Linux needs a second look - review

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
 
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