Is The Windows Vista Release a Good Time To Switch To Linux?

ZDNet Australia reported on linux.conf.au and mentioned that a speaker, Jonathan Oxer said that the Vista release might be a good time for a switch to Linux. He was referring primarily to administrators who will have to train people on a new interface either way, but let’s explore this question from the standpoint of the home user.
Linux has certainly come a long way over the years. My first experience with Linux was back in the Windows ’95 days. I bought a copy of Red Hat Linux 5.1 and installed it in a dual-boot configuration on my computer. At the time, I only had one computer (the bad old days). Red Hat did not drive my video card, so I was unable to get the x-window system working. I’ve never been much of a command line guy, and I quickly got bored playing with the command line. I didn’t know enough at the time to hack around in configuration files, so I dropped the project before too long.
I next tried Red Hat Linux 6.0, which a coworker burned for me. The beauties of Linux are that you can do this legally. I could have taken that CD and installed it on every computer at work and been well within the law. I only installed it on my own computer, and it didn’t drive the video card yet again. Why didn’t I just buy a new video card? I guess because I was much younger and much more broke.
One day at Best Buy, I saw SuSE Linux 6.4. I looked at the list of supported hardware and found my video card on the box. I bought it and brought it home, and sure enough I was able to run with a GUI (Graphical User Interface). I installed KDE for my window manager. At the time I only had dial-up available, and I was able to configure my Linux box to dial into the Earthlink service that I was using.
Next came SuSE Linux 8.0, but by that time I had a cable modem again and I had a lot of trouble getting it to work with cable. If I got it working once, I would reboot and lose that functionality. I was also using internet connection sharing for my wife’s computer, so when I was using my Linux partition she couldn’t access the internet. I dropped Linux for a couple of years, until Microsoft released their public beta of Office 2007 last year. The beta caused me a few problems, but uninstalling it caused even more problems. Because I had upgraded rather than installing separately, I could not go back to Office 2003 no matter what I tried. I ended up, after having to use OpenOffice for a class project, reinstalling Office 07.
When Office 07 threw me into a panic mode, I spent a few weeks trying to claw my way out from under Microsoft products. You can read some of that in previous blog posts here. I came to the conclusion after a lot of searching and trying other products that Windows XP isn’t that bad, although I’m still loath to switch to Vista.
Now then, with Windows Vista coming out later this month, should you consider switching to Linux? Well, first let me ask you to consider, what are your needs? One of the most profound classes I’ve taken to date toward my IT degree at the University of Phoenix is called “Fundamentals of Business Systems Development”. In that class, we learned about how a systems analyst works. This class helped me in so many ways, and not just in my personal IT, but also in my job and in my productivity systems. It is such a simple concept to actually sit down and analyze what you actually need, yet many of us never really learn to do it properly.
After working with a couple of Linux distributions and laying out my requirements, I came to the conclusion that I am better off sticking with Windows XP for the time being for my primary operating system. As I’ve said, Linux has come a LONG WAY over the years, but so has the rest of technology. I use a laptop for my primary system, although I also have a desktop computer, an Apple iMac and an iBook (both G3’s). I have a Pocket PC which I need the ability to sync. I use certain applications such as Evernote and My Life Organized that I haven’t been successful in getting to work on Linux through Wine.
doesn’t mean that I won’t keep playing with Linux, in fact, because I haven’t posted in a long time I am going to put this entry up on my blog and then start working on another one about some successes and failures that I have had with Linux. As for you, the reader, I recommend doing a careful analysis of what you actually use a computer for, what kind of applications you need, and what Linux alternatives there are if those applications are known not to work in Wine (i.e. OpenOffice.org or Koffice instead of Microsoft Office). It very well may be that you can make a switch to Linux if you’re not thrilled with the thought of Windows Vista.
Remember, above all else, your operating system is a tool. I have Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux running on the various computers in my house, and I have to say that each tool gives me the ability to do certain jobs that the others don’t. This isn’t choosing a political affiliation; it’s an operating system for your computer. You can download a Live CD from Ubuntu or Kubuntu (I prefer KDE as my window manager). A Live CD means that you can boot from the CD and have a full operating system. Several people in my current Unix class at the University of Phoenix are using Live CDs from Ubuntu or Knoppix. I actually used the command line on my iBook to complete one assignment, as Mac OS X is built on top of a BSD core and as such contains the full power of Unix.

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