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Desktop Linux For The Windows Power User

Introduction

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.