Linux needs a second look - review

2012-10-25 22:05

Cape Town - Linux Ubuntu is a viable alternative to users who don't feel comfortable with Microsoft's latest version of Windows.

The software giant has launched its latest version of its iconic operating system and has targeted mobile devices like tablets, but many have criticised the company, saying the OS is a departure from what users expect of a desktop operating system.

Linux is a free, open-sourced operating system that also drives Google's Android OS for smartphones and tablets.

Ubuntu has fallen from favour since its wild popularity in the 1990s when it was associated with aspiring developers who wanted to customise every aspect of how computers functioned.

The latest version of Linux has become far more user friendly than its earlier iterations and there are a variety of ways that users can try out the OS.

Familiar categories

You can download the Ubuntu flavour from the website, ready to burn to a disc and install on a computer or one can download the Windows application that will install the software on a computer and allow dual booting to Linux or Windows.

For those who remember Linux as a geek-only, fidgety software, the OS has undergone remarkable changes: Its user interface is easy to operate and even traditional Windows shortcuts are supported.

The start screen remains minimalist, but access to documents and applications is easy from the dock on the left, and information, notifications and alerts reside on the top of the screen.

The environment supports navigation of files organised into the familiar categories of Pictures, Videos, Music and Documents, but unlike Windows, one can also directly and easily view all recent documents and applications from the Dash Home launcher.

The OS supports the Ubuntu Software Centre where one can download applications to augment the functionality and it includes applications like LibreOffice Writer, Calc and Impress which are compatible with Microsoft's Office suite of programmes.

In a News24 test, Linux Ubuntu was installed on two different computers, one with newer hardware and an older machine.

As expected, a computer with Core i3 hardware capable of running Windows 7 was easily able to cope with Ubuntu, but on older hardware with a Dual Core processor, the machine struggled a bit with installation.

Easy alternative

Once loaded though, the OS performed well enough, though there were some slowdowns on graphics heavy operations.

Disappointingly, the installer for Ubuntu does not recognise Windows-based files on the hard drive on which it is installed. Either move files to a different partition or an external memory drive before booting into Windows.

For users who feel that they want to commit to Linux, one could install Ubuntu from the optical drive.

The Linux environment presents an easy alternative to established platforms, and beyond the initial adaptation, users should find that there is little hassle in converting.

According to Kaspersky Lab, more than half of computers in Africa that access the web, have older operating systems that may be vulnerable to attack.

Ubuntu is not the only Linux flavour, but it may represent an attractive alternative to users who want to have the latest software at no cost.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

  • Pieter Olivier - 2012-10-25 22:43


  • gavin.simpson.0 - 2012-10-25 22:49

    I agree 100%. I have the latest version Ubuntu installed on a Celeron PC next to My Win7 PC, and the price difference is R15000. There is nothing wrong with Ubuntu, and there is little you cannot do for a small home and office enviroment that you cannot do on windows. Gaming PC', now that's another story..... but the more people start supporting Linux like they should, the more developers will start to support linux.

      boontjie2 - 2012-10-26 10:38

      That and steam has announced there push into linux with helping game developer companies with multi platforming and working with hardware suppliers for beter linux drivers. This will create a large change in the linux enviroment.

  • timvdwest - 2012-10-25 23:03


  • Billy - 2012-10-25 23:15

    the user interface of ubuntu needs works, the sofware upon installation needs to be sorted out, some of it is waaay to complicated for the average user. a lot of users still think their computers is Outlook, thats it, now you want them to use a linux based OS...

      jordaanjean - 2012-10-26 08:32

      I take it hat you have used the latest version of Ubuntu, and therefor can make this comment. I love Ubuntu, if only it had better gaming support that would be my OS of choice. There is no better OS for a HTPC than UBUNTU with XBMC. Windows Media center can not compare.

      philip.gray.10048 - 2012-10-26 18:20

      Billy if you are referring to the Unity desktop user interface that is installed by default with Ubuntu 12.04, I agree with you to a certain extent. I have found the Unity desktop to be rather convoluted. Unlike Windows you can install another desktop interface. Try GNOME Classic, KDE or Cinnamon. They are easier to use.

  • scottdavies123 - 2012-10-25 23:18

    Ubuntu is a VERY serious option to consider, particularly as we move towards a cloud-centric way of working. I predict that this OS will have a rebirth - for most people, the only reason they use Windows is because it comes installed on your laptop so why change what is working (though they have nothing to compare against). But browsing a page on Windows or Linux is identical. ONLY thing that holds me back from making a complete change is Office - I need to use Excel's sophisticated functions & the open source versions of office don't offer that the top end options (which are used by a tiny percentage of users).

      quantron - 2012-10-25 23:57

      In general, Linux's greatest barrier to market entry (to put it in terms that Linus would spit at) has been the user interface. Apart from having to tread oh so carefully on the Patent(TM) minefield in terms of design and implementation (e.g., the recent 'slide-to-unlock'-debacle), there's also the threat of falling into the same traps as the others when making things easy-to-use by treating the user like an idiot. Linux has evolved and matured amidst a distinctly non-idiotic user base, and for this it is an intelligent OS. Slapping icons and buttons onto it has certainly dumbed it down (to the chagrin of many a bearded, bespectacled purist) but it has also proven itself to be capable of putting on a happy face. As for your Office dilemma - as a seasoned Linux user, I'm yet to come across anything a Windows machine can do that a Linux one can't. The methodology might differ slightly or radically, but the same objectives can be reached by either.

  • quantron - 2012-10-25 23:38

    It's good to see Ubuntu getting some long-overdue shine. I've been using Ubuntu at home and at the office since 2006 on my laptop, my PCs and our servers. I have never had ANY integration or compatibility issues, we use software ranging from office suites, vector graphics, image processing, software development applications to web servers, databases, email servers, proxies...all on either Ubuntu Desktop or Ubuntu Server. At home I play Steam games with both ATI and NVidia well supported (and I may add that my above-average performance should be testimony to the fact that playing on Linux is no disadvantage at all). Overall it is incredibly fast, stable, arguably the safest operating system of them all and extremely well priced at R0.00

      mario.dippenaar - 2012-10-26 01:02

      I'm not calling you out or anything, but unless you are using bootstrap software such as WIne, there is no way in hell that you are playing Steam on Linux. They are currently developing a client for Linux, but the Beta isn't even out yet. And even if you are using Wine, there is no way that you are able to get "above normal" processing speeds, since the files do not run in their native enviroment. Other than that, I really enjoy using Linux Puppy. The whole OS in about 100mb! It's adorable!

  • uncle.linux - 2012-10-26 04:22

    "...Ubuntu does not recognise Windows-based files on the hard drive on which it is installed. Either move files to a different partition or an external memory drive before booting into Windows." Actually, it's the other way around. It is Windows that doesn't want to recognize the file system (ext3, ext4, btrfs, etc.) used by Ubuntu. Ubuntu (well, Linux systems in general) can easily read FAT16/32 and NTFS-formatted file systems out of the box. The inability of Windows to be able to read other file systems other than its own is a Windows problem, not Linux.

  • garikaib - 2012-10-26 06:04

    I do not understand your claim that the Ubuntu installer could not recognise your windows files. This is simply not true at all!Ubiquity does offer to install Ubuntu alongside windows. Usually when this fails it means there is a problem with the Windows partition. Defragmenting befoe installing should help.

  • paulscott56 - 2012-10-26 06:56

    A functional illiterate writing about Operating Systems now? 1. Get some facts. They help. 2. Learn to write. 3. Did I mention facts? I have been a Ubuntu GNU/linux (the correct way to write the name of the OS in question) user for many years (as well as many other *nix "flavours") and I have never looked back. Neither has most of my family for that matter. This article, although well intentioned (I think), hurt my eyes

  • andrew.arnesen - 2012-10-26 07:06

    This is gibberish: "Disappointingly, the installer for Ubuntu does not recognise Windows-based files on the hard drive on which it is installed. Either move files to a different partition or an external memory drive before booting into Windows." What precisely are you trying to tell us???

  • sycomachinery - 2012-10-26 07:28

    Would love to use it, but I have no idea how to work it, and don't know anyone who I can ask to help me, there is no support for it, that makes it useless for me.

      nkhumishe - 2012-10-26 08:46

      Hi, Please go to This will download a disk image to your current machine. Write the downloaded file to an empty CD. Once this is written to CD, insert the CD into your current machine and reboot. Your machine "should" reboot straight into the CD, and it will prompt you to either install Ubuntu, or Try Ubuntu out. I suggest you go for the "try Ubuntu out" option. Ubuntu will run straight from the CD, without installing itself on your machine at all. From this set up, you should have access to your network, and files on your hard drive. You should be able to open your documents, spreadsheets, pdf's, pictures, play music, browse the internet, etc., without having to do a single update or modification to Ubuntu. If you have any question, just google it, you will realize A LOT of accurate, well-written, simplified advise.

      philip.gray.10048 - 2012-10-26 17:50

      Go to to Both forums have categories that cater for most type of questions and issues. There are many Linux forums on the net where you can ask questions.

  • frikdt - 2012-10-26 09:00

    Nice article, but the following need to be clarified/corrected (apologies for getting technical here): "Disappointingly, the installer for Ubuntu does not recognise Windows-based files on the hard drive on which it is installed" As a Debian user, I may stand corrected, but I'm sure the Ubuntu installer is similar to the Debian version (Ubuntu is Debian based). If you do a clean install on a partition containing a FAT/NTFS filesystem, your data will be lost because the partition is formatted as a linux type filesystem e.g. ext4/btrfs. However, if you want to keep your existing windows installation (for a dual boot system) you'll need to install to a separate partition (the installer will even help you do that) and it is sure to detect your existing operating systems and add them to the boot menu. Also, if you have the appropriate packages installed (such as ntfs-3g) you'll be able to mount your windows partitions under Linux and gain access to those file systems. "Ubuntu has fallen from favour since its wild popularity in the 1990s..." Ubuntu was only released in 2004.

      philip.gray.10048 - 2012-10-26 17:56

      Hi frikdt you are correct this statement does need clarification: "Disappointingly, the installer for Ubuntu does not recognise Windows-based files on the hard drive on which it is installed. Either move files to a different partition or an external memory drive before booting into Windows." I have installed Ubuntu 9.04, 10.04LTS and 12.04LTS and all the installer does is ask you if you want to install Ubuntu next to Windows or if you want to use the whole drive. Ubuntu has fallen somewhat out of favour due to the Unity Desktop.

  • - 2012-10-26 09:07

    I've been working on Ubuntu (and almost all the Linux flavours as it is referred to in this article) and it is beyond me why anyone would invest in Windows and all its associated expensive software. I also use Windows as the company I work for insist on Windows and being licensed and wasting taxpayers money in this way. In my line of work I do technical computing and graphical work and Linux is perfectly suited for this. My laptop (belongs to the company) is a dual boot system because the company insists on Windows as mentioned, but I never use the Windows! The reason, the company can't provide all the software I need, but in Linux they come for free with community support. A win-win situation no doubt. Government and schools can save millions by using this operating system, yet they persist with Windows.

  • janalbert.vandenberg - 2012-10-26 09:10

    Just started using Ubuntu 12.04 about a month or two ago. A windows box of mine was giving me all sorts of CRAP so I though: what the heck?! might as well give it a go there. Most fun I've had in YEARS. I must admit I enjoy tinkering, and I'm not afraid to use the terminal to discover all the cool inner workings and what you can do there. So maybe I'm not "the average user". However, if you're up for a bit of tinkering and you enjoy the challenge of figuring it all out; then you'll love Ubuntu. Although you can run/install a fully working OS just from USB or CD, rather be sure to have an internet connection running. Ubuntu will (near) automatically do essential updates and if you get stuck thinking 'how on *earth* do I [insert your issue here]', just go to google and type 'ubuntu [insert your issue here]'; you'll soon discover that no matter what issue you have, someone else very likely already had that issue, and solved it. Ubuntu + Google = loads and loads of fun. That being said: I'm not a big gamer, so I don't worry about DirectX or some Windows-based graphics abstraction layer; however, as a C++ programmer myself, I recently discovered CUDA. Yeah, you can code it in Visual Studio; but, you can also code it in any Linux-compliant IDE! Hehehe

      gavin.simpson.0 - 2012-10-26 09:27

      too true. this is the reason i started with opengl many years ago. Directx is a one way route to trouble.

  • stephan.coetzee2 - 2012-10-26 09:20

    Why is this news? This belongs on a tech site. This is just a linux user's response to the win8 launch...

  • norman.lewis.716 - 2012-10-26 10:12

    I enjoy Ubuntu. I would solely use it if it wasn't for some software that I need to use for work, that only runs on Windoos. So for now, dual-booting.

      gavin.simpson.0 - 2012-10-26 11:10

      try need to dual boot, and good enough for some, but not all, functions.

  • chrisccoulson - 2012-10-26 11:51

    "Ubuntu has fallen from favour since its wild popularity in the 1990s" Yes, I remember this vividly. I've been an Ubuntu user since the 1990's. I remember that very first version - you know, the one that never actually existed outside of your imagination because the first release wasn't until 2004. "Disappointingly, the installer for Ubuntu does not recognise Windows-based files on the hard drive on which it is installed" Are you sure you've got this the right way around? It can read files from Windows-based filesystems just fine here. In fact, it is Windows that is unable to read any files from any non-Windows filesystems.

  • Apatheist - 2012-10-26 13:51

    Ubuntu is incredible. Anyone that has used it for long enough will know that. Sure it can be a little difficult to navigate in the beginning but I have dual boot on my PC, and I spend most my time in Ubuntu.

      philip.gray.10048 - 2012-10-26 18:00

      I agree with you Ubuntu is great. I have 9.04, 10.04LTS and 12.04LTS installed on my PC. 9.04 and 10.04 were fairly easy to use. The default Unity desktop that comes with 12.04 makes it difficult to navigate but one v\can always install another desktop like GNOME Classic, Cinnamon, KDE, Mate.

  • richardjs - 2012-10-26 14:49


  • jody.beggs - 2012-10-26 15:43

    Don't like Ubuntu , try Ubuntu Studio , Fedora or the other latest versions , all work well if you know what your doing ... Life moves quickly in open source ...

  • philip.gray.10048 - 2012-10-26 18:15

    Duncan I am not sure what you mean by: "Disappointingly, the installer for Ubuntu does not recognise Windows-based files on the hard drive on which it is installed. Either move files to a different partition or an external memory drive before booting into Windows." The installer does not read Windows files because it does not need to. It reads the Linux files it needs from the Ubuntu Live CD. Ubuntu will read Windows files. To read yr Windows files all you need to do is open up yr file manager and then mount yr Windows partition e.g. drive C. All yr Windows partitions are listed in a window on the left side of the file manager. Windows will not see yr Linux partition/s because Windows requires drive letters which Linux does not use. If you install Ubuntu next to Windows Ubuntu installs a boot menu called Grub. This menu will show Windows and Linux. All you need to do is choose one of them. The first version of Ubuntu 4.10 was released in 20 October 2004 so I do not know why you say: "Ubuntu has fallen from favour since its wild popularity in the 1990s.." Currently there is some dissatisfaction from some Ubuntu users with Ubuntu 12.04 due to the Unity desktop. I am one of them. Unlike Windows Linux has a variety of alternative desktops you can use like GNOME Classic, Cinnamon, KDE, LXDE, XFCE, Mate. I am currently using the first three. Avery good alternative to Ubuntu is Linux Mint. Both are based on Debian. Linux Mint 13 is very nice and has Cinnamon as the default

  • ron.d.stricklin - 2012-10-28 07:03

    Ubuntu isn't a viable alternative for people pushed away by windows 8. People not down with windows 8 should definitely not bother with linux if their first try is ubuntu. Kubuntu perhaps.

  • johan.pienaar - 2012-10-28 08:19

    One of the worst technical articles ever. Duncan my boy go write about fashion or tiddlywinks.

  • - 2012-10-29 12:37

    Fools day used to be the 1st of April, not the 25th of October. In any case this article has some very funny moments, like Ubuntu in the 1990s or the Winblows files left in the ext formatted HDD not being recognised. Mr. Alfreds surely has a carer as a comedian.

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