Desktop Linux For The Windows Power User


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 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!

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 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.

  • jgv115
    An easier way of installing programs is in the terminal


    sudo apt-get install *app name here*

  • DjEaZy
    ... i'm a n00b in LINUX, but UBUNTU... it iz a nice start... the GUI iz easy to pick up... the rest iz reading forums... i got even crysis to work in Ubuntu... just the problem waz, that there waz no textures... with WINE and DX instaled the need for speed series runs pretty fine... all OpenGL games, that i played, run fine too... the interesting thing where you can consider using Ubuntu iz a old computer for internet browsing... if tha CPU iz approx 1Ghz, tha RAM 256Mb, and a 5 series GeForce or 9 Series Radeon to do the COMPIZ eyecandy... then YOU have a better-than-Vista visual and browsing experience...
  • wicko
    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.
  • arpikusz
    Great article. Really like that you outlined how to install all the "good little stuff" and not just the OS it self. Thumbs up!
  • thepinkpanther
    as soon as ubuntu can run .exe without a hitch, windows is out the...ugh...window.
  • 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).
  • fordry06
    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.
  • ahmshaegar
    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.
  • 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
  • SpadeM
    If you need your hand held, then go buy a Mac.
    = Epic Win!
    Summed it up quite nicely