How Does Ubuntu 11.10 Stack Up Compared To Modern OSes Like Mac And Windows 8?

When it comes to some of the more negative backlash regarding Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I’ve heard on more than one occasion  such claims as, “If they don’t fix X, I’m switching to Mac or Linux”. Today I’m not going to talk about Windows 8 Consumer Preview, you’ve probably heard all the good and the bad by this point.

Instead, I’m taking a look at Linux and comparing features a bit. Honestly, when people make the claim that they’ll switch to Linux, I get a little confused thinking, “So they have such a problem with one change (Metro) that they’ll switch and have to learn dozens of changes?”, not to mention how ugly the GUI in most Linux distros feel and how complex it is to use Linux…. wait, it isn’t ugly or that terribly complex?

It turns out that many of my beliefs about Linux are based on dated impressions from using older versions like Linspire, Mandrake, and other versions that have probably been in the grave for years. I’ve always heard how much better Ubuntu is, but my one play-around with it a few years back left me less than impressed – until yesterday.

Amid the complaints that have been fired at Microsoft of late, I decided to download and try out Ubuntu’s most recent stable build just for the heck of it. Just a fun way to spend the evening when you are a geek like myself.

Today’s Ubuntu has integrated a more casual (and touch) friendly UI, called Unity, which was first brought into the picture to make using a netbook with Ubuntu easier. What makes Ubuntu so interesting? First off, its side dock is actually quite useful and acts something like a cross between the grouped icons in the Windows 7 start bar and of course Apple’s own dock. I also found “Dash Home” extremely useful.

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Ubuntu’s “Dash Home”

Essentially this is a smart menu system that easily groups together all your “apps” in one easy place, allows instant app search, and can even suggest downloads from the Software Center if you are missing an app that fits what you are searching for.

Today’s Linux, at least as far as Ubuntu is concerned, actually feels a bit like Android (or rather Android feels a bit like Ubuntu?). This is good because it might be easier for Android users to make the switch from Windows to this platform, of course that wouldn’t be good for Windows users.

There has been an active interest in some parts of the Ubuntu community of late to come up with a native way to easily run Android apps, if this eventually happens, the switch would be even easier.

One of my favorite things about Windows 8 Consumer Preview is that it boots quickly, about 8-12 seconds. How does Ubuntu compare? Quite well, at about 12-14 seconds, which I thought was pretty impressive too. One complaint I do have is that some parts of the Ubuntu UI do feel a little sluggish from time to time, but it isn’t always that noticeable and could have to do with hardware issues (though everything seems to be working).

One turn off for me on Linux has always been that many drivers ESPECIALLY for wifi, have never seemed to work. This wasn’t a problem and my wireless network was picked up immediately.

So is Ubuntu better than Windows 8 Consumer Preview (or even older versions)? This probably would depend on who you ask. I enjoyed playing with it, but to fully adopt it? I’d have to drop all my Windows games and many 3rd party productivity apps that just don’t exist in Ubuntu. I will say I’m impressed by the store-like nature of “Software Center” and the ease at which apps install in Linux these days though.

My advice to those that haven’t tried Ubuntu or any Linux distro before, do it. You can easily create a LIVE CD (or LIVE USB jump drive) and won’t have to worry about messing up your Windows install. Linux and Ubuntu have come a long way in the last few years, though ironically many traditional Ubuntu fans have been less than pleased with the recent change to the more casual-feeling Unity interface.

It isn’t for everyone, but it certainly could (finally) become a true competitor to Windows, especially if Windows 8 Consumer Preview isn’t well received or if Google eventually considers a desktop OS based on Linux to match its Android strategy.

What do you think about Linux, Ubuntu, and how it compares to Microsoft Windows?

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