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Ubunto takes on XP in OS showdown

Road Test Six-week fiddle
Mon Apr 16 2007, 11:53
DUAL-BOOTING Ubunto and Windows XP over six weeks gives a great insight into the strength's and weaknesses of the two operating systems.

So far most of the "is Linux ready for the desktop" reviews I have done have focused on the problems of installing the beast. However once it is installed and configured it is easy to see how much ground Ubunto has cut from under XP.

I should point out that I can't compare Ubunto to Vista. While Volish spinsters might tell me that most of the weaknesses of XP I might have picked up have been repaired in Vista, I haven't got one, don't want to spend the money and don't like the DRM. Besides most Windows users are still on XP.

My machine is nothing special, it is a Pentium D CPU 2.66GHz with a Gig of RAM.

Ubuntu is a Debian based flavour of Linux this means that it has a really good installer. Far better than YAST or other things I have tried. It has access to loads of other open sauce software which is installable for free or damn cheap. When you compare the two operating systems you have to look at the various software you can get for it. Windows has a lot of good stuff which you have to pay for. Linux has access to a lot of Open Sauceware which you don't.

The sort of software you get for Ubuntu is 'industrial' and lacks a lot of the flare that you get from Windows. Some of it is really good, but some of it is fairly also-ran. For example the various bit-torrent programs which you know and love in Windows cannot do nearly as much in Linux. BitTornado forces you to keep your torrents open or else it loses them. The only way around this problem is to save them to a file and reboot them manually when you have started up.

It seems to be a game of finding the right sort of software that will do what you expect too. For example the default 'soundjuicer' program will not work with my sound card, but Rhythmbox does.

Updating software is really easy using Debian. Almost every other day I get a request to download and update something. Unlike other versions of Linux, where this is a nightmare, this process is as easy as Windows under Ubuntu. However there are some quirks. For a couple of weeks, Ubuntu has wanted me to do some kind of upgrade which it then says I can't do. In fact it wants me to update the entire distribution but it will not let me do that either. Irritating but I am not losing sleep over it, while Windows Genuine Installer sending details to Microsoft bothers me.

Instead of Firefox, I installed the SwiftFox which is a Linux based version of the browser which is designed for speed. Now my internet browsing is a lot faster in Linux than in Windows. Under XP there is a gap of a few seconds while the browser thinks about showing me the page. Swiftfox dumps the whole lot up onto the screen instantly. This is the Interweb the way it should be. A lack of a decent desktop search engine on Unbunto is annoying as Kerry Beagle does not really cut the mustard to the extent that Google desktop does. Mind you neither does that silly dog in XP.

The system is set up with the out-of-the-box firewall and peer guardian. During the weeks I have been running it I have had no hacks, viruses, root-kits installed. The XP partition's array of virus checkers failed to catch three in that time. Ubuntu is running as fast as the day I installed it, however it has crashed three times mostly as a screen freeze. While it has not crashed during that period, XP is however much slower. In the days before Ubuntu I would not have noticed it, but internet browsing using Exploder and FireBadger is really slow and it takes a long time to get programs running.

Sadly I can't compare the effectiveness of XP and Ubuntu's graphics. This is because any games I might play have to use Windows. I also cannot use the desktop publishing package CS2 either, which means that for a portion of my day I am using VoleWare. If this problem was remedied by the games makers and Adobe, I don't think I would would use XP at all. µ


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