Using Ubuntu

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I have always wanted to try a Linux operating system but it seemed overly complicated and time consuming to both install and use. That was until I read a research report on the Ubuntu community by one of my first year students. Ubuntu looks to be the closest competition, not including Apple of course, that Microsoft has faced yet. This is reflected by Dell’s recent decision to sell laptops with Ubuntu pre-loaded and also Hewlett Packard’s rumoured interest. It is very simple to install and use, complete with a full suite of open-source programs suitable for the majority of everyday tasks. But the real beauty of Ubuntu is that it uses less system resources than XP or Vista. This means that it can breathe new life into an old laptop or workstation.

So, I have an old and very slow laptop that struggles with Windows XP Professional. It even has problems playing YouTube videos. Rather than sell it I thought I would try and install Ubuntu and see it would make any difference. Ubuntu can be downloaded from the official website. One of the great things about Ubuntu is that the install disc is a Live CD meaning that once loaded you can try it out as if it were fully installed on your system without having to lose your current operating system. Once you have decided whether or not you want to install it you can either remove the CD and forget you ever used it or go through one of the most efficient system installs I have ever experienced. I did not have any problems with locating drivers, Ubuntu found everything without fail.

On face value it looks very good. It reminds of the Apple Mac operating system in that the main taskbar is on top rather than on the bottom. In fitting with the current Web 2.0 revolution it is very minimal. By this I mean it does not have the flashy appearance of Vista with lots of unnecessary features, it offers what is required. I was most impressed with OpenOffice, the free alternative to Microsoft Office but have not yet had a chance to use it to produce a presentation or a document. All of the other included software looks equally interesting.

But, and there is always a but, Ubuntu is not any faster than XP Professional, in fact it was a lot slower and I have no idea why this could be. I also had problems connecting to my wireless network but expect to solve this problem when I get some time to play with it more. Despite this drawback I am impressed with Ubuntu, after all it is free and has been built by those who believe in the true ethos of the web – to share knowledge and help one another. The potential is certainly there, those who cannot afford Windows now have a free, usable alternative. Yes, it may not have all the features that Windows has but if you want a simple operating system that will allow you to perform common tasks Ubuntu should at least be considered. The open-source movement is helping to narrow the digital divide and shows what can be done when people work together. Try Ubuntu and see for yourself.

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