Linux for humans

Microsoft Windows has a worthy contender. Sanjay Bhangar checks out, with relish, the Ubuntu challenge.

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Linux for humans


Microsoft Windows has a worthy contender. Sanjay Bhangar checks out, with relish, the Ubuntu challenge

As Microsoft gears up to release a new version of Windows Vista, the hype about operating systems is in the air again. For most people, the question is whether to upgrade or not, but if you want to try out a new operating system, check out the latest version of Ubuntu.

An operating system built using free and open source software, which means you are free to make copies and share, Ubuntu has quickly become the most popular Linux distribution for home users. And there are a number of good reasons for this. You can get the latest version of Ubuntu (on working within 10 minutes by booting off the CD and subsequently installing it.

If you have an existing Windows operating system, it will let you choose the amount of free space on the Windows drive you want to allocate to Ubuntu. After installation, the system starts running within half an hour. The new version comes in many languages and it is possible to install it completely in Hindi. 

Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice, which lets you do everything you would ordinarily be doing with Microsoft Office. It also integrates Yahoo!, MSN and most other messenger clients into a single messenger client called GAIM, so staying in touch with friends and chatting isn’t a problem.

The advantage of Ubuntu is that you don’t need to install any anti-virus software. That means no worrying about worms, ad-ware and spyware, which always seems to haunt Windows users.

There are very few known viruses for Linux and it does not have a large enough user base to be of great commercial value to potential spammers. Its open-source model enables it to handle security issues in an effective and timely manner. 

People have always thought of Linux as being highly technical and requiring “geeky” knowledge. This is usually true, but that image is now changing with Ubuntu; it is not only completely customised for the home user, but also supported well through its user-groups, chat support and forums. They even have an India forum,, where you can get extensive help on any installation and running problems from a community of users, and obtain free copies of the latest version from someone near you. 

The obvious drawback is that it is nearly impossible to use Windows software like Photoshop or play Windows games. So it is probably a good idea to keep both operating systems on your machine, at least initially, which Ubuntu allows you to do quite seamlessly. The free versions of software like Photoshop are improving in standards, so it might be a good idea to learn how to use these, saving a chunk of money on purchasing software.

If you’re ready for a change, get onto the forums and ask for your free copy of Ubuntu. And if you have any problems, there will be someone to help out. After all, Ubuntu, in the South African language Bantu means ‘humanity toward others’. Who says the best things in life are not free?

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