Living free with Linux: 2 weeks without Windows

Can a dedicated Windows user make it for two weeks using only Linux? Preston Gralla tried it and lived to tell this tale.

This use of confusing and unfamiliar terminology seemed to be the rule rather than the exception when it comes to updates and installs. I found another example when I decided to update my software. Ubuntu has an Update Manager, similar to Windows Update, which is supposed to keep you informed about available updates for applications and utilities, and will then download and install them for you. It's accessed via a starburst icon at with a down arrow inside it that's located at the top of my Ubuntu screen. Hovering my mouse over the icon, I found out that 129 updates were available. This sounded like a serious problem, so I clicked on the Update Manager.

I was rewarded with a long list of recommended updates -- and what they were, or were used for, is anyone's guess. For example, the first four were:

alacarte: easy GNOME menu editing tool

anacron: cron-like program that doesn't go by time

app-install-data-commercial: Application installer (data files for commercial applications)

bind9-host: Version of "host" bundled with BIND 9.X

The Ubuntu Update Manager had me longing for Windows Update. In Ubuntu's defense, though, I did find a few updates that made sense, such as updates and plug-ins to the Evolution e-mail application. On the other hand, the Update Manager was missing some vital updates; for example, I was using Version 2.4 of OpenOffice.org and was never told that Version 3 was available. Worse yet, I was using Version 8.04 of Ubuntu, and Ubuntu 8.10 came out when I was researching this piece. Yet the Update Manager didn't tell me that either. Eventually, I found out that 8.04 is what's called a Long Term Support release, but 8.10 isn't, and by default, the Ubuntu Update Manager won't tell you about releases that are not LTS. And you thought Windows Update was confusing?

All in all, I didn't find the Update Manager to be much help. I was better off checking for software updates on my own, or allowing the applications themselves to warn me about updates. But as my experience with installing OpenOffice.org 3.0 showed me, that doesn't always help.

Work productivity

Getting up to speed is one thing. Actually being productive is definitely another. How well, I wondered, would Linux fulfill my various computing needs?

I'm a writer, and what I spend most of my time doing is, of course, writing. Ubuntu comes with Version 2.4 of OpenOffice.org, which includes OpenOffice.org Writer, which (I already knew from the Windows version) is a top-notch free application.

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Preston Gralla

Computerworld
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