As I write this, I’m installing Linux.
The funny part about this is that I’m installing Linux on the same computer I’m working on. Using something called a “Live CD” I’m able to actually run Linux, complete with a web browser, while I install the system. This is insanely cool.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with installing operating systems. My geeky side enjoys the excitement of the upgrade, of trying something new. But the business side of me knows that upgrading or installing a new operating system always means a few weeks of lost productivity. Sure, months later everything might work better, but that first day of installing the operating system and new drivers, re-installing all the old programs, migrating data, re-configuring settings… it’s a lot of wasted time.
Having just installed Vista on a new computer, I had mixed feelings. The install was fairly easy, although I had to install some new drivers, and with Vista’s driver reputation, who knows if they work properly. The look and changes to the operating system seem decent, little things like the way that you navigate through folders, or additions like more sophisticated CD burning programs.
However I also found Vista to be surprisingly slow, and I encountered some small bugs that led to some bigger problems. This morning while doing some updates, the system crashed and wouldn’t start up again without recovery.
(Linux has finished installing now. No joke.)
I figured that would be a good reason to try installing Linux for dual-booting. Already I’d tried out a new brand (ie. “distribution”) of Linux called Ubuntu. The cool thing is that you can use a Live CD to try out the system without even installing it. I found that even running from a CD, Ubuntu was faster than Vista.
I started using Linux back in ’94 or so, and since then I’ve used both Windows and Linux on a regular basis. The big question I’ve been asking myself for years is, which one makes the better business case? And since the introduction of OS X, MacOS has been looking pretty good, too.
What we’re seeing is a huge convergence. It used to be that MacOS was a beautiful system for artists with a rickety back-end, Linux was the technologically superior system that only geeks could understand, and Windows was somewhere between the two, making it the best option for business.
But now it’s different. MacOS now runs a BSD system under the hood, putting it technologically on a par with Linux, and Windows has both improved its usability and shifted to using its server-oriented technology (eg. NT-based OSes) even for home users. Finally, we’ve seen many groups try to create Linux brands for the masses. And it seems that Ubuntu is succeeding mightily.
Currently, I’m still using Windows because of a few minor things: needing to verify web sites in Internet Explorer, which is possible but not easy under Linux; the slightly greater ease of use with movies and multimedia; and the comfort of knowing that all of those popular Windows programs will run.
Most of that is changing. Multimedia seems to work just fine with Ubuntu, and the system is at least as easy to use as Windows. Updating the system is extremely easy, and there are tons of programs included right off the bat. In fact, as for the programs, my preferences are mostly with the open source software in any case. It’s just a sensible business choice: the programs do everything I need them to do, are easy and quick to download, and cost nothing.
Of course, we’ll see what I think in two months, but so far Ubuntu may be the first time I’ve felt Linux was a definitively good choice for business, especially for entrepreneurs starting out, who don’t have a lot of investment in other software. People have been saying this for years, from the first appearance of Red Hat, but now Linux has really grown up.
Now it’s time to boot into my new Ubuntu system.