As of today, it has been exactly two weeks since I started using Ubuntu as my OS at the office. Not only that, it’s been two weeks since my office computer (Dell Studio 17) has booted into Windows.

I left Windows on the system “just in case,” but much to my surprise, I haven’t needed it once. Running Ubuntu is different than running Windows, but it’s not any more difficult. In fact, Ubuntu is much more powerful and forgiving than Windows has been. I can work so much faster now that I’m running Ubuntu than I ever have been able to with Windows, and that’s without being able to use my favorite editor, Crimson Editor.

Problems/Dislikes

Running Ubuntu hasn’t been without any issues. Frankly, every OS has its own little quirks that we just get used to. For example, I had to get used to how browsing network shares on Windows is absurdly slow or how Explorer has a tendency to freeze for no good reason in Windows Vista.

With that said, here are the things that I don’t like about my experience with Ubuntu so far.

  • The mouse acceleration is still a bit odd. I’ve gotten used to it, but I still don’t like it. Whenever I think about how the mouse responds, I realize that it just feels sluggish by comparison to how the mouse responded in Windows. I’m not really sure if there is any way to address this rather than just adapting to it.
  • I got dual screens to work, but I still have to manually change how this is set up each time I boot. For example, every time I log in, I have to tell the ATI Catalyst Control Center that I want my laptop screen to be to the right of the other monitor. It only takes a minute to do this, but it is annoying.The funny thing is that when I change the setting and accept it, the control panel tells me to reboot for the change to take effect. If I reboot, the screen go back to clone. If I don’t reboot, it works just fine.I’m sure that this is more to do with ATI’s driver and not so much with Ubuntu, but I’d like to find out 1) what software is to blame and 2) how to fix it so it automatically sets my screens like this when I have the monitor plugged in.
  • Very poor video performance. Once again, this is dealing with the ATI driver. I know that there are ways to squeeze more performance out of the video chipset, but it requires me to sacrifice a number of other options that I want to run (such as Compiz). I can’t wait until hardware vendors start paying more attention to Linux and provide proper drivers.In my opinion, having fully-functional graphics drivers is the biggest hurdle for most people to switch over to Linux. My buddy Dan told me yesterday that he’d switch over to Ubuntu in a heartbeat if he could quickly and easily get WoW working with good performance on his system with Ubuntu.I’m not even a gamer, and I still had this hesitation when it came to switching over. We really need to find a way to address this.
  • Odd sound issues.
    • As I posted about earlier, the sound jacks on my laptop don’t exactly work the way that they should. I’ve found ways to work around the issues, but it still is a cumbersome and inconvinient solution.
    • With some of the music apps (Rhythmbox in particular), the audio can get very choppy while my CPU is at around 10-20% utilization. I have yet to find a reason for this or a solution. For now, I’m only using Totem or Banshee as they do not have this music studdering issue.
    • The volume has an extremely sharp drop off. When I go down one notch from 100% (which is 93%), the volume I hear seems to decrease to 40%. When I go down another notch (88%), the volumes sounds to be at 20%. At 70% volume, only the loudest sounds can be heard, and those sounds are nearly impossible to hear without headphones. At 63% volume, there is no sound at all. I have yet to find any reason for this and would really like to find a solution as it is difficult to chose between “too loud” and “too quite” when going between 100% and 93% volume when a song changes.
  • Lack of right-click drag for file operations in GNOME. Whenever I did any type of file operations where I would copy or move files from one location to another in Windows, I would always right-click and drag as it provided me a variety of options when I dropped the files into their destination location. I could easily select whether I wanted to copy, move, create shortcuts, etc. This really should be added.Solution: I just found out that GNOME does support this, but it isn’t very intuitive. Rather than right-click and drag, middle-click and drag files. When you drop the files, it provides you with the options of Copy, Move, Link, Cancel, and oddly “Set as Background”. So, this is no longer a problem. It seems that the idea for changing this behavior is so that the context menus that appear when you right click can be navigated without releasing the mouse button and an option can be selected by releasing.
  • Flash doesn’t work quite right. Every so often, Flash just refuses to work correctly. I’m not exactly a fan of Flash itself and would rather see most sites devoid of all Flash content. However, many sites these days do have Flash all over them and using the site requires using the Flash elements. When Flash fails, these sites fail too. Often times refreshing the page works but sometimes I have to restart the browser.
  • I still have yet to find a programming editor that I like. I’ll go into more detail on this issue in a future post, but here is the gist.
    • Crimson Editor technically runs in Ubuntu through Wine, but it by no means “works”.
    • Gedit is what I currently use, but it is lacking in many areas.
    • I’ve tried many, many editors so far, but none of them can match Crimson Editor.

Likes

I’m sure that I just made my experience with Ubuntu sound horrible. I could easily make a list that long or longer with every OS I’ve ever used, all the way back to DOS 4.0.

I don’t think I could list everything I like about Ubuntu, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to read all that list. So, I will focus on the highlights.

  • Command shell worth using. The Terminal in Linux is an amazing thing. I was a huge fan of the DOS command line when I was young. I became extremely disappointed when Windows started taking off and Microsoft more or less completely stopped development of the command shell.By the end of an average work day, I typically have between three to six terminal session open. Some of those sessions have more than one tab going. So, the value of using the terminal is extremely high. For those of you that regularly use Linux and have yet to start using the Terminal, you are missing out.
  • Proper software updates. I was going to go in depth about this, but I think this deserves its own post since it’s a big topic and deserves plenty of time to explore what is so good about it.
  • True flexibility. If I don’t like something in Ubuntu, I really can remove or change it. I can use a desktop environment other than GNOME. I can use a window manager other than Metacity. I can use a command shell other than Bash. I can have one workspace or dozens. I can have the default panels in their default positions, move them around, remove them, add new ones, rearrange the items in the panels, or add new items to the panels. I can also customize the hotkeys and add new ones. The list goes on.
  • In case I need to reboot, I can simply hit Ctrl+Alt+Backspace and my session will be terminated and I’m greeted with the login screen a few seconds later. Another nice thing is that I rarely have to do this.
  • The ability to drag windows around by holding down the alt key. This seemed like a minor thing at first, but it really is so much quicker to just throw the cursor at a window, hold down alt, and drag it around than it is to move the cursor to the title bar and drag it around.
  • Since this is Linux, SSH is built in tightly. This allows me to connect and use remote machines extremely easily. Such as being able to connect by simply typing “ssh hostname” on the command line and automatically connecting with my private key while having my username and settings automatically supplied via my ~/.ssh/config file. I also can mount these remote filesystems as accessible partitions on my system.
  • Improved stability. I have to say that there are times where my Ubuntu session has frozen up or I’ve had to reboot, but those times are typically after I’ve been messing around with my configuration. Overall, the stability has been very impressive.
  • Simple owner/group/world permissions and ownership. With a quick “ls -l” on the command line, I can immediately see what the permissions are for a file.
  • File sharing that works. I will say that I did not have an easy time with setting up file sharing in Samba. I think that this can definitely be improved. However, once I read through the documentation and set everything up, it just worked and has ever since. By comparison, it is “easier” to set up a file sharing configuration on Windows, but it almost never works without hours of trial and error and rarely works the same way twice.
  • Easy switching of active network connection. I love how if you have the option of many different network connections that simply clicking the NetworkManager Applet icon allows for rapid switching between wired and wireless options as well as which wireless access point you wish to connect to. This makes switching connections for whatever reason extremely fast and easy.
  • Symbolic link files. Being able to create a reference to another file, folder, partition anywhere you want is a great feature. I know that the NTFS file system now can support similar features, but since the command line is such a pain, and that’s the only way it can be used, I never used it.
  • Ubuntu has a truly amazing installer which I have yet to see matched by any other OS other than certain similar Linux distros, such as Linux Mint.
  • Hotkeys… Beautiful hotkeys. Gnome has a built in hotkey editor to modify all of its hotkeys. Compiz has hotkey settings for just about everything in it.

These things just touch the tip of the iceberg and are features that come to mind right now. If I were to pick one thing that I like the most about Linux, it’s that fact that I truly do have choice. Rather than being limited to what is offered to me, I can customize a distro as much as I want by adding or completely removing certain parts of it.

Conclusion

My life with desktop Linux is just beginning. I’m sure that there are many more frustrations down the road, but I have no doubt that the new opportunities that it will keep offering me will continue to outweigh any detriment that may exist.

Most of the problems that bother me the most are specifically because of poor hardware driver or software build support by the vendor. I fully trust that this problem will be taken care of in time due to the increasing usage of Linux.

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