Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ubuntu, almost two weeks in

Well, the laptop has been running Ubuntu Studio 9.04 (64bit) for almost two weeks and so far the verdict is: Bye-Bye Vista!

The improvements in the laptop's performance using Ubuntu vs Vista is quite noticeable. The biggest difference has been the heat. I recently had to go out and get one of those cooling pads for the laptop due to the excessive heat. Running Vista for longer than about thirty minutes would make the bottom of the laptop almost hot enough to cook eggs on. The cooling pad was the only thing keeping the hardware from locking up from excessive heat and keeping me from having a broiled lap. After unstalling Ubuntu, the laptop runs so cool, that there is almost no noticeable change in the temperature of the bottom of the laptop even after being on all night (this is without the cooling pad)! Note, I have seen several forum posts mentioning the exact opposite, so actual results may vary.

Another improvement seen is in hard drive speed. I partitioned the drive using ext4 and let me tell you, ext4 is very peppy as compared to NTFS. Microsoft really needs to seriously look into updating the file system its OSes are using. One of the things that drove me to Ubuntu was the horrendous file transfer speeds I had in Vista (and XP after SP2). When I was backing up media files before this switchover, I transferred about 57GB from an external drive to my desktop computer (much more muscle and HD speed compared to the laptop), it took Vista 8 hours to transfer the files! With Ubuntu on an ext4 drive, it took just over 1 hour!

Unfortunately, I cannot break all Microsoft fetters from the laptop. One of the programs I will not go without cannot (and according to their support people, will never) run under Linux (either natively or through emulators like WINE), and that is Libronix (which I use for most of my Bible study). This being the case, I pulled out my dusty copy of XP, installed VirtualBox and setup a 20GB virtual drive for XP, Libronix, Bibleworks 7 and iTunes. Unfortunately, VirtualBox only supports 1 core, so I lose half of my horsepower, but honestly XP runs just fine for these applications with the one core and only 512MB ram dedicated to it (need to upgrade to 4GB on the laptop when finances are available).

The biggest surprise in the switchover has been Denita. She has not complained once! While she is not a novice when it comes to computers, she is only used to Windows systems and previously when I had experimented with other OSes, her ire was tweaked rather quickly. This time around, she seems to have settled into the new environment without a hitch.

The one drawback to the whole thing was the initial setup. Standard Ubuntu has a very slick and easy to use installation interface when you first go to put the OS on your system. Ubuntu Studio has not gotten this feature yet. It still uses the old text based installation and the partition manager was not intuitive and took most of the install time getting the drive partitions correct. I would not recommend people new to computers or Linux to try to install Ubuntu Studio without help. Regular Ubuntu is another thing entirely, the installation interface there is even easier to use than Vista or XP's.

For standard computer use, I would highly recommend Ubuntu to anyone out there, especially if you do not wish to get caught in the Microsoft Upgrade Trap™. Ubuntu and the software that runs on it upgrade easily. In fact, if you use the built in package handler to handle installations, you can update your OS and all your other software at the same time instead of tracking down each individual update file for every program you own (think Windows Update for ALL your installed software).