Ubuntu is a very popular distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system; it regularly sits at the top of the distro list at DistroWatch, a website devoted to Linux and BSD operating systems. Its popularity is not founded merely in luck, nor is its status a small feat. Ubuntu truly is a top-notch, easy-to-use operating system.
So, what makes Ubuntu so great?
- Ubuntu is free–as in free beer. It can be downloaded here from the Ubuntu site, and torrents are available. And if that isn’t enough for you, Ubuntu will send you free installation/live CDs through its ShipIt program.
- It comes with OpenOffice, the totally free, mostly Microsoft Office compatible office suite, as well as a slew of other useful (and free!) applications.
- The installation CD also functions as a “live CD;” that is, you can try out Ubuntu on your computer without installing anything and without altering any of your system files. This allows you to check for hardware compatibility before you actually install the operating system.
- You can make as many copies of your installation CD as you like, and you can install Ubuntu on as many computers as you see fit, without paying a dime (other than the cost for CDs, of course).
- Installation of most applications in Ubuntu is incredibly easy with the Synaptic package manager. Thousands of free applications and games are just a few clicks away! Uninstallation of applications that were installed through Synaptic is just as easy.
- Viruses and spyware are, more or less, a non-issue. As such, the need for anti-virus and anti-spyware applications is largely negated.
Obviously, there are other perks to using Ubuntu, but the features mentioned above are especially noteworthy, in my opinion. Of course, other distributions of Linux, as well as other operating systems, have the same or similar features, but Ubuntu, in my opinion, does a great job of combining the best features possible. Naturally, every operating system has advantages and disadvantages, and I don’t necessarily think that one OS is better than another. In fact, I like ’em all. I just prefer Ubuntu for its combination of features, and especially its price: $0.
Why don’t more people use Ubuntu?
When I tell people about Ubuntu, they often express incredulity that more people do not use it. After all, they know that I’m not a “computer person,” which effectively squashes the myth that only computer professionals use Linux. And they know that Ubuntu is free, which certainly appeals to students like me. So why isn’t everybody using Ubuntu or another free operating system? Well, I’m afraid I don’t really have an all-encompassing answer.
However, here are a few possible answers, which I welcome you to take or leave at your discretion:
- Ubuntu doesn’t fill the walls of subway stations with advertisements; it relies more on word-of-mouth advertisement. Because it isn’t branded in the way that most commercial products are, it has to rely almost entirely on reviews and personal testimonials, rather than an “image.” (But, hey, that’s a good thing).
- As we already noted, many people mistakenly believe that Linux is only for computer programmers. All I can say is that this is NOT TRUE! Ubuntu makes it easy for you to accomplish pretty much everything you’ll need through the graphical user interface, or GUI. And if, for some reason, you do need to use the Terminal, or command line, Ubuntu’s famous online community will likely be able to assist you.
- Windows applications can sometimes run in Linux through Wine, but not all programs will run perfectly–or at all. Unfortunately, many people lambast Linux for not being able to run Windows applications, which is a silly expectation, in my opinion. After all, can Windows run all Linux-specific applications? Still, many people see this as a “problem” with Linux, when in fact, the problem lies with the companies who make applications only for Windows. Fortunately, there is a Linux counterpart to just about any Windows application, and most of these applications work just as well, or better than, the Windows applications.
- Games. Many Windows games will not run, or will not run well, in Linux. Wine sometimes works, or Cedega, a pay service, but like applications, we can’t reasonably expect Windows games to always work in Linux. However, there are plenty of fun and engaging games made for Linux. I can attest to this; I love computer games, and I do keep a Windows partition on my hard drive for some games, but I’ve actually been stunned at the great selection of games available for Linux. In fact, I mostly play games in Ubuntu. Plus, emulators and ScummVM work in Linux, so you can play all of your old favorites.
- Windows and Mac OS X do their jobs pretty well, despite what Linux evangelists might say. “Making the switch” isn’t necessarily appealing to someone who has a functional Windows system with a secure setup (anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware, etc.) and who can afford, and who wants, to purchase applications and games that aren’t freely available for Windows. Likewise, a Mac user who can afford, and who wants, to purchase applications and games that aren’t freely available for OS X probably has little incentive to switch. Also, many free Linux applications are available for Windows and OS X, so users of those operating systems can enjoy EULA-free software! This is, in my opinion, a good thing. Different strokes for different folks, right?
Most of all, however, people simply don’t know about Linux, and if they don’t know about Linux, then they certainly don’t know about Ubuntu. And that’s why I’m here. I want to let people know that there is a free operating system that can do what expensive (or pirated) operating systems do, and it can do these things simply and elegantly.