This year I had the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I was able to use my Ubuntu laptop full-time as my main computer both in and out of the house. It was an interesting experience, especially as everyone I was working with had either Windows or Mac OS X. Here’s what happened over the month I used Ubuntu full-time, and here’s what I thought of it.
The first question you’ll probably have after reading the introductory paragraph is, “Why did you only make it one month? Doesn’t that mean you decided Ubuntu wouldn’t work full-time?” The simple answer is, no. The main reason I stopped using my Ubuntu laptop full-time because of hardware issues unrelated to Ubuntu. The long answer covers what I thought of Ubuntu over that month and how well it worked out for me.
Let’s start with the computer I was using. If you’ve seen some of my previous posts, you’ll probably know that my current Ubuntu machine is a Sony Vaio VGN-150e with a 2 GHz Core 2 Duo and 2 GB of RAM. (Ed: not anymore.) It’s not new, but it is perfectly adequate for Ubuntu. The problem lies with the fact that the laptop has a dead battery. Not a worn-out battery, a completely dead battery. I have a suspicion that the problem may even lie with the charging circuit and not the battery itself. This means that when the laptop is unplugged, it instantly dies just like a desktop would. If I happened to be working somewhere without a power outlet, I wasn’t going to be working. This complicated matters to the point where I finally gave up on using the laptop full-time.
But what about Ubuntu? During my experience, I decided that Ubuntu is perfectly usable on a day-to-day basis. In fact, I only discovered one issue: compatibility with traditional Windows programs. Everyone I worked with had Microsoft Office, which made the formatting of many shared documents I had to work with look very odd when opened with LibreOffice. I know LibreOffice isn’t part of Ubuntu and it isn’t Ubuntu’s fault that document formats aren’t universal, but I can’t see any way of getting around this issue except for buying Microsoft Office or forcing everyone else to use Ubuntu. When I finally switched from the Sony to my newer Windows 7 Acer laptop, I chose to use Windows because I already had purchased Microsoft Office and felt that I might as well make use of it.
On everything else except for compatibility, however, Ubuntu did well. I didn’t have a single crash, and I enjoyed the security of using Linux. The bottom line is that my main issues turned out to be hardware-related and that if I had a new laptop that was built for Ubuntu and didn’t have to constantly work with Microsoft Office documents, I would still be using Ubuntu full-time right now. As it is, I use Windows during the day and Ubuntu occasionally.