Ubuntu (circa 2008) vs. Linux Red Hat (circa 2001)

So here I am once again working on a Linux box. When I have spent a little more time using it and get over all the initial ooing and ahing I will give you a run down of Ubuntu vs. Windows XP service pack 2.  So far everything is so incredibly wonderful and super great as in “Oooo–look how fast my mail gets sent!”  and “Ahhh–I just opened 30 tabs in Firefox and my system didn’t barf” and I want to have time to find some flaws so I can give you a real comparison.

It has been 7 years since I first installed Red Hat Linux on my new OS free computer.  That computer ran Red Hat Linux for a year until we could finally afford XP so I could run all my kids’ games. (I should note here that that old computer is once again running Linux–that is the poor old machine that I put Edubuntu on for the kids. Talk about ironic.) Six years ago I quit using Linux in disgust.  Mind you I loved the OS–LOVED IT.  It didn’t crash and when something worked it really worked.  The problem was the lack of standard user information and of quality GUI interface (the stuff was designed by geeks with no artist in sight–it was pretty crappy).  Back then everything was installed via the terminal (similar to installing from DOS) and the only people using it were supergeeks who couldn’t possibly explain things in terms that a stay-at-home mom who could fix Windows machines and code in HTML could comprehend.  I spent hours hanging out on Slashdot and internet forums trying to glean information that actually was helpful and not too dumbed down or too over my head.  Fear of the Blue Screen of Death kept me hacking away trying to figure it all out.

Nowadays things are different in Linux-land.  Ubuntu is an easy to use OS with plenty of auto-installing programs in the database plus a huge wall of forums full of all sorts of useful information and simple walk-thrus.   Instead of spending my time searching the internet for the .roms I need for the specific install and trying to decipher cryptic terminal codes I do a quick Google search for the walk-thru I need, copy and paste the details and wa-la it works.

It also helps that most open source projects are available both on Linux and Windows.  Despite my install of Windows XP I never went back to Microsoft for most of my programs.  Outlook Express and Internt Explorer were never used–even when it meant that Flash and Shockwave didn’t quite work (they do now).  Thunderbird, Opera, Firefox, Winamp, OpenOffice, as well as many wonderful programs found at tinyaps.org graced my computer.  When I did buy something  (like Paintshop Pro) it was never Microsoft and seldom the big expensive companies.  Not only was it a way of encouraging the little guy but it also was a way for me to test out programs that others may need so I knew what to recommend when I was helping others with their computers. Since my husband is a programmer we are very anti-piracy.  Instead of recommending that somebody go out and buy an expensive memory hog software from Microsoft or Adobe I would encourage them to try Opensource or small company software that took less space, cost less money, and was less likely to let viruses and malware run rampant in their computer (which is usually why they called me in the first place.)

Back then I could not recommend Linux (or at least that flavor of Linux though at the time it was the most user friendly) to my mom, mother-in-law or anyone else who didn’t have a higher than standard comprehension of computers.  It took all my background and ability to research to make it do what I wanted to do.  With Ubuntu I feel I can finally recommend Linux to most users.  Nowadays you can find software for practically anything you need your computer for–and you can auto-install and it just works.  The plethora of educational resources available on it are an added plus.