First of all I would like to say I am a Windows user and probably always will be a Windows user, but I like to have choice and the ability to experiment with other operating systems. There are two main reasons I have continued to use Windows.
Simplicity: It just works
Software availability: Most of the major software companies focus their development efforts towards machines running the Windows OS.
I have been using Linux as my secondarily OS for about 10 years. My introduction to Linux was through Suse 8.0. At the time when I bought this distro it was cutting edge, but it certainly wasn't built with the non experienced user in mind. I continued using Linux, and every now and then updated my distro. I tend to buy the Linux distributions in software stores. Not only it is more convenient to have the CD's but you also have a physical book of documentation. The downside of this being, up until today I was still running Suse 9.1 on my laptop. Having bought the Linux distro I tend to horde them. As a result I find myself struggling away with a fairly old OS. You may think this is a bit silly, but in reality the distro I was running was no older than Windows XP. When you use something you get used to it.
I was trying to decide on what version to move onto next and the name Ubuntu kept cropping up. After some digging about I decided to give it a try. This time I decided to download the ISO image as opposed to obtaining the physical media for the install. In total the download was 650 megs.
What you next need to do is create bootable media, this means anything that can be initiated by the computer at boot time. The easiest way of doing this is to burn a bootable ISO image to CD/DVD rom, although you can also create a bootable USB thumb drive for your install. The latter will require a little bit more work and you will need to make sure the system you intend to install on supports booting from USB. This is done within the “Boot priority” section of your bios.
The installation process was very simple and intuitive. The entire procedure was wizard driven. what HD you you wish to install on, do you wish to set up a duel boot with another OS and so on. The install was also very fast. The last time I installed Windows it took about 45 minutes. Ubuntu took 15 minutes. Through the process is displayed a slide show introducing you to the OS and its features. At the end of the install I was asked to create a user account and then the system re-booted. I was very impressed with what happened next.
On system start its clear to see that Linux is coming of age. My previous experience with Linux has been one of “need to learn” Linux has never been a simply OS to get to grips with, Yep Ubuntu do appear to have nailed it. It detected all my hardware and configured all device drivers with no input from me. The laptop I installed Ubuntu Linux on is around 5 years old, so its a fairly old machine, yet had no problems running its new OS at all. It now has a new lease of life. Even with my system it feels quick, and responds very well.
So what can it do?
I mentioned before that Linux is a secondarily OS for me. I mainly use it for Surfing and email. My main development work is still done on a Windows based machine, so this had all the tools I need and quite a bit more. Firefox was installed as standard (3.5) so the web experience you have come to expect from FF on Windows, and I believe the actual browser start up time is a lot quicker.
The default windows manager that is installed with Ubuntu is called Gnome.
Gnome is a user interface that interacts with the underlying OS. Its the User interface that allows you to control the operating system, be it Windows, Linux or Mac they all make good use of a UI. Gnome works very well, the biggest difference a Windows will notice is that the main menus are at the top, as opposed to having the Windows start button at the bottom. It does take a little bit of getting used to.
There is another Windows manager that follows the Windows way of thinking by placing all the menus at the bottom called KDE
This can be installed very easily using the package manager. The package manager is a piece of software that controls the rest of the software. It checks for dependencies and makes sure all required software/libraries are installed based on your selections. The KDE desktop is awesome! It follows the same principles of Windows. If you are used to using Windows Vista or 7 you will have no problems at all using KDE.
I said before one of the main reasons I mainly use Windows is due to the availability of software. I don't just use my Windows PC for development I use it for gaming as well. Because of these reasons switching to Linux full time is not an option. There is however a great selection of software for Linux, and Ubuntu have made it so simple to get software.
If you think of the Apple aps store, or the Android market these places make it very easy to obtain and install software. Ubuntu have done the same thing with Linux. Within your applications menu there is an icon “Ubuntu Software Center” where you can manage your software. The application shows you what applications you have installed. You have the ability to remove installed applications or add more. You can browse applications arranged into categories or use search terms to find new software.
Installing software on Linux used to be a nightmare, very often you had to install from RPM's and if they weren't available you had to get our hands dirty by compiling from source code.
It does seam that this is a of version of Linux for everyone. It's lean and simple, yet still provides tools for people who want to do geeky things. Its not a perfect OS, to be honest I don't think there will ever be such a thing, but it does meet a very high standard. I would say it compares very well with Windows 7.