Just over a year ago, I made the decision to dual boot my laptop (which is also my primary computer) with Ubuntu and Windows XP. I’ve spent the majority of that time in my Linux partition and I haven’t actually booted into Windows in over a month now.
I spend, on average, about eight or nine hours of the day on my computer between work (I’m an IT professional working for Inc500 company), play and running this website.
So what’s it really like to use Linux every day all day? Here are some thoughts, in no particular order.
0. You get to have a mascot that’s a penguin. Maybe this isn’t a selling point for you, but it sure makes my daughter happy.
1. Say goodbye to the crash. Computer crashes are a thing of the past for me. This is a laptop so it gets booted up and shut down at least once a day. Having said that, I’ve yet to have a serious crash on my system. Once in a while some weird behavior may cause a program to freeze or crash but I’ve always been able to close it down and restart it without resorting to restarting my entire machine.
2. I love being on a machine with a built in terminal. My job requires me to ssh into various servers and workstations many times a day. I simply click on the terminal shortcut, type the alias for the computer I want to be in and blammo – I’m there. It may seem a little nit-picky to blast windows for no native terminal, but when you have to start up a program, load a connection profile, click another button and then log in to another machine 30 times a day it gets frustrating.
3. I have to say goodbye to Exchange. There are some folks around me who use Exchange servers for email, calendaring, and whatnot. Not me. It’s not a big deal for me, and I chose to say goodbye to that world. Yes there are native Linux solutions that jive (or somewhat jive) with Exchange but none of them work as well as Outlook does, plain and simple. If you’re going to move to Linux, be prepared to lose Exchange functionality.
3.5 Gaming just isn’t the same. I used to be a pretty hard core gamer. Then my gaming started falling of as I acquired a decent job, a wonderful wife and an amazing kid. I do still like the occasional game but I don’t spend hours and hours in front my CRT anymore. If you’re going to switch to Linux, you can say goodbye to high end gaming with ease. Sure there are games that run, some without a ton of futzing about but you’re not going to get the ease of use and massive selection you will with Windows. There are a few FPS titles available, and some really interesting native games, but if you’re going for a new game every week, you can forget it.
4. My productivity went way up. I don’t know if this is tied in with #3 or not but I’m much more productive in Linux than I ever was in Windows. There’s a huge range of tools I can use to get stuff done, from building a web page to writing a document. The indexed search functionality that’s touted in Vista has been available to me for the entire time I’ve been using Linux. I find myself more able to buckle down and get things done without annoying distractions. If I do find an annoying distraction I have the power to easily remove it.
5. My computer is exactly the way I want it to be but it’s taken me time to get there. You can’t expect to switch operating systems and have a nice place to be in a day or two. It took a bit of work and a lot of looking around for me to have my computer set up exactly the way I want it. That being the case, my computer is *exactly* the way I want it! No frivolous sounds, no extraneous graphics unless I want extraneous graphics, no resource consuming background processes, no viruses, lots of desktop backgrounds that switch when I want them to, plenty of flexibility and everything right where I want it. Music, movies, and websites behave as they should. If you want your system to be like this, be prepared to do a bunch of reading and learning, as you would have to with any new OS. I guarantee you this however, you will never have felt more in control of your computer than you do now.
6. Once you know more about Linux, expect to break your machine if you’re foolin’ around. I like to poke about and see what’s what. Occasionally I’ll do something silly or just plain stupid and cause my computer to hate me. Fortunately I’m able enough after a year of use to get around quite well and I’ve not yet met a mistake I couldn’t fix with a little head scratching and forum reading. If you’re going to go in for real customization, expect some failures as you poke and prod.
7. Don’t expect Linux to behave like Windows or OSX. That’s the biggest mistake I see people make. It’s not the same OS and it won’t work exactly like the others. As soon as you can get your mind around that and start viewing this as something different, you’ll be on much better footing.