Connecting to hot spots
I have a home office, and it can get lonely working there all day, so I spend a fair amount of time every week working at cafes or other places with free hot spots. Linux makes it exceedingly easy to find and connect to hot spots. In fact, in some ways it's easier than in Windows Vista or XP.
Simply click the network connection icon at the top of the screen, and a list of wireless networks appears. A small icon next to each connection indicates whether it's encrypted or open, and there's also an indicator that shows the signal strength. Click a network to connect to it -- and you're online.
In Vista, based on the kind of network to which you connect (private, public or work), certain features are enabled or disabled for security reasons. For example, file sharing is disabled in public networks. In Linux, you can't indicate whether the network is private, public or work, but then again, Linux is a more secure operating system than Windows, so perhaps it isn't needed.
As a longtime Windows user, I'm exceedingly aware of the need for security, and use antivirus software, antispyware and a software-based firewall. That kind of software doesn't ship with Ubuntu, apparently because it isn't needed. So I decided not to try any Linux security software, and never found the need for it.
Internet, e-mail and instant messaging
Windows users will feel right at home on the Internet with Linux, because Firefox is a cross-platform browser and has most of the same features and overall interface as the Windows version -- including the add-ins. As somebody who wanted to use both Linux and Windows machines, and keep my bookmarks and passwords synchronized, I welcomed this, because I was able to use Foxmarks to automatically synchronize my bookmarks and passwords.
For instant messaging, Ubuntu includes Pidgin , an open-source universal instant-messaging client (formerly known as Gaim). From a single interface, I could communicate with people on AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, IRC, ICQ, Groupwise, Google Talk and many others I hadn't heard of, such as Gadu-Gadu. On Windows, I use a similar program called Trillian, and Pidgin is clearly its equal. (There's also a Windows version of Pidgin available.)
For e-mail, I tried the Evolution package that comes with Ubuntu. The interface might not be scintillating, but it's got everything you'd expect, including an antispam feature, the ability to create filters to automatically manage incoming mail and a contact manager. It also includes a calendar, to-do list creator and memo taker. I tried the software, but wasn't able to use it instead of Outlook because I couldn't import my e-mails into Evolution.