Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Linux Experiment

I've been a fan of linux since it's inception, and I've watched as it matured throughout the years. At least once a year since about 2001, I've installed it and tried to see if I could use it as my primary operating system.

For the most part, I've always ended up going back to my original operating system (Windows XP/2000 up until 2007, and Mac OS X after that). There were always issues that made it impractical to use on a daily basis.

In recent years, linux has matured considerably, and Ubuntu in particular makes a strong case for a daily workstation.

So, I will attempt to see if I can use linux as my primary operating system.

I'm going to look at the following main areas:

  • Web Browsing
  • Email, Chat, and Skype
  • Network Shares
  • Movies, Music, and Pictures

Test Setup

For this test, I will be using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Desktop, Lucid Lynx, running on VMWare. LTS stands for Long Term Support, so this is a pretty stable build to run.

I won't go through the setup and install since there's a ton of documentation on that already.

First things first

Before anything else, System updates. Total time: 5 minutes. 10.04 is relatively new, so there wasn't much to update.

But that wallpaper has got to go.

Also, I'll organize the desktop a bit.


  • Change desktop
  • Change desktop resolution to 1024x768
  • Remove multiple workspaces and remove the switcher from the bottom bar
  • Remove Help from top panel and replace with Terminal
  • Add Window Selector and System Monitor to the right side of the top panel
  • Switch to Radiance Theme
  • Set Terminal size and color

Web Browsing

Firefox on Ubuntu works pretty good, but it's pretty slow compared to Google Chrome. Getting Chrome is as easy as going to the website and selecting 32 bit .deb. By default, it opens with the Package Installer and the install was painless.

Browsing is nice and fast, but now we have to address the pain that is flash. But I was in for a surprise since Flash is already installed. In previous versions of Ubuntu, it had to be installed separately, so it's nice to have it out of the box.

Everything feels pretty snappy on Chrome and the browsing experience is great.

Email, Chat, and Skype

Setting up the Evolution email client was pretty easy, but there aren't any configuration guides specific to it. The only note was that in order to specify the port number, you have to suffix the server name with colon and the port. i.e. imap.gmail.com:993

Setting up chat on Empathy was similarly easy.

The good thing about using the installed clients is the integration with the status bar at the top.

Skype has to be installed from the website, but it's an easy install.

So far, things are looking good.

Network Shares

This is a category in which Ubuntu and linux in general has had problems, but 10.04 handled it pretty well. It found the shares and mounted them easily without having to install anything.

Movies, Music, and Pictures

My first test was an m4v file encoded with h264. Movie Player opened the file and then prompted to download the codecs. There were 34 package files on the download queue, so I decided to scrap the incumbent and go with VLC.

VLC opened up the file with no problems and everything worked flawlessly, as expected. Music files weren't a problem either.

For pictures, the Gnome picture viewer worked well and it didn't balk at browsing a folder with over 100 pictures.


So far, Ubuntu 10.04 is proving to be a worthy desktop replacement.