The son of a friend of mine from the Middle East will be attending Norwegian classes in Oslo this school year, and to that occasion my work place decided to setup a laptop for him. It was a rolled-out Dell Latitude D620, and having replaced the hard disk drive I opted for Ubuntu 10.04 as main operating system. This is largely due to my pleasant discoveries I have made about Ubuntu’s performance and stability on ~4 year old systems, who are fully capable of running this modern OS without dragging its feet. In addition, everything worked out of the box. As I expected, this did not go unnoticed by his father, and I wrote this explanatory e-mail to him, that I thought I would share with you:
I was expecting some feedback on the choice of operating system, so no worries:) Please let me explain.
[Our company] only has windows XP which is 10+ years old and not officially supported by Microsoft any longer. We’re slowly migrating to Windows 7 64-bit on a machine-by-machine basis for newer machines. We’ve never used Vista, which is a two steps backwards system..
On the other hand, the Ubuntu operating system is a GNU/Linux OS with the system stability and security that entails. It is backed by the Canonical foundation. Programs (called packages) are installed via Synaptics package manager from central repositories, meaning you do not have to know what program you want or where to get it from, a search in Synaptics will find all you need and provide automatic configuring and updates. Most tools and small programs needed in everyday use are pre-installed. The system and the adhering packages are Free in both senses: no cost and free from legal restrictions. The license of the operating system ensures that this will never change, regardless of Canonical’s financial backing. Google is one of many large enterprises using Ubuntu on the desktop.
The office applications available are OpenOffice (of which Writer, the word-equivalent, is already installed), which offer the functionality of Word without the considerable price tag and poor inter-operability of Word. Arabic tools can be installed with a few clicks. This also goes for the system locale (menus and system language) which can be changed during login. Arabic language packages (locale) can be installed from Synaptics.
The rest of the OpenOffice packages (Impress for presentations, and Calc for spreadsheets etc) are available already or installable from Synaptics.
I use Ubuntu all the time at [Our company], and if it had been up to me we would not migrate to Windows 7 but use Ubuntu instead. Unfortunately it is uncertain what infrastructure we will have in 2 years.
Also, the reason why Windows 7 is a great improvement on XP and Vista, experts agree, is because it is moving towards a Linux-like operating system. It is not there yet however, and its license and closed platform provides a lot of future problems ([Our company] already has trouble accessing its own documents from older Windows and Word versions), that will not occur on open platforms.
The main reason to go for Ubuntu with this particular machine is because it is 4 years old already, and the Ubuntu system does not falter with time the way XP does. Windows 7 will not be preferable on the D620 given its hardware architecture. Linux is however, very well-versed on backwards compatibility and will provide the modern usability and offerings without compromising on system performance or stability.
So give it a try for a while and maybe you will reconsider. My girlfriend is not very computer savvy but after a couple of weeks with it she switched entirely and didn’t look back. Ubuntu is also very popular among Norwegian students.
If you would still like to switch after using it a little while, it doesn’t take long to do so. Your son can have my email and cellphone number:)