I Ditched Windows...and, So Can You

File:Tux.svg I've suffered slow computer performance, system crashes, and inexplicable Internet outages for 10 long years. I officially ditched Windows two weeks ago...and, so can you.

Long story short, I decided to find another operating system and my first attempt was Linux, the free, open-source operative system (for those of you unfamiliar with Open Source operating systems: show me).

Linux: The Good, the Bad, and The Verdict

The Good – The transfer to and installation of Ubuntu Linux was shockingly easy and refreshingly seamless. My computer is now blazingly fast, all of my hardware devices were instantly recognized (even my tablet screen) and, no more system crashes. Best of all, I can read and edit files from the part of my hard drive that runs Windows. In the past year, the Linux development community has really stepped up their user-friendliness game, and I would now recommend Linux to people with moderate computer skills.

The Bad – I still need Windows for a few programs. For instance, Linux's Microsoft alternative, Open Office, works for basic needs, but isn't truly backwards compatible with MS Office documents. If I’m working with an office document using any advanced features, I use MS Office to ensure anyone I send the document to can read it. Second, I've had some trouble viewing flash movies on the Internet (a problem which has been rightly joked about). Last, Linux has not passed the ultimate litmus test for user-friendliness: easy enough for my parents to use.

The Verdict – Linux serves 90% of my computer needs. Only on occasion must I boot into Windows. Fortunately, dual-booting is now a built-in Linux feature, so readers shouldn't be intimated if they don't know how to run two operating systems. Also, supposedly, there is Windows emulation software (such as Wine or Virtual Box), which may completely eliminate my need to boot into Windows – I am yet to figure out how to do this. Aside from these minor hiccups, my verdict is clear: Thumbs up, way up.

Why Didn't I go Mac?

1). Its Expensive – Should Linux fail to meet my needs, I suppose I can sell a Kidney to buy a $1500+ laptop. But, I'd sooner avoid unnecessary expenses in this never-ending recession.

2). I still run some Windows-only programs.

3). I've lost confidence in Apple. Their fascist iphone app store approval system and continued reliance on Digital Rights Management (DRM) for Itunes makes me wary of adopting products that don't allow for flexibility.

So, if you’re using Windows and want to ditch it, click here to begin a less stressful life

Gregory Ferenstein

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Schedule me for a speaking engagement: gferenst [at] uci dot edu

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  • marcorama

    It might be interesting to install wine,I´m sure it ´ll run one or the other microsoft apps

  • ben v

    Here, here! I agree with everything you said. ESPECIALLY Mac's "fascist iphone app store approval system." I know this is a little dead but how over rated is the iPad? If you need a tablet style computer, why not get one that actually supports Flash?

  • Shannon VanWagner

    Nice article. Thanks!

    As for installing VirtualBox, this is very easily accomplished from the Applications>Add/Remove utility in Ubuntu GNU/Linux.

    For anyone who wants to see what programs work well in WINE - just check for a rating of at least silver(gold or platinum is even better) at appdb.winehq.org

    To see some 3d games running in WINE on Ubuntu, checkout my Dell Ubuntu machine at:
    also checkout my $269 Ubuntu gaming machine here:

    Finally, to avoid having to be slave to apple, you should get your DRM-free, MP3 music at http://amazon.com/mp3
    Amazon MP3 sells music to any platform (they have download tools available for GNU/Linux) and doesn't restrict your content with DRM.

    Also, I believe it's very important for GNU/Linux users to surf the web from Linux... this way the companies that serve the Internet will be sure to make their websites GNU/Linux compatible.

    In the modern world of technology, we as users should punish those companies that destroy technological progress and value by building platform restrictions into their software offerings. Choose the vendors that adhere to OPEN standards and cross-platform inter-operability.

    The GNU/Linux way - it's what will get us there.

  • Peter Ross

    PS: Gregory, I'm currently using a MacMini, I previously was using my Sony Vaio tower, but this has become my main computer and it isn't expensive. I dualboot into Windows 7 and everything runs great!

  • Peter Ross

    Here is some information about Apple supporting DRM free tunes in iTunes. This happened in January.


    Also if the iPod touch were a significantly different device from the iPhone, I'm sure the Google Voice App would be available for it, since the iPod touch isn't viewed as a hinderance to ATT recouping their expense for subsidizing the iPhone.

    Perhaps if there were a way for Apple to allow those who've gone beyond their 2 year commitment to have the ability to install Google Voice, then everyone would be happy. Perhaps it will still get released, but at a later time.

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    wow, thanks for all the great comments. Yamini, I'll definitely check out that guide (i'm yet to get wine to work with the Office installer).

    About the Apple comments: I've been hearing a lot about Apple's authoritarian organization, some from former employees. If apple is pushing so hard for DRM-free, why haven't they done it, while there competitors, like Amazon, have? I understand Apple has unique problems as the top company. What bugs me is their lack of communication. They don't explain why they haven't gone DRM free, they won't explain banning google voice. I think people would be more understanding if Apple showed more honesty.

    Keep the comments coming!

    Digg: Wikiworld

  • John Brown

    I suggest you read "Ubuntu for Non-Geeks - Third Edition" by Rickford Grant.Likely available in your local public library.
    Excellent book on installing and using Ubuntu 8.04. it will clearly tell you how to install and use Wine as well as a lot of other FREE software.
    I too am moving to Linux, I have 3 running XP, 1 running Vista, 1 running 7RC and 1 running Ubuntu.
    Linux is clean and runs fast!!!

  • Scott Harpster

    i ditched windows :D, got a new computer quad core, 4 gb ram ddr3, but i need more. I got it for virtualization *if necessary* and to test out other distros and something where I would never have to wait for a program to load. It doest the job. I think i spend more time playing with the compiz interface then being productive. I am like you 90% i can do with linux. that 10% im still trying to find ways around. But thats why i have virtualbox. OpenOffice "IS" getting better all the time, but still ISNT nearly as good as MS office, face it, ms office is pretty awesome.
    User friendliness is not there either, you have to know some commands on the console and how to tweak settings. But then again, its way better then it was a few years ago. :D
    ew macs, just install KDE 4.3 its flashy sweet and has cool things.

  • Wayne Folta

    What a laugh. First, I run (free) Virtualbox on my Mac and have XP, Vista, and Ubuntu installed, and it works great with the various legacy hardware I've thrown at it. Second, Apple has pushed harder for DRM-free music than any other for-profit. Third, "fascist"? Um, yeah. And fourth, you have cheap Kidneys! Would I get a quantity discount if I bought more than one?

  • Patrick Hilt

    Virtualbox is great! And "wine" goes a long way ;-). For those who don't mind paying a little bit of money, Codeweaver's CrossOverOffice is perfect. It takes all the hassle out of "wine" and installs windows applications in any number of windows sandboxes on Linux. Very handy!

  • Yamini Kagal

    I used this guide to install Office 2007 on Ubuntu Jaunty using wine, and it worked flawlessly.
    Combine that with a desktop theme like Murrina Aero, and you get the familiar Windows look and feel, without any of the pain.

  • Kelly Olivier

    Yes, dual booting is a pain and really a thing of the past. Virtual Box or Vmware Workstation are fantastic examples of being able to run your Windows programs. With Vmware workstations Unity feature you can even run Office with your Linux desktop!