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Desktop Linux For The Windows Power User

Desktop Linux For The Windows Power User
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Well, it's that time of year again, when the latest version of Ubuntu is released. Version 9.04 of arguably the world's most popular Linux distribution is now available for free download. I've had more than a week to check it out and am thoroughly impressed. Ubuntu 9.04, codenamed Jaunty Jackalope, is a solid release and well worth the bandwidth. I stuck with 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron) when the sub-par 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) came out last October, but I will definitely upgrade all my machines to Jaunty in the coming weeks.

Windows 7 64-bit running in a virtual machine with OS X-styled panelWindows 7 64-bit running in a virtual machine with OS X-styled panel

Before rolling your eyes at yet another perceived Linux fanboy, let me start by saying that I love Windows. I've been a Windows user since 1995, and before that, I used MS-DOS. I had Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE. I even went out and bought a copy of Millennium Edition (Ed.: we're sorry, Adam). I was a beta tester and early adopter of Windows XP. I made sure to get my hands on the beta of Windows 7 and I've never even considered switching to a Mac.

I don't subscribe to the lunatic fringe's view that Microsoft is Big Brother or that Bill Gates is evil. Windows Vista didn't steal my girl, wreck my truck, or kill my dog. It's just utterly disappointing and incredibly overpriced.

Another variation--the best of all three worlds!Another variation--the best of all three worlds!

With that said, Ubuntu Linux has been my primary operating system for the past year. I've periodically checked in on Linux since 1997. I screamed at the monitor, smashed the keyboard, pulled my hair out, and yes, even cried more than once. Experience dictated that this free operating system was definitely not ready for prime time.

Then, last April, I put together a brand-new rig and wanted a brand-new operating system to match. After reading the critical reviews of Vista (and paying no mind to the anti-hype from Cupertino), I wanted to try Microsoft's latest before paying the [then] staggering $400 for Vista Ultimate Edition. To make a long story short, I was unimpressed and not willing to pony up that kind of cash. But as much as I loved XP, and still do (in a nostalgic way), it was quickly becoming legacy. 

I figured I would try Linux again, and installed Ubuntu 7.10. It had been some time since I last made an attempt. Besides, the last time I checked it was still free. And it's a good thing that I gave it another chance, because today I am as happy with Ubuntu as I was with XP in 2001.

As a lifelong Windows user, system builder, ex-gamer, and performance freak, I'm not drinking anyone's Kool-Aid. I just want the most amount of control over my system as possible, and at this point in time, Ubuntu is the best follow-up to Windows XP. Don't take my word for it, give it a try for yourself. If, like me, you've tried it before with no luck, perhaps it's time to give it another shot. You could try it with the Live CD, but let's face it, that's little more than interactive screenshots. Without installing and running software natively, you really can't give it a fair shake. 

This article will walk you, the Windows power user, through the Ubuntu installation process from downloading the CD image to finding help online. There are many guides available online, but most are written for total computer newbies or people already familiar with Linux. Most of the hang-ups that I experienced with Linux could have been easily overcome with simple Windows analogies.

Yet another themed shotYet another themed shot

Writing for power users, I assume that you have a good working knowledge of Windows and computers in general, but little or no experience with Linux. Therefore, this article will not tell you to compile anything from source code, and no sentence begins with “bring up the terminal” or any other UNIX techno-babble. Common Linux pitfalls like hard drive partitioning, installing software, and setup of essential plug-ins will be addressed entirely by using the graphical user interface (GUI).

We know you're curious. Give it a shot. The operating system is free, after all.

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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    ahmshaegar , May 21, 2009 8:02 AM
    Well, let's get this out of the way first: Linux is my primary OS. And I realize it's a kernel, so piss off you pedantic bastards.

    @thepinkpanther: Linux ain't Windows. Linux is Linux, so if your goal is to run Windows apps all day, I don't think choosing Linux as your primary OS makes the most sense.

    @fordry06: That certainly is a problem. Now, most hardware manufacturers don't disclose all the information about their hardware, so it's quite hard to write perfectly working drivers for OSes other than Windows. Although it's not Red Hat/SuSE/Ubuntu/(Insert Linux vendor here)'s fault, as a user, you don't really care about that, do you? Basically, for a lot of hardware out there, you have to fight to get it to work in Linux. For me, I got a bog standard laptop. In Ubuntu 9.04, pretty much everything I use worked out of the box. Now, certain things aren't working as well, such as my card reader only reading SD and MMC cards in Ubuntu... but I don't use anything other than SD cards. So for me, it's working just fine. For others... not so much. And regarding your games in Linux, see what I said above to thepinkpanther. Linux ain't Windows.

    Well, having gravitated away from games, and not being particularly loyal to any company or OS or anything, I really honestly don't care if I'm on *gasp* a Mac or Windows or Linux. So it all works out for me. Hey, if you really want me to get philosophical then let me just say that I think you can enjoy life best when you stop caring about all the trivial things. Why should I care what Microsoft has to say about Apple or vice versa? Why should I care when a Linux zealot declares the start of the nineteenth Crusade against Sata- er, Bill Gates?

    Flame on! or not.
  • 15 Hide
    arpikusz , May 21, 2009 7:05 AM
    Great article. Really like that you outlined how to install all the "good little stuff" and not just the OS it self. Thumbs up!
  • 13 Hide
    wicko , May 21, 2009 6:32 AM
    Meh, I've killed my XP install and I use Windows 7, which I actually like. Ubuntu doesn't cut it for me due to the lack of games.. otherwise I'd be all for alternatives.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    jgv115 , May 21, 2009 6:14 AM
    An easier way of installing programs is in the terminal

    type:

    sudo apt-get install *app name here*

  • 13 Hide
    wicko , May 21, 2009 6:32 AM
    Meh, I've killed my XP install and I use Windows 7, which I actually like. Ubuntu doesn't cut it for me due to the lack of games.. otherwise I'd be all for alternatives.
  • 15 Hide
    arpikusz , May 21, 2009 7:05 AM
    Great article. Really like that you outlined how to install all the "good little stuff" and not just the OS it self. Thumbs up!
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , May 21, 2009 7:37 AM
    Sir you are wrong. GoogleEarth and AdobeFlash is fully 64-bit compatible.

    One issue that you may encounter is GoogleGears that is 32bit only, but you can easily find Gears for 64 bit (without Google trade mark).
  • 1 Hide
    fordry06 , May 21, 2009 7:39 AM
    Ya, I have multiple games that will not work no matter what i do. I have tried configuring WINE manually and Play on Linux and Steam games will not function properly for me, neither does Trackmania. Im not sure if its becuse i have SLI or what but it simply doesn't work. I would love to use Linux as my primary OS, but when i install Windows 7 and ALL of my drivers are installed and working correctly automatically without any hassle, even nvidia video drivers, that is something that Linux is not capable of yet with alot of systems. Until the majority of programs and drivers work natively with Linux, it will just be a niche OS on desktop computers.
  • 20 Hide
    ahmshaegar , May 21, 2009 8:02 AM
    Well, let's get this out of the way first: Linux is my primary OS. And I realize it's a kernel, so piss off you pedantic bastards.

    @thepinkpanther: Linux ain't Windows. Linux is Linux, so if your goal is to run Windows apps all day, I don't think choosing Linux as your primary OS makes the most sense.

    @fordry06: That certainly is a problem. Now, most hardware manufacturers don't disclose all the information about their hardware, so it's quite hard to write perfectly working drivers for OSes other than Windows. Although it's not Red Hat/SuSE/Ubuntu/(Insert Linux vendor here)'s fault, as a user, you don't really care about that, do you? Basically, for a lot of hardware out there, you have to fight to get it to work in Linux. For me, I got a bog standard laptop. In Ubuntu 9.04, pretty much everything I use worked out of the box. Now, certain things aren't working as well, such as my card reader only reading SD and MMC cards in Ubuntu... but I don't use anything other than SD cards. So for me, it's working just fine. For others... not so much. And regarding your games in Linux, see what I said above to thepinkpanther. Linux ain't Windows.

    Well, having gravitated away from games, and not being particularly loyal to any company or OS or anything, I really honestly don't care if I'm on *gasp* a Mac or Windows or Linux. So it all works out for me. Hey, if you really want me to get philosophical then let me just say that I think you can enjoy life best when you stop caring about all the trivial things. Why should I care what Microsoft has to say about Apple or vice versa? Why should I care when a Linux zealot declares the start of the nineteenth Crusade against Sata- er, Bill Gates?

    Flame on! or not.
  • 8 Hide
    Anonymous , May 21, 2009 8:02 AM
    Great article Adam! You are a man after my own heart! I rule over my computer with an iron fist and judiciously gut every MS OS I've own. I also drink no one's kool-aid (XP: 1.5GB Disk space, 19 running processes; Vista: 10GB Disk Space; 30 running processes). Ubuntu 9.04 is my primary OS and I absolutely love the amount of control I have. I now have no use for vista except for games. (Still working on that). :p 
  • 11 Hide
    SpadeM , May 21, 2009 8:52 AM
    Quote:
    If you need your hand held, then go buy a Mac.
    = Epic Win!
    Summed it up quite nicely
  • 5 Hide
    mitch074 , May 21, 2009 10:15 AM
    Good! Er, well, not perfect, but good.

    Linux (the kernel) has built-in 32-bit compatibility when running in 64-bit: I mean, you could perfectly run the rest of the system (including the GUI) in 32-bit, or actually have both: I merrily cut and paste between my 32-bit browser and 64-bit office suite - well, I used to: since Adobe unveiled the 64-bit build of Flash 10 and Sun published a 64-bit Java plugin, everything runs 64-bit.

    Google Earth is 32-bit only, true; but if you install the 32-bit counterparts to its required libraries, it works like a charm in 64-bit. It may be a bit difficult (it's like trying to guess which version of .Net a Windows program requires), but then you can bypass it by adding a third party repository: it's like installing packages manually , but it also resolves dependencies.

    For example, if you add the Medibuntu repositories, you'll get Google Earth on your 64-bit OS. No glitch.

    Hardware support: I've installed 9.04 on 3 different machines. All of them detected all the hardware right away. The new Linux wi-fi stack is so good, there's hardly a chipset that isn't recognized. And at least, it has proper support for WPA2 and doesn't disconnect at the drop of a hat like Vista does...

    But I'm not using Ubuntu. I use another, more suited to my needs, distribution.
  • 7 Hide
    powerbaselx , May 21, 2009 11:14 AM
    Unfortunatelly VirtualBox (or VMWare) doesn't solve the problem of playing state-of-the-art games available for Windows, without loosing 70% performance.
    While the software houses stick to Microsoft pressure and rules, Linux won't grow in that important slice of users. IMO this is where it all starts for the consumer market and Microsoft knows it well.
    I'm pretty sure if software houses developed Crysis, Far Cry, Burnout, etc, for Linux platform with a good graphic support, i'm pretty sure the number of Linux users would grow a lot. Do you remember Doom on Linux? Wasn't it great?
  • -6 Hide
    fausto , May 21, 2009 11:42 AM
    i just happen to have tried Ubuntu 9.4 last weekend...please force a restore point before installing as if you decide to uninstall it will not undo the O/S selection screen.

    After i did a restore after removing the installation it was all back to normal.

    Linux is great for a pc that just will web browse and use open office apps.
  • 5 Hide
    Shadow703793 , May 21, 2009 11:56 AM
    Why is it always UBUNTU? EVERY reviewer who "runs" Linux runs Ubuntu! Why don't some one try Fedora or SUSE?
  • -4 Hide
    ap90033 , May 21, 2009 12:10 PM
    Shadow703793Why is it always UBUNTU? EVERY reviewer who "runs" Linux runs Ubuntu! Why don't some one try Fedora or SUSE?

    I agree.... Also, this Article is wrong, I dont care what hassle you go through getting current games like Crysis working fully is basically impossible. Gaming in linux is useless. I have been trying to get my ATI 4870X2 working in just about every major linux distro INCLUDING Ubuntu 9.04 for about 2 months now and it DOESNT WORK... Linux=Useless currently...
  • 10 Hide
    flightmare , May 21, 2009 12:10 PM
    Becouse Ubuntu it the most popular by far, and most people switching OS will start with Ubuntu, later on with Debian, etc.

    For people who wan't to know what games run on Linux, and how to install them. Check out the appdb on http://appdb.winehq.org/
    Also, use the latest beta version of Wine, not the stable one, if you want to try some games.
  • -8 Hide
    ap90033 , May 21, 2009 12:14 PM
    scatcat_88Great article Adam! You are a man after my own heart! I rule over my computer with an iron fist and judiciously gut every MS OS I've own. I also drink no one's kool-aid (XP: 1.5GB Disk space, 19 running processes; Vista: 10GB Disk Space; 30 running processes). Ubuntu 9.04 is my primary OS and I absolutely love the amount of control I have. I now have no use for vista except for games. (Still working on that).


    #1 reason linux has 0 market share, lame Linux gurus who scream Linux isnt Windows dont compare it to that and dont listen (LISTEN hello?) to what people are wanting in an OS... Microsoft listened (at least a little), and I think a couple of people use their software... lol

    Yeah yeah yeah, a Ford aint a Chevy but they both take you places and can do basically the same thing.
  • 11 Hide
    randomizer , May 21, 2009 12:18 PM
    thepinkpantheras soon as ubuntu can run .exe without a hitch, windows is out the...ugh...window.

    That's a stupid thing to say. In that case I wish Windows would run .deb without a hitch. Oh wait, those files aren't supposed to work on Windows. Do you expect OSX to run .exe as well? :sarcastic: 
    ahmshaegarLinux ain't Windows. Linux is Linux, so if your goal is to run Windows apps all day, I don't think choosing Linux as your primary OS makes the most sense.


    Precisely. Why will Linux never be mainstream? Because People want it to behave like Windows. If you want it to be like Windows, why not use Windows? Strange as it may seem it behaves just like Windows!

    fordry06I would love to use Linux as my primary OS, but when i install Windows 7 and ALL of my drivers are installed and working correctly automatically without any hassle, even nvidia video drivers, that is something that Linux is not capable of yet with alot of systems.

    Linux is capable of it, very capable. The driver developers just aren't making open source drivers for it. Ubuntu doesn't come with NVIDIA video drivers pre-installed because that would go against the point of using Linux (open source software) and might even be breaching the Ubuntu philosophy. Even restricted drivers are sub-par. Linux is not the problem, it is and always will be the driver developers.

    Additionally, a new installation of Ubuntu without you installing restricted video drivers performs smoothly (usually). You can get straight onto the net or into Open Office and write up some documents and spreadsheets. On Windows you'll likely have a few more drivers to install, and then some office software before you can do anything useful.

    Shadow703793Why is it always UBUNTU? EVERY reviewer who "runs" Linux runs Ubuntu! Why don't some one try Fedora or SUSE?

    Given that Ubuntu is the most common distribution, it's just down to probability I guess. Don't forget that most people who have heard of Linux have probably heard of Ubuntu. So it's probably a good idea to start with something that rings a bell. I do think a few articles on other distros would be good. In fact, more Linux articles in general would be nice.

    Oh, and before someone calls me a Linux fanboy, I don't even use Linux (although I have dabbled with it a little).
  • 0 Hide
    ap90033 , May 21, 2009 12:22 PM
    ap90033#1 reason linux has 0 market share, lame Linux gurus who scream Linux isnt Windows dont compare it to that and dont listen (LISTEN hello?) to what people are wanting in an OS... Microsoft listened (at least a little), and I think a couple of people use their software... lolYeah yeah yeah, a Ford aint a Chevy but they both take you places and can do basically the same thing.

    Here is current status for COD5 and wine
    What works
    Installation
    Ingame menu & settings
    Starting a campaign



    What does not
    Sound (except in the movies)



    What was not tested
    Extensive game play (because it runs very slow; I only tested the first mission)
    Multiplayer



    Additional Comments


    To make it run do the following:
    - regedit sound.reg
    (sound.reg being this file:
    http://bugs.winehq.org/attachment.cgi?id=18560)
    - patch the current git tree with this patch and compile:
    http://bugs.winehq.org/attachment.cgi?id=18559
    - copy the XAudio2_0.dll into the
    drive_c/windows/system32 directory.
    (http://rapidshare.de/files/41317359/XAudio2_0.dll.html)

    If you are thrown back to the "MISSION SELECT" screen after
    choosing the difficulty try to disconnect from the internet.
    Resuming your current game play should work then also when
    connected to the internet.

    Uh "Runs very slow" , sound does not work? No mention of Punkbuster. Cmon lets be honest COD5 in reality aint happening in linux anytime soon if ever.
    So, I tried another game to see if wine works, Battle for Middle Earth 2 and No Mention at all, meaning probably doesnt work at all.
    Ok lets try Crysis
    What works
    Gameplay


    What does not
    crashes, freezes, "out of memory" errors


    What was not tested
    Multiplayer

    CRASHES FREEZES? NO THANKS, MULTIPLAYER NOT TESTED??? Are you serious?
    I could go on and on and on and on and well you get the point. Linux needs some hardcore changes, or something before gamers can embrace it.
  • 5 Hide
    randomizer , May 21, 2009 12:31 PM
    ap90033Linux needs some hardcore changes, or something before gamers can embrace it.

    No it doesn't. Linux needs no changes. Games are not compiled to run on Linux, therefore the root problem is (once again) with the developers. Besides, Wine is not Linux, therefore running games with problems in Wine does not indicate a problem with Linux, it indicates a problem with Wine.
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