Ubuntu & Windows 8, My Love & My Hate

With the recent release of Windows 8 the computer world has fallen upside down. One one side you of course have the Microsoft fans that are awing and oooing over the new metro interface. You have those people that are so eager to be in the know, that they blatantly ignore their own distaste for the metro and act as if it’s just the “next version of Windows”. I have made predictions in the past, (Firefox becoming a bigger browser than IE, RedHat becoming one of the biggest players in the open source world, and I believe my prediction accuracy is high 90’s if not 100%. I’m putting that prediction record on the line when I say that Windows 8 (as it is today) will not be widely adopted anytime soon. Microsoft has always had the distinct advantage of a having a majority of the market share in the computer hardware world so whatever they pushed out, they simply strong arm PC manufacturers in to selling it and viola, everyone is running the next version of Windows. It’s a common misconception that I don’t think Windows has it’s place. If you run a business you are likely going to have propitiatory software possibly propitiatory hardware that will likely be supported in Windows and likely not supported on other platforms. I realize that at about this point you are thinking to yourself, gee seems like this is all wrapped up with a bow but that’s not quite the case.

<Enter High Bandwidth>

With the advent of high bandwidth providers software designers have taken the web browser to a whole new level. Only in today’s world can you stream 1920X1080 video. By the way that is how you specify a resolution none of this 1080p crap. Only in today’s world with HTML5 can you have a fairly graphically intense first person shooter that runs inside a web browser. The world has moved towards functioning with a just a web browser.

For me and those like me this is irrelevant we don’t look at what the computer can do for us, we look for what we can do with the computer. This of course means full unrestricted access to the computer, so that leaves out the Mac users…sorry. For the rest of the world though, the people who their lives begin and end with their Facebook status and checking their email. Having a good web client is all that is needed. That is largely why tablets have become so popular as of late. Where am I going with this? The bottom line is that if you have access to a web browser you have 99% of what most users need.  I find this to be (for the most part) great news. I will for the time being ignore the fact that most users don’t care what is being installed or where, they just want program ABC to work. This makes pitching software like Fedora and Ubuntu much much easier. The largest hurdle when trying to get someone to use open source software especially operating systems is software and compatibility. If I had a dime for every time I heard, “If only iTunes worked in Fedora/Ubuntu I’d never use anything else.” Guess who’s fault that is? Go blame Apple! Go tell them that you really like Ubuntu or Fedora and you really want to use it but they won’t port their software to your platform. I’ve never asked myself but my very educated guess is that they are going to laugh at you and tell you “NO!”

I’ve never understood people that want to support companies that don’t support them. I have friends that pirate Adobe Photoshop and they extol the wonders of Adobe. You do know that if Adobe found out, they wouldn’t thank you for your kind words (okay maybe they would) and then they would throw you in jail. I have developer friends that insist on developing in Windows and then tell me that Fedora/Ubuntu and any other distro should have better Wine support to support their applications. I don’t know if you haven’t been paying attention but Microsoft is moving in a direction that doesn’t include you. What is going to happen in the next iteration of Windows where the ONLY way to install software is the app store? We’ve already seen what Apple does to programs that don’t even conflict with their interest like Drop Box.

My goal is simple. Clients, friends, and family, all trust me to make decisions on their behalf with computers. It’s my goal to migrate as many of them as possible to some sort of open source platform. That by the way brings me to another point I’ve wanted to address for a while. It seems as though every time I turn my back someone is trying to get me to switch from Fedora to Ubuntu. Here’s the honest truth…I could probably make a better argument on paper for Ubuntu than Fedora. Here’s the problem. I work in a commercial environment. I manage my fair share of RedHat servers. I simply do not have the time energy or effort to re-learn how you Debian people do things. I was working on an Ubuntu machine not that long ago and the VI keys and commands were wonky. Perhaps maybe that was just that particular system but it seems that every time I sit down at an Ubuntu machine I end up banging my head against the desk and Googleing my problems. Here’s the other thing. I like that Fedora puts out a new release every 6 months. If you don’t want to upgrade…don’t I skip releases all the time, in fact I’ll probably skip 18 altogether because I think it’s a mess. When something doesn’t work on my computer (like my video card) I only have to wait a few months before it’s usually resolved. Ubuntu’s LTS is almost 5 years. The LTS by the way is the only thing I really like about Ubuntu, because when it DOES work it’s good for 5 years and I don’t have to think about it.

All that said, Linux right now I think holds about 2% of the desktop market share. Granted that number is drastically climbing with the release of Windows 8 and Steam for Ubuntu but still none the less not even half of Mac’s market share, and Mac isn’t even 10% of Windows market share, so we have a long way to go. I’m not delusional but this is the best shot Linux has ever had at the desktop. Once Linux was introduced into the server sphere back in the day it took like wild fire and now has become literally the defecto standard. I see myself as having two options. I can continue to push Fedora (which I believe to be a better operating system as a whole than Ubuntu) if they’d stop tweaking it constantly…or I can hop on the bandwagon and promote Ubuntu. I’m taking a hybrid approach. For those that are in the know, know what they want from their computer, I will still recommend Fedora. To this day there are programs I can’t get to work in Ubuntu, but I can get everything to work in Fedora. Most of my friends and colleges are very high level users and can handle the bleeding edge and take advantage of what Fedora has to offer. On the other hand, from now on when new users ask me about Linux or want to try something other than Windows, I will seriously consider Ubuntu. I will especially consider Ubuntu if that user is primarily interested in gaming. While not everything works in Ubuntu, what does work works better in Ubuntu than in Fedora (in most cases). Not having to worry about an update breaking this is a huge plus.

As an administrator and the local trusted computer geek I always try to see the big picture. To do that I ask myself questions in the extreme. If every computer in the world ran Microsoft do I think users would be better off, the answer no. If every computer in the world ran MacOSX do I think users would be better off, the answer is unequivocally no, if every computer ran Linux do I think users would be better off, yes. Not only would they have complete control over their machine and complete freedom, they also would have the luxury of supported software as every vendor would be going to Linux. Windows uesrs get what they like the best, compatibility, MacOSX users get what they like the best, simplicity, ease of use and Linux users get the above two as well as complete control. It’s only a bonus that you can choose your hardware independent from the Operating System.

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