someone shouldn't reconsider Linux in their future, or right now, at least on a second machine for background tasks.

Something people need to know is what Paul writes about: the graphics are stunning, from the flexibility of Gnome to the artwork in Fedora_7. Mark Shuttleworth is one of the people making the planet a better place, and no matter which distro you use, we all owe the man.

Great article, Paul! You're right, Linux makes an old machine new again and with the money saved on third-party software, I can spend that on hardware now. As a disaffected Vista user, I've spent several months testing distros. Loved PCLinuxOS. Loved Ubuntu 7.04. But settled on Fedora_7 over the weekend. Love the Package manager in Ubuntu, too.

Unlike Windows, there's a lot of excitement on the open source side of the fence, and for good reason. Distros like Fedora_7, Ubuntu, and PCLinuxOS are removing the traditional excuses why someone shouldn't reconsider Linux in their future, or right now, at least on a second machine for background tasks.

Something people need to know is what Paul writes about: the graphics are stunning, from the flexibility of Gnome to the artwork in Fedora_7. Mark Shuttleworth is one of the people making the planet a better place, and no matter which distro you use, we all owe the man.

I'm also a Linux fan, I loved Debian, and Ubuntu is just superb... I'm also a DBA and Linux sysadmin, and I did some work on Windows. I use Windows mainly for Need for Speed. Saying things like "Security? pfff, it's Linux" is just plain stupid. I wonder how good sysadmin you are for having that attitude.

I recently installed Ubuntu on an old PC I had in my house. It never ran Windows well, it was always flakey, crashing every few hours. You couldn't leave it running overnight. With Ubuntu it's been running for weeks. I really like the ease of install and the fact everything is easy to setup and ready to go. The only tricky part was getting the Nvidia drivers for the ancient TNT2 card on it. All of the docs to do this were online, however.

comparing Windows to Swiss cheese is a disgrace to Swiss cheese. The holes in Swiss cheese are meant to be there and, contrary to those in Windows, a sign of quality.

My experience was very similar to the one described above! I was tired of dealing with Windows. I never really felt in control of the system, and resources were wasted on programs I never wanted running in the first place. Ubuntu makes life so much easier, and my computer runs much faster than it used to. I will never go back to the Windows realm for my everyday computing. I dual boot Ubuntu and XP strictly so I can continue to play several games I already own (mostly Blizzard titles), but to be honest, they are things I could live without. My life is centered on Linux now.


Feedback Pages:




ADS BY GOOGLE
Subscribe to the World's Most Powerful Newsletters

ADS BY GOOGLE

CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO Silicon Valley 2019 will cover all of these tools, with the m...
Big Switch's mission is to disrupt the status quo of networking with order of magnitude improvements...
Lori MacVittie is a subject matter expert on emerging technology responsible for outbound evangelism...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the informatio...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Michael Burley, a Senior Business Development Executive in IT Ser...
Having been in the web hosting industry since 2002, dhosting has gained a great deal of experience w...
NanoVMs is the only production ready unikernel infrastructure solution on the market today. Unikerne...
All in Mobile is a mobile app agency that helps enterprise companies and next generation startups bu...
SUSE is a German-based, multinational, open-source software company that develops and sells Linux pr...
Yottabyte is a software-defined data center (SDDC) company headquartered in Bloomfield Township, Oak...
Your job is mostly boring. Many of the IT operations tasks you perform on a day-to-day basis are rep...
Serveless Architectures brings the ability to independently scale, deploy and heal based on workload...
Technological progress can be expressed as layers of abstraction - higher layers are built on top of...
When building large, cloud-based applications that operate at a high scale, it’s important to mainta...
Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it wil...
Every organization is facing their own Digital Transformation as they attempt to stay ahead of the c...
"Calligo is a cloud service provider with data privacy at the heart of what we do. We are a typical ...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, disc...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (No...
Chris Matthieu is the President & CEO of Computes, inc. He brings 30 years of experience in developm...