I gave Ubuntu Linux a spin, trying not to use Windows XP for a week just to see how well it could be used in the day to day office work. Running it on the Dell Dimension 4500s, it was a tad faster than the Windows XP, probably it was more efficiently designed to work with the various hardware component. In fact, in the Dell website, Dell was in favour of Ubuntu over the other distro!
Ubuntu Linux was quite polish and they put just the right amount of usable software. Unlike some of the previous Linux distros such as Mandriva (Mandrake) which came in 3 CDs stuffing it with all manner of software, Ubuntu just came with the essential popular ones, enough to fit into just one 700MB CD-R.
Booting up Ubuntu was rather quick as there weren’t many tray application, or should I say none at all to load up. The desktop was clean save for the shortcut icon to my other Windows partition. It could read/write NTFS files so I could access my files located in the Windows partition.
My job requires communicating by email to my various suppliers and customers. Ubuntu came with the Evolution software which was rather good in handling emails. I could set up either POP or IMAP, but opt for the latter as I have set up Gmail to grab emails from the company mail server. Reading and writing messages with Evolution was quite efficient. However when I tried to import the contacts from Outlook to Evolution it was rather inaccurate. Perhaps I should map the fields properly, but I have no idea which field should go to which side. Anyway, the name and email address still fit each so I just left it as that. To have more versatility, I also imported the contacts to Gmail. So I could compose mail either in Evolution or in Gmail.
For browsing, Ubuntu came with Firefox only. Fortunately I could easily add more application with this distro. Unlike my previous trial run of other Linux flavours, adding more application was just a matter of ticking which app you wanted to install in their list of extra application installation. I added another browser called Opera because I wanted to sign in to two different Google account so that I can access both my company mails and personal mails which was set up on separate accounts. You could not sign to two different account on the same browser at the same time, and signing off and signing in was too slow and tedious. May as well use two separate browsers running at the same time.
For writing letters and doing spreadsheet calculation, Open Office was quite a good alternative replacement to Microsoft Office. Since I’m no power user of office application, whatever Open Office offered was quite sufficient for my need. However, Open Office did have some features which would be incompatible with the Microsoft Office, however I didn’t use them and weren’t familiar as to what those features were anyway and just saved my files in the usual Office 97-2000 format.
Though Ubuntu could do the basics like the above, it couldn’t do a lot of other things. As a techie guy who uses various devices, I could not sync my O2 Windows Mobile PDA phone with Evolution nor could I access any of the files in it either. It was just not compatible. Palm syncing was not possible either. Since Linux only have support for the very old Palm Pilot PDA, the new Palm models like Tungsten was not compatible at all.
As for USB drives, all could be connected except U3 password enabled thumb drive. Which meant that I could not secure my flash drive if I want to use Linux. I have to disable the U3 password functionality in order to access my files, and of course all the U3 software would not work either. In addition, Linux didn’t have a good synchronizing software like SyncToy, thus I will have to manually copy over any files that I have modified or else just keep all my files on the flash drive and don’t keep a copy in the PC, otherwise sorting through duplicate copies would definitely be a time consuming affair.
I was never successful at office LAN networking with Linux. I never could see the other computers in the LAN network and thus not able to access shared folders and files. Anyway, this wasn’t a very big issue since my office colleagues still emailed files over rather than passing the file via shared folders. Besides, the files weren’t that big.
Overall, depending on your usage requirement, Ubuntu might just cut it in as an alternative against Windows. However with some lack of compatibility with some of the devices in the market, then this is not what you might want to use on a regular basis.
Shifting over to Ubuntu Linux