An Apple User Tries Ubuntu: Page 3

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A Palette of Tools

For those who like games, Ubuntu is an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. I checked out a little menu that had a long, diverse list of games for immediate download. A single click and – bam – it was on my system, ready to help me waste time. All free, of course.

I also enjoyed an application called Annotate, which let me use the cursor to write on the screen itself. Fun. I squiggled it all around and the lines showed up. Then, using an app called Paint Fire, those squiggled lines looked like blazing flame. Neato! I don’t know what I’d use it for, but it’s eye-catching.

(And it again made me wonder: why haven’t I ever seen this on my Apple machine? Is the GNU/Linux world actually ahead of Apple on software?)

Ubuntu paintfire

Paint Fire -- cool!

On a more productive note, Shift Switcher lets you scroll through all your open windows, seeing each in turn. And Scale arranges all the windows you have open and sizes them so they fit side by side. These two apps, along with the Rotating Cube tool (mentioned above) make for a very efficient desktop.

Two more nice touches: a desktop applet at the top of the screen allows you to search (instead of the command line); and in the lower left, there's a button to shrink everything away. Not revolutionary, but helpful and well designed.

Tribal Love Dies Hard

In sum, Ubuntu makes the grade. A good laptop running Ubuntu is a fast, fully productive machine that works for home or office. Because it does everything that Windows does – and does it for free – I assume that in the long run it will encroach on (or devour?) the Windows market share.

(That is, if a Linux vendor ever realizes the obvious truth: you need a massive ad budget to reach people. Advertising = success. Not advertising = failure. Apart from that, all this talk about usability is just blah, blah, blah.)

As an Apple user, I could imagine having a second laptop that runs Ubuntu. It’d be far cheaper and do everything I needed it to do.

But to actually switch to Ubuntu? Hmmm…I don’t know. I’d have a hard time leaving the Apple tribe. Years ago, before Linux was even invented, all of us Apple users were second-class citizens together. We lived in a big bad Windows world; many software firms didn’t even create Mac-compatible versions. But we Apple folks huddled together, watching our Windows friends drown in malware, wondering why they didn’t just switch. It created a real sense of solidarity.

More important, the Mac is not just a good machine, it’s a beautiful machine. The hardware, the software – the entire interface – is visually attractive. Perhaps that’s shallow, but it’s a huge part of the Apple concept. Beauty.

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And I wasn’t at all wowed by the beauty of Ubuntu. Yes, I know – Ubuntu has different interfaces, and there’s probably one that looks like OS X. (In fact we tried one as I was testing, but it looked nothing like Apple.) If I’m going to sit in front of a machine all day, have it in my home, and carry it around, I’d prefer that it be aesthetically pleasing. There’s a reason that Apple has always been the choice of artists and musicians. The machine itself is artful. Yeah, it’s expensive, and it crashes, but it’s artful. And that counts for a whole lot.

So, yes, I could see having an alternative laptop running Ubuntu. A little change of pace would be good, not to mention saving a bunch of bucks. (If I’m ever totally broke, I’d go with Ubuntu in a heartbeat.) But for now, as much as I respect Ubuntu, my heart remains with Apple.

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Tags: Linux, Windows, Ubuntu, Apple, Mac

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