As I put the finishing touches on my 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux experience, I am taking the time to reflect on the highs and lows of the last month. Yesterday I shared my five biggest complaints about working with Ubuntu Linux, and now today I will list the five things I appreciated the most.
I will start off by saying that two of the reasons that might top the list for others didn't make my list at all: it's not Microsoft Windows, and money. I don't have any issues with Windows. In fact, I love Windows 7 and I am looking forward to Windows 8. I don't think Microsoft is evil, and I don't think commercial software is the bane of technology.
I am also not concerned with price. I like to keep up with technology and gadgets. I would buy a new PC every two or three years anyway, and that new PC generally comes with the latest version of Windows pre-installed, so it is not as if I am spending extra money to run out and buy Windows itself. Even if I were buying Windows, the money would not necessarily weigh on my decision.
I did the 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux project because I frequently get comments on posts about Windows or Mac OS X claiming that Linux is a superior desktop OS. None of those comments are ever qualified as "Linux is the best free OS", or "Linux is the best OS that isn't developed by Microsoft". So, I approached the 30 Days project through the lens of comparing the OS and its accompanying culture on its own merits.
With that said, here are my five favourite things about Ubuntu Linux:
1. Ubuntu Software Center
Once I learned it was there and got the hang of it, I really liked the Ubuntu Software Center. It is like an app store just for Ubuntu Linux, and it is nice to have a resource that is only a click away where you can find tools and utilities for just about anything you might want to do.
I imagine that Mac OS X users feel similarly about the Mac App Store, and I wouldn't mind seeing some sort of Windows App Store built in to Windows.
2. Ubuntu One
Who knew that Ubuntu was doing cloud storage and syncing? Ubuntu One, and the Ubuntu One Music store combine to deliver a cross-platform data syncing and streaming solution. Ubuntu One provides 2GB of storage for free and enables you to sync files, music, contacts and photos between devices.
There is an Ubuntu One client for Windows and a Mac client is in the works, although very early stages so no ETA on when you might see it. Ubuntu has developed iPhone and Android apps for music, and for files (the Android app is available now and the iPhone app should be available very soon).
You don't need to be using Ubuntu Linux at all to take advantage of Ubuntu One. The Ubuntu cloud service stands on its own.
3. Unity interface
I realise this is sort of a work in progress and that the sentiment among Linux diehards seems fairly mixed at this point. I like bells and whistles, though, so the Unity interface is right up my alley. I like being able to snap windows to the left half or right half of the screen, or maximise by dragging a window to the top of the screen (although you don't have to use Unity to get that functionality).
The functionality of the Unity bar is very similar to what I am used to in Windows 7, so it felt comfortable. Unity lets you easily view and switch between multiple running instances of a given application, and the icons on the Unity bar provide direct access to features and functions of the application to streamline productivity and work more efficiently.
I also like the Workspace Switcher for easily viewing and switching between the available virtual desktops, and the Applications and File & Folder lenses that make it easier to find things and navigate the system.
4. Peripheral support
This too seems sort of hit or miss based on the comments, but my experience with peripheral support was great, much better than I had anticipated. I had some hiccups early on related to configuring my Nvidia graphics card, but Ubuntu Linux easily identified and installed my printer, scanner, webcam, wireless network adapter and everything else.
5. Linux community
Number five on my list of things I like least about Ubuntu Linux was the Linux flamers. As I said, though, the Linux flamers are a vocal minority that give the platform a bad name.
The other side of that coin is the broader Linux community which is much more welcoming and supportive. Linux seems like a fraternity of sorts, comprised of kindred souls who have been there, done that and have a firm understanding of the fact that you can do anything in Linux, but it might take some Google searches and a command line tweak or two. They got help from the community as Linux novices, and now they want to pay it forward by sharing their wisdom, and the tips and tricks they have picked up along the way.
Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised by the whole Ubuntu Linux experience, and I found way more to like and appreciate than I did to complain about.
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