Linux has a reputation for being somewhat difficult, and casting my mind back to the days when I first tried it I’d have been the first one to admit it. In case you hadn’t heard, Ubuntu (and it’s associated derivatives) has earned notoriety for being as easy-as-pie to install, maintain and work with.
There are inevitably going to be a lot of concerns if you’re thinking of making the jump. I’m going to try and put some of those to bed and demonstrate some of my favourite things about the operating system.
Install Ubuntu Within Windows
It’s even easier to install Linux than it has ever been. Not only have you got the choice of using excellent tools such as UNetbootin to create bootable Live USB sticks, but also the option of installing Ubuntu from within Windows.
By far the easiest and most-straightforward option available to you if you’re already a Windows user, simply head over to Ubuntu’s home page and download the Windows installer. Run it, choose your particular flavour, nominate a spare partition and you’re done. Then all you have to do is reboot into your shiny new OS. Simple.
Re-Install Your Favourite Software
Those of you who use primarily free software on Windows will be pleased to see most of your favourites are still available, but in Linux flavour. A prime example is Google’s Chrome web browser (which trades under the open-source name “Chromium” on Ubuntu) which runs noticeably faster on my Linux install than it does on Windows 7.
Derived from the acronym “Wine Is Not an Emulator” the popular Microsoft Windows compatibility layer means you don’t have to leave all of your Windows-specific programs behind. Popular Windows applications that work well in Ubuntu include Adobe Photoshop, Spotify (standard Windows version, not the subscriber-only experimental Linux version) and even games like World of Warcraft and Counter-Strike: Source.
My main issue as a wannabe Ubuntu user was the lack of Photoshop. Now I’ve solved that, and I’ve got my beloved Spotify playlists back too! Of course not everything will work, but then you’ll also be able to….
Ditch Your Least-Favourite Software
As grateful as I am to have an antivirus program for Windows, I secretly despise it. For years I didn’t even use one, favouring the common sense approach of not clicking dodgy executables. We all know this isn’t enough though, and if you truly want to secure your Microsoft box then it’s a necessity.
Not with Linux. Permissions play a huge part of any UNIX operating system, meaning it’s nearly impossible for something to execute on your PC unless you explicitly tell it to. Even then you’re going to need administrator access and a password.
I’m not saying Ubuntu is impervious to attacks, and there are a number of antivirus programs aimed at Linux. Many users simply install protection to prevent spreading viruses to users running Windows.
If you’re concerned check out Wikipedia’s known list of Linux infections. I don’t run an antivirus with Ubuntu and for me this is one of the most liberating aspects of the OS. I’ve got some precious RAM back, my CPU usage doesn’t spike when my antivirus deems it necessary to and my machine boots faster than ever.
Many Mac users harp on about how pretty their OS is, and a lot of Windows users can’t really argue with that. The default GNOME skin isn’t exactly beautiful, but you can quite easily change that (and everything else to boot).
From your taskbars and window interfaces, to adding fancy effects and OS X-style docks that actually work – you have an immense amount of options available to you. Ubuntu users who want the most eye candy possible should check out the Emerald window decorator which makes your title bars look sexier than ever and Avant Window Manager, a dock that’s functional and beautiful.
I’m not trying to convince you to ditch Windows. I don’t plan on getting rid of my Windows partition completely either, but variety is the spice of life. Ubuntu won’t cost you a penny and it comes with everything you need to get going straight away. We also have published a cool Ubuntu guide to help you started.
With a bit of time, extra reading and effort on your part you can create a beautiful OS that is as smooth as it is beautiful. Did I mention everything was free?