Have you tried Ubuntu yet?

January 2nd, 2007

Note: please see the excellent comments at the end of this article, which contain many corrections, clarifications and useful suggestions.

DivX playback on Ubuntu
DivX playback, Totem player, Windowed. 

One of my new years resolutions for 2007 was to use an open source operating system. I don’t mean try it out and forget about it - rather, I want to learn how to use it for day to day work (which I would normally do on an XP powered PC).

And each day I use this new OS, I’m amazed by how easy it is to use. The purpose of this little article is to give Windows XP users a rough idea on how easy it is to use Ubuntu, and see how Ubuntu compares with Windows XP

Pre installation FAQ

  1. What is Ubuntu? Ubuntu is an open source operating system. What that generally means is, Ubuntu can be downloaded for free, and you can use it on your system without paying for a licence.
  2. Yes, but isn’t that OS for Linux experts? Don’t you need to know Linux? Not necessarily. Ubuntu works mostly via a graphical user interface (similar to Windows XP, you use a mouse, click buttons, etc). Most operations are completed with a mouse. Very rarely you may have to perform some advanced operations using a terminal/console (like MS Dos window).
  3. How easy is it to install? Basically, you boot off the CD and follow the prompts. Installation is via a GUI.
  4. How do I get the CD? You can download an ISO image of the CD from http://www.ubuntu.com/ - burn this image onto a CD and boot off that CD.
  5. Will it recognise my hardware? Ubuntu recognised all hardware on my test PC without any problems. Contrast this with XP which required me to download additional drivers for VGA and Sound! Does this guarantee all your hardware will be recognised? No, but most of the time, it just works.
  6. Does it require a lot of space? Actually I was told (during the installation process) that you will need around 2.5GB of space, which is not bad considering that Ubuntu comes with many applications (e.g. Open Office), unlike Windows XP.
  7. But I only know how to use XP? How can I retrain myself to use Ubuntu?? The most surprising thing is, you don’t have to retrain yourself - most of the functionality of the desktop/etc is very similar to Windows XP. I don’t mean to say Ubuntu mimics Windows (they don’t), rather, if you are familiar with XP you should be able to find your way around Ubuntu easily. Actually, it’s more accurate to say both XP and Ubuntu are intuitive and follow common concepts and logical processes in their graphical user interfaces (translation: if you can use XP, you will probably be fine with Ubuntu).

The Ubuntu Experience

To give you an idea of what it’s like to use Ubuntu, I’ve got some screenshots here - click a thumbnail to open it on Flickr.

I was amazed at how many applications are included with Ubuntu - right out of the box, this OS seems to include everything I could think of - office software, DVD/CD Writing software, Email and Internet browser, graphics, etc, all included, fully functional, and ready to use.

The Desktop

Ubuntu Desktop
I’ve tweaked the menu to start from below (like XP) because I’m used to that :) Old habits.. You can see a screen shot of Ubuntu’s ’start’ menu here

As you can see, it’s a lot like XP - you have your “Computer”, and a taskbar which shows Tabs for windows, a clock, and a menu to launch programs, accessories, etc. Yup, just like XP - so nothing to relearn here as such!

Included Software:

Unlike Windows, Ubuntu includes a range of popular Linux applications for various tasks such as Graphics, Wordprocessing, etc. Most of these software packages are equivalent to (or better than) similar commercial Windows applications

Graphics Software:


GIMP is a professional graphics software, similar to Photoshop.

Office software:

Ubuntu: Office applications: spreadsheet, wordprocessing, presentation, database..

Ubuntu includes Open Office which is similar to Microsoft Office - it includes applications for Spreadsheet, Word processing, database, and presentation.


Ubuntu Games

Ubuntu includes a large collection of preinstalled games


One big plus point of Ubuntu is, as with most Linux distros, it is very secure. Virus and spyware generally are not much of a threat (compared to Windows environment) as most attacks are directed against Windows.

Also, users aren’t automatically set up as administrators - and most admin operations require a password, so it’s harder for a malicious application to attack the system. 

Also, as Ubuntu is open source, the code is regularly checked by thousands of people worldwide, and bugs are quickly fixed.


Ubuntu is professional operating system, it’s simple to use, includes freeware versions of most Windows software, and, did I forget to mention, happnens to be FREE?

Over the next few days I will write more articles on my Ubuntu experience.

PS: Hi to everyone at http://www.groklaw.net/

Entry Filed under: Linux, Misc, Ubuntu

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yo  |  January 3rd, 2007 at 12:11 am

    I’ve been meaning to try Ubuntu for a long time now. Must do it.

    How does Ubuntu compare with Linux XP? Better?

  • 2. n#  |  January 3rd, 2007 at 12:54 am

    I’d say better - hardware recognition is better (doesn’t usually need additional drivers), and it comes with most software already included unlike XP

  • 3. Rajah  |  January 3rd, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    I’ve been using Ubuntu since 4.1 on and off. Love it as it’s so easy. You might want to also take a look at a spinoff called Linux Mint which includes some of the things you have to get and install on Ubuntu, such as Java and some of the media codecs for playing DVDs as well as improved wireless adapter recognition. Read about it in the URL I included.

  • 4. JL  |  January 3rd, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    You should also mention the free Shipit service as an alternative to downloading.

  • 5. Martin Owens  |  January 4th, 2007 at 1:15 am

    Which version did you install? Edgy Eft or Dapper Duck? because while Edgy has more features Dapper Duck has a greater number of years of support (updates and such)

    Java’s jre is now gpl so it’s included by default, what isn’t is ati/nvidia drivers, flash player, media codecs etc.

  • 6. cybervegan  |  January 4th, 2007 at 2:53 am

    “includes freeware versions of most Windows software”

    Could do with re-wording that. Freeware most definitely *isn’t* Free or Open Source Software (FOSS)! Although you could say that Ubuntu contains *some* freeware - it’s almost all Free or Open Source Software (it does have proprietary “freeware” ATI and NVidia drivers in the later versions).

    Freeware doesn’t let you get the source-code; FOSS does.

    Open Office, Mozilla Firefox web browser and Evolution e-mail , for instance, are all FOSS.

    It’s a niggly little point, but worth making properly. Freeware is not FOSS.

    Apart from that, it’s a great article. Glad you made the upgrade!


  • 7. Karl O. Pinc  |  January 4th, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Be careful about installing software that does not come as part of Ubuntu. When you do that you’re suddenly responsible for keeping it working. All is generally roses until you upgrade, which is otherwise easy operation and can be frequently done. At that point it’s your responsiblitiy to make sure that all the versions of everything extra you’ve installed work with each other and all the versions of the new Ubuntu.

    An unsung advantage of Linux is that everything just works, and installs with a click (or whatever). At least everything that comes with your particular Linux distro works, which is all most people need. This is a big advantage in long-term hassle-free maintenance. But it’s easy to venture outside into do-it-yourself land unaware of the implications. It’s not fair to blame Linux when you’ve installed some external version of some critical component (classicly, a video driver) which then breaks ( and leaves you without video, or at least without a GUI) when you upgrade or do something else that should be really painless.

    it’s not that hard to become more of an expert and install 3rd party software, just be aware of the tradeoffs involved. A lot of people want a system that “just works”, and 3rd party software moves you away from that. Because Microsoft Windows comes with so few programs people are used to having to install 3rd party software. Linux is not like that and trying to manage your Linux box like you manage your MS Windows box will get you into some of the same old incompatibility problems that MS Windows has.

  • 8. anon  |  January 4th, 2007 at 8:23 am

    When you get used to it a bit more, take a look at

    It has some nice “unofficial” packages for Ubuntu.

  • 9. OpenSourceUser  |  January 4th, 2007 at 8:38 am

    If you thought Ubuntu’s application list was impressive, I am glad; however, you have not even scratch the top of the iceberg of software available. Their are literally thousands and thousands. The majority of these thousands are exceptionally good software products.

    For example, if you just limit your view to the Debian distribution of Linux, then there are over 15,490 packages (see http://www.debian.org/) for you to easily install with a point and click.

    On my Suse 10.2 (http://www.opensuse.org) distribution of Linux I did a full install and have 7,159 (obtained by pressing tab twice in a terminal) programs available (some of which are sub programs to larger programs suites I admit).

    If you want to find yet more opensource packages and free software you can search for on the internet. This searching option is of course available for Windows XP–however, the complete package of install options available to install from the Windows install CD pales in comparison to the Linux install CD for every Linux distribution I have ever looked at.

    Which option has a better value for you? Interestingly, the most important value (in my mind and which you did not discussed) is preventing vendor lock-in. I am free to choose whatever software best fits my needs.

    One caveat beginning users need to realize is that most software for Linux does not yet come through the retail chains of your local store. Most software that runs with Linux comes through downloads.

  • 10. OpenSourceUser  |  January 4th, 2007 at 8:55 am

    . . . and if I can get 7,159 programs from just the install CDs, and then I decide to include my download options I have a huge repository of software that exceeds 15,490.

    Too many options to make an educated choice? Maybe for some who want packaged deals. Packaged deals is where the value of Linux distributors comes into play. If you are the type of person that just likes packaged choices, then stick with your Linux install CDs. . . . as you have that choice.

  • 11. Rocky  |  January 4th, 2007 at 9:23 am

    You’ve got a Linux jargon word you might want to substitute. In the section on security, you use the word “distros”. Since you’ve never mentioned that distros is short for distributions, that might be confusing. I’d recommend substituting “versions”. Other than that, you’re writing very well to your target audience.

  • 12. wally  |  March 15th, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    I installed Ubuntu (Already have XP pro running on the computer)
    It installed without a hitch. dual boot no prob.
    I also have a winmodem a conexant based one, and I i was connected the internet not too long after, thanks to “linuxant” drivers.
    I am new to linux but I already like it ! it’s
    personal and you feel like it is YOUR system and you are the boss.. Unlike XP where you have to call ‘daddy’ every time you fart.
    I will hopefully one day soon, finally delete XP and never look back ,,bye bye billyboy…

  • 13. G@rg0yle  |  March 21st, 2007 at 9:27 am

    I had done some reading about Ubuntu and downloaded and installed the O/S. Wow, I’m amazed how easy to use and configure. Having been and still am a Windows Guy, just started using Vista on one of my PC’s, I’m sold on Ubuntu. I’m still using it on one of my test PC’s, but I can already tell you, I’m sold. I can see no reason to keep giving Microsoft more of my hard earned money when this O/S is such a fantastic operating system. I suppose my son and nephew who work for Microsoft in Seattle won’t be happy with me, but Ubuntu really rocks. The more I use it, the more I love. My next step is to start migrating my 6 home computers from XP to Ubuntu, although, I might leave my wifes PC alone, she does not like change. I’m sure she will come around though after seeing me use it. I can’t say enough good things about it, and the price? Well, enough said.

  • 14. dave  |  March 31st, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    If I install Ubuntu alongside XP pro will that work and does the new os tell me how to set up a dual boot system please?

    I am not very pc smart but P******* with the way Vista has been dropped on us (esp’ UK) and would like at some time to escape MS’s greedy grasp

  • 15. Rasika  |  April 19th, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    You say OpenOffice is way cool. Man, have you seen Office 2007. At least now I know that MS has a vision (apart from sucking our wallets) Eye candy aside the Office 2007 Interface is easy to use and will make the hardcore Mac addict say for once “why isn’t that on mac?”

  • 16. Walter Blass  |  May 4th, 2007 at 9:53 am

    As a beginner and for learning I’m willing to install Ubuntu in a free spare partition E (aprox. 40 GB available). I`m using XP Home SP 2 on AMD 64, 560 RAM. If installing Kubuntu or Xubuntu I want to know exactly how to proceed, because I don’t want to mess up my actual configuration, files, etc. etc. (of course, first I’m going to back up everything). I’m an old user of DOS & Windows and want to install Ubuntu by myself, where can I find brief & accurate instructions? Spanish or English.
    Thanks in advance.
    Walter from Buenos Aires

  • 17. wezowary cheiv  |  May 8th, 2007 at 2:09 am

    hmm im waiting to get another hdd and some caddies for my crash box. i have downloaded ubuntu so when i get that hdd.. etc etc.

    i cant permanantly drop windows unfortunatly, i work in it, mainly 99% windows, so :\ to that.

    still keen by the sounds of things though, is there VM software available?

  • 18. wezowary cheiv  |  May 8th, 2007 at 2:12 am

    sorry to spam…

    also, what is game support like? i breifly read about non-ati/nvidia drivers with default install or something so ….

    are driver install gui or command line based? and how long does it take to get to know your way around the console?

  • 19. Vorlon  |  August 10th, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    @15: Yes, I have seen it, and I hate it!!! I want to see the document I am working on, not that what you call “eye-candy”. You may think this is funny, but for both my Ubuntu (7.04 FF) and Windows (I am in the proces of “converting” from Windows to Ubuntu) I like the simple, straightforward, non-bloated interfaces of the Open Office programs.

    You can have the Microsoft stuff, if you really like it… a lot of people can do without it! Don’t forget that computers are “tools”, that you use them for accomplishing a certain task, a GUI (Graphical User Interface) is nice, but functionality comes first IMNSHO!

    When I ran Ubuntu for the first time (from the Live CD), I was impressed by the easy of use, the completeness (both in software and in Hardware recognition), and speed. Now I have it installed on a spare Hard Disk, and I really have to force myself to go back to my Windows environment in order to get things ready for transfer to Ubunto (a lot of documents for instance).

    In short: Ubuntu feels good; is fast; has 99.99% of what people (including myself) would need in matters of software delivered upon installation, and is much ( and I mean *MUCH*) more stable than any Windows I had the “pleasure” of working with (and I work with computers since the days of MS-DOS 3.11!!!)


  • 20. Justray  |  March 18th, 2008 at 2:23 am

    Well… easy? rarely using the terminal???, i dont think so, i had installed Ubuntu on my laptop and i had quite a few problems with drivers (wireless, graphic card and crashed every 5 damn min X-x) but dont get me wrong, i like ubuntu and linux and i know how powerfull and kicking ass can be but is not that easy using the console and not all programs comes with .deb, many times you need to google for some tutorials or answers…

    The main reason that im using right now only winXP and vista is when i want to install ubuntu in my pc it try to run the liveCD to install ubuntu BUT it doesnt even start, you said it just works but NO IN MY PC, it has a bad problem with my MOBO and doesnt run or install ubuntu or kubuntu, my MOBO is a ECS P965T-A ver1.0B, ANY HELP will be great

  • 21. Ray Loyed  |  June 13th, 2008 at 7:36 am

    But I only know how to use XP? How can I retrain myself to use Ubuntu?? The most surprising thing is, you don’t have to retrain yourself - most of the functionality of the desktop/etc is very similar to Windows XP. I don’t mean to say Ubuntu mimics Windows (they don’t), rather, if you are familiar with XP you should be able to find your way around Ubuntu easily. Actually, it’s more accurate to say both XP and Ubuntu are intuitive and follow common concepts and logical processes in their graphical user interfaces (translation: if you can use XP, you will probably be fine with Ubuntu

    I agree with your earlier statements about it being almost as easy as winxp..Except for the installation of most programs and applications which doesnt install like in windows where you just double click the exe files to install.
    I downloaded my new video drivers for linux xp 2008 and read the install notes to get them installed,I was told to type in something to get the package to install(hmmm,and exactly where to type it in is a mystery so far,im still doing some reading)The installer instructions doesnt say to type it into the desktop or a text file or where it goes at all!!
    But yes,once you get past all of this technical stuff linux is easy to use and kinda resembles windows a bit(which of course is what you read everywhere about linux).Everyone just tends to forget that if you say its as easy as windows that most people think double click and tell it where to go,and linux ISNT THAT EASY!!Thats why most people are afraid to try linux,almost everything i have read about linux talks about the eas of use,maybe someone should talk about how to install apps and packages and where they go,how to get there and what to do to get it installed on your linux machine.
    In windows you dont have to download packages and go into a repository or anything else like that.
    SOO,all in all.Yes linux is easy to use if you can get past the install and getting your apps installed to use and getting into the settings and making it work the way you want it to work.But as for installing your stuff,it isnt very easy to a beginner,thats why the user base for linux is so small.
    And the user interface is different too,the control panel is different and in a different place from windows,hell,everything in linux is different or called something different in linux.I have yet to see anything that even works like anything in windows.

  • 22. Frank  |  March 6th, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Linux is not for everyone. I thought my mom could use it because of all these great “linux iz teh shiznit” blog posts. But what we don’t always understand is what Douglas Adams so eloquently said;

    “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. ”
    –Douglas Adams

    Some people only shop at Wal-Mart because it is Wal-Mart. Some people only use Windows because it is Windows. It is hard to be different. My sister supports MS only because I don’t.

    People will only use Linux because they are interested in doing so, not because someone installs it for them. IMO Ubuntu is not the most “user friendly”. Its amazing what kind of a reputation a quarter billion dollars and a few free CD-roms can buy.

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