An Apple User Tries Ubuntu: Page 2

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So as I sat down to Ubuntu, I was curious about the dreaded command line. Would it would suck me into the dark swirling abyss of Geeksterism?

In a word, no. It turns out the command line is completely optional. If you don’t want to mess with it, Ubuntu lets you use point and click for everything. Major relief.

Ubuntu commandline

The dreaded command line

And actually, when a power user demonstrated it for me, the command line tool is highly useful. It’s great for file search and management. If you’re willing to memorize a few commands (this guy knew about 50) you can really zip through your computer. The results come up in different colors, which helps you locate things. (I think.)

I never thought I’d say this, but the command line is a plus, not a minus. Personally I’d never want to use it – all my passwords are enough memorization – but I see it as a valuable tool for power users.

Of course its existence will always scare mainstream users, and hinder Linux desktop adoption. But over time people will realize they can ignore it, and advanced users will use it happily.

This Could be Windows

As I clicked around, I found the Ubuntu interface to be intuitive and straight forward. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I was on a Windows machine. It has the same drop down menu to choose your application, and the menus even have the same corporate-like font as Windows.

My test laptop was using the GNOME desktop interface. On start up, it offered me a choice of interfaces (KDE, GNOME, etc.) The oddness of this struck me: isn’t Ubuntu enough? It appears I still needed to select a separate desktop interface.

I imagined the average non-technical user being confused by this. ”I’m using Ubuntu, but I have to choose a ‘desktop interface’? Why isn’t it built in, like it is with Window and Mac? And what the heck is ‘KDE’?” The Linux desktop needs to eliminate that extra choice if it wants to reach a mass audience.

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Using Apps

Since most of what I do either uses a word processor (in my case, Word) or a browser (Safari), I wanted to test drive the corresponding apps (Open Office and Firefox) in the Ubuntu environment.

After checking out Open Office, I realized something pretty shocking: there’s no appreciable difference between Word, which costs serious cash, and Open Office, which is totally free. Amazing. Call me brainwashed, but I had thought Open Office was a watered down version. But no.

Open Office even has that irritating Word feature where, when you’re creating a numbered list (2, 3, 4, etc.) it puts the next number in, even if you don’t want it. OpenOffice is virtually identical to Word. In fact, the spellcheck function ran faster for me.

Hmmm…then why are all those companies trooping out and plunking down hefty dollars for Word? For Microsoft’s sake, I hope they never hear about Open Office.

When I fired up Firefox I was, again, seriously impressed. I have never seen the Internet run so fast.

It smoked my Apple machine, which is a hot box: it’s a dual Intel core iMac with 1.7 GB RAM, with a cable modem; and of course Safari is optimized for OS X. But it still doesn’t load a Web page as fast as this little Toshiba running Ubuntu.

Granted, I was testing on the campus of Virginia Tech, which has a fire-breathingly fast Net connection. But I’ve often checked out Web page load time while standing in an Apple store – and you know that’s optimized for speed – and it still wasn’t as fast.

That’s a major plus. Score one for Ubuntu.

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Tags: Linux, Windows, Ubuntu, Apple, Mac

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