Friday, 19 October 2007 20:33

Microsoft's top 10 reasons to upgrade to Ubuntu Linux, not Vista

Microsoft have listed 100 reasons why people really ought to upgrade from Windows XP. They appeal to usability, mobility, security and entertainment. Yet, looking through the list, we reckon they’re actually talking about Ubuntu Linux, not that dog Windows Vista.

Let’s count down the top 10 reasons from Microsoft why you should upgrade to Ubuntu.

#10 Surf more safely
Online security is a big issue – there are matters of privacy, and matters of persistent, incessant malware. Fortunately, Ubuntu provides the Firefox web browser. It is a separate program, not an integrated component of the operating system. This means that even if viruses and malicious attackers can compromise the web browser, they don’t gain any extra access to the system. What’s more, Firefox will never allow spyware or adware to automatically install just by visiting a web page.

One supporting factor is that Firefox does not offer built-in support for VBScript or ActiveX, two Microsoft technologies which are well-renown for being exploited. This lack of support saves a multitude of problems, but loses very few positives: even Microsoft themselves have largely abandoned VBScript for web-based scripting: all the ASP.NET client-side form validation routines, for instance, are implemented in JavaScript.

What’s more, Firefox gives complete control over cookies to keep privacy under wraps.

#9 Unchain your mobile PC
Wireless networking has become widespread; the Intel Centrino platform mandated built-in WiFi as have other hardware standards. WiFi is available on your computer, your Nintendo Wii, your hand-held PDA, and even your cockamamie rabbit.

Ubuntu’s latest release, 7.10, or “Gutsy Gibbon”, now offers far more WiFi adapter support than before. A quick Google yields many happy punters. Wired magazine report Ubuntu immediately recognised their Toshiba laptop’s WiFi card, and automatically joined a local network, and sensed  and enabled WPA encryption. Bloggers report that wireless now works with the Dell Inspiron 1501 with just four clicks of the mouse.

Ubuntu ships with a fantastic GUI network tool called network-admin. This is readily available under the System/Administration/Networking menu. When launched, it lists the network adapters available on your computer, including the wireless connection. All your networking configurations can be managed here, and additional tools are provided to automate switching WiFi networks, letting you roam freely with your laptop.

#8 Your PC can take care of itself
Your days of defragmenting are over. Ubuntu uses a different file system to Windows. It does not really ever require defragging. Don’t just take our word for it; check out geekblog.

No version of Windows can boast such built-in self maintenance. Not even Windows Vista. Perhaps its intended radical new database-oriented file system may have fared better, but it was pulled so the OS would finally ship – so we’ll still have to wait to find out.

And when it comes to keeping apps up to date, or finding new software, Ubuntu’s package management far surpasses Windows. There’s no need to search the web for new software; just open Install/Remove Applications and you’ll find all available software listed right there. What’s more, Ubuntu will let you know whenever there’s an update for any program, not just the OS itself. This is functionality you simply do not get in Windows.

What’s more, Ubuntu systems run and run. Badly-written programs are unable to interfere with other running applications, or crash the operating system. It’s not uncommon for Ubuntu machines to boast uptimes of many months, whereas Windows has a long-standing practice of “routine reboots” to clear out guff.

Ubuntu’s raft of built-in “it just works” tools make sure you can spend less time dealing with problems, and enjoy a more reliable experience.

#7 Because you can freeze time
Ok, this point has a wacky heading, but the gist is you can organise your photos and home movies with ease. And that’s true; Ubuntu’s Tracker yields a synergy of technologies that provide a seamless experience.

Shoot photos on your digital camera, and have them appear in F-Spot without having to be imported. Apply tags with Tracker, giving great organisation and searching without an endless hierarchy of folders.

With Tracker you can search for files by properties like photo width, or the type of camera used. All your media is right at your fingertips and you can find them when you want them.

#6 Because you’re always on the run
We get it, you’re busy. You don’t want to be just mucking around with your computer when you’ve got to go out and do stuff. With Ubuntu, you can sync your organiser and PIM data to PDAs and other handhelds, and back to your computer again. A large range of PalmOS and Windows Mobile devices have been tested and confirmed working.

Handhelds aren’t the end all; Ubuntu will also happily run on tablet PCs with stylus support built-in. Once again, Google abounds with cheery tablet users. One Toshiba TC4200 owner speaks of how simple it was to get The Gimp working.  Another says how much he loves his Toshiba M4 Tablet – and how dead simple it was to install Ubuntu while a third waxes lyrical about the ease in which Ubuntu loaded on his Acer tablet PC.

#5 It can find your stuff
The aforementioned Tracker indexes your file system letting you easily find files and folders by name or by content. What’s more, Tracker also has smarts to realise there’s differences in filetypes – music will have an artist, photos will have a resolution, for example – and it indexes these context-specific properties too.

Tracker doesn’t just stand alone; any app can use it to gain access to as fast and efficient shared meta-database, whether for tagging or other purposes.

#4 See your world in a whole new light
Ubuntu brings the latest GNOME desktop to you. This windowing system is clean and functional, but can turn on the eye-candy and visual effects if desired. Sites like gnome-look feature downloadable themes, wallpapers, screensavers and more.

GNOME can be enhanced with 3D desktop managers like Beryl or XGL, which feature regularly contrasted side-by-step with Windows Vista’s Aero interface.

Ubuntu’s 3D windowing and graphics engines run consistently smooth even on low-end hardware. By contrast, Aero refuses to run on any system that has a Windows rating of 1.0 or less for its video hardware. And, Aero doesn’t even come in Windows Vista Home Basic. You buy that and you have no Aero – whereas Ubuntu refuses to compromise.

Ubuntu can be as powerfully simple as you like, but it can also dress up and deliver stunning visual effects if that floats your boat.

#3 It’s the safest version ever
That’s right; Ubuntu is the safest version of an operating system ever. Oh, it’s safer than Windows XP or other prior versions of Windows – and it does it without fading your screen to black and asking you to confirm each operation.

Microsoft have gone over the top with Vista’s user account control, but they have a problem largely of their own making. It’s rare to find a Windows user who logs in under one account, and performs systems administrative tasks under another. Consequently, Windows has a legacy of users running as local administrators who have full control over their machine.

Linux has never been this way; users are always been encouraged to run under a user account with limitations imposed. Because of this, Linux has always made it harder for people to accidently delete operating systems files, or infest their system with virii.

#2 Because all of your music is just a remote control click away
Ubuntu’s media centre simply has to be experienced. It is easily installed via apt or Synaptic no matter your base configuration.

Like Microsoft’s Windows Media Centre, Ubuntu’s media centre will transform your computer into a home entertainment system. A rich set of movie file formats is included without having to locate additional codecs. Another option is MythTV.

Quite unlike Microsoft’s Windows Media Centre, and whichever you choose, Ubuntu’s options are free. In fact, it should be noted Media Centre comes with but two versions of Windows Vista. Those who opt for Vista Home Basic or Vista Business edition will most definitely not be making use of it.

In practical terms, however, Ubuntu comes in just one variant – “the lot”.

#1 It makes using your PC a breeze.
The cliché literally is true: Ubuntu just works. You install it and it runs. In fact, you can test it out. Without harming your computer in any way, you can boot from the Ubuntu CD and give it a complete whirl on your machine. If you don’t like it, nothing’s lost. You just remove the CD and boot back in to your existing operating system.

Ubuntu is the operating system your granny can use. And what a dutiful grandchild you’d be setting her up with it. Imagine not having to explain blue screens of death, or UAC, or program crashes and lockups.

Thanks, Microsoft, for these top 10 reasons why we should upgrade. Let’s take up that advice. Time to load Gutsy Gibbon.



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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.


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