I’ve used Linux in the past, Red Hat, SuSE, Slackware, Knoppix, and various other livecds, but have never been able to make it a regular box that I use 95% of the time. Hopefully this will change.
But first, I want to just out and say it: Linux is not ready for prime time. Not even Ubuntu. Unfortunately, Windows is far easier to wield and get things done on. It might be less secure, but this is the classic usability vs security relationship. Thankfully, Ubuntu is not just for the uber-geek elite anymore, and can be adopted by hardcore geeks and even casual geeks, but it is not ready for the average consumer or user, and has a long way to go.
What better way to compare the two than by keeping score. Now, keep in mind Ubuntu is going to win in the end, as Linux will for me. I plan to stick with it and hammer away at it until I’m firmly on the “other side.” It might be painful, but this is just part of learning and becoming a better geek (read: IT professional).
The install, as stated before, was amazingly fast compared to any other OS I’ve run. I literally thought I was still running the livecd portion of Ubuntu when I first rebooted (Ubuntu +1). However, the partition options leave a lot to be desired. While Windows is simple with partitions, Linux has always been arcane with them and knowing how many you need and how to carve them up is, in my opinion, the single biggest detractor for new users to try out Linux. Right from the start, it is complicated and difficult and unknown. Many people put it down right there without really giving it a true try. Ubuntu is an all or “know it yourself” install. Either it takes the whole disc or pre-made partition, or you have to know what you’re doing. Sadly, I don’t, and many people won’t either (Windows +1).
So, last night I went about making sure I could do the typical things I want to do. I first updated Ubuntu, which, like Windows, prompted me with a nag screen saying there were updates. Nice! The updates were relatively quick for having 170+ updates, and of course required no reboot (Ubuntu +1).
Synaptic is really cool, and I’m happy with it. One bad point though, is that you’re stuck with Ubuntu’s packages and you need a little bit more knowledge to open up the universe and multiverse to more downloads. But, I always have liked having a central repository for many programs, all of which are free (Ubuntu +2, Windows +1 [how many people really catch the universe/multiverse updates without work?]). My biggest complaint about Synaptic, though, is how easy it is to do something and say, “omg, wtf did I just do?” I did this by selecting some packages and not paying close attention to the required packages or things that needed removal. After walking away to pop in a movie, I came back and hit “Apply,” only to see Ubuntu quickly remove some things. I have no idea what they were, but I hope they were not important. I have learned, however, that I really should do one thing at a time, and scribble down what is added and removed, at least until I’m comfortable with this process.
sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
add in: deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ dapper universe
deb-src http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ dapper universe
deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ dapper multiverse
deb-src http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ dapper multiverse
save, then: sudo apt-get update
And this is the second biggest issue people have with Linux, and myself: the installs. Windows has a huge boost here with automatic installers that take care of everything. You don’t need to unzip things usually (and if you do, it’s easy). You don’t need to compile from source code. You don’t need to hunt for packages that work with your OS flavor (Windows flavors don’t run concurrently, there’s really only one active one at any time now, not counting Server). You don’t need to wonder what the executable is or how to run it, it appears automatically in your Start->Programs list. Ubuntu is not so helpful all the time. I installed about 10 different packages from kismet and airsnort to lxdoom and tcpdump. Over half the installed packages were installed, and then promptly hidden from me. They were not in the Application list nor did I find them in the filesystem. Granted, most of the ones now found seem to be command-line apps, but this is a huge hole for most casual users. “I installed lxdoom to play it, now it doesn’t appear, what gives?” (Windows +1) Not only that, but at least Synaptic takes care of linked packages or things you need before something you want. Trying to track these down and align the planets just to install one program can be a huge headache in Linux. (Windows +1)
So, an OS that is going to be a “Windows killer” better do some basic things without fuss. Ubuntu’s wireless works, Firefox is installed by default, Thunderbird is installed by default, but is not the default mail program and does require being added into the Application list (Windows Start->Programs list). I installed GAIM without problem and promptly got on my IMs without issue at all. (Ubuntu +1 Windows +1)
I then popped in a DVD. Totem, the default media player threw an arcane error. Ok, I didn’t want Totem anyway. So I installed mplayer. It also threw an error, even more arcane than the first. I then installed Ogle and Xine, both of which also could not read my DVDs. Wow. I did some research and it turns out encrypted DVDs are just enough of a closed format that Ubuntu decided not to include the ability to play them out of the box, or even after installing new players. In fact, I couldn’t find the libraries I needed in Synaptic. D’oh. I found libdvdread3 jus fine, but libdvdcss2 had to be downloaded from some guy’s FTP in Sweden. (Windows +1)
use synaptic to get libdvdread3
install libdvdcss2: sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread3/examples/install-css.sh
Whoa, wait a minute here…what version did I just download? What command did I have to run to make it work? I have to download some weird library that may or may not be 2 years old from some guy’s FTP site in Sweden? I did more searches and found more German and other foreign sites, none of which looked commercial. This is the kind of thing in Windows that we, as security people, work to avoid: downloading from sites that make us stop and get paranoid about. (Windows +1)
After putting in the new library, though, all the players could play my DVDs without problem (I think I like the Xine interface best, but it doesn’t fill my whole screen, sadly…which may be a graphics driver issue, but with the player…). However, this sort of hassle and *need* to Google up and understand uber-geek Linuxspeak to get it to work is going to keep Ubuntu from being used by my parents and friends. (Windows +1)
So that is where I stand right now. I can do most of the things I want to do on a daily basis (email, web, IM, and accessing my external drives for media like music, and dvd playing [with effort]), but where Ubuntu makes up ground on Windows in the install and ease of deployment, it loses ground in the places Linux has always lost ground: packages, not doing the necessary things out of the box, and needing to put on the geek cap just to work around things. Does Windows necessarily do this better? Perhaps not, but at least 99% of the computer-using world is used to it.
The score appears to be about how I expect, with Windows leading at this point, because this is all the hard, preventative stuff from Linux and Ubuntu so far. Windows 8 Ubuntu 5.