A long time ago, I posted a short little article pointing out the differences between Linux and Windows (and highlighted how I feel Linux is superior). I’ve decided to once again write a similar article. But this time, I’d like to focus on my very own computer, how I use it, what applications I use, and why I feel most Windows users would feel right at home if they were to use my computer for a while.
I’ve recently switched to Kubuntu Gutsy (the KDE version of the upcoming Ubuntu release) and have to say I absolutely love it so far!
So enjoy the read and feel free to leave any comments or questions…
Overall look and feel
When I first login to Kubuntu, I’m greeted with my lovely desktop wallpaper (admittedly stolen from Windows Vista because I like it). Similar to Windows, Kubuntu has an all-inclusive menu button (quite like Windows’ “Start” button). This is the easiest way to access all of your installed programs. Unlike Windows, however, almost all of your installed programs are organized within handy categories to make it easier to find what you’re looking for:
As far as organizing and viewing your personal documents and files, Dolphin, the new file browser in Kubuntu Gutsy makes it incredibly simple:
Adding and removing programs
One of the biggest interface-related advantages that Kubuntu has over Windows (any version) is the way that programs are installed or uninstalled. With Windows you need to go to a store and purchase a program to install, or manually go to a website and download the program. With Kubuntu, there is a handy dandy “Add/Remove Programs” system. Yes, I know Windows has one too, but it can only add new programs if they are a part of Windows.
With the Kubuntu Add/Remove system, you have access to hundreds of very common and useful applications (and some useless, in my opinion). To install them, simply click the checkbox next to it, click Apply and voila! Kubuntu will automatically download and install the software. Only takes a couple of minutes max. Don’t like a program you have installed and never use it, simply uncheck the box next to it and click Apply. Goodbye, useless application!
Listening to your music collection
iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp. There are several options available to Windows users that want to listen to MP3 files and other such formats. There are a myriad of options to do so in Kubuntu as well. However, installed by default is a fabulous program called Amarok. This is the default audio player in Kubuntu. With Amarok, you can organize and view your collection sorted by artist, album, genre, and any other tags you choose to assign to your music (such as moods, etc.). With the “Context” tab, Amarok will automatically display the currently-playing artists Wikipedia page with biography and discography info. Or, if you’d like to sing along, Amarok will automatically search the internet for and display the current song’s lyrics. Lots of other features including the ability to manage your iPod or other portable music player!
Managing your photos
Kubuntu includes a program called digiKam which makes it very easy to view and organize your entire collection of digital photos. With the “tags” feature, you can assign certain tags to each photo. For example, I always assign a name tag to each photo; a separate tag for each person in the photo. Then later, if I’m looking for all the pictures I have of a certain person or group of people, I simply click the appropriate tag and digiKam will display only those photos. Makes having a huge collection of pictures fun and not so daunting!
digiKam also includes basic functions for editing photos: color enhancements, resizing, rotation, brightness & contrast, etc.
Also included with Kubuntu is a program called Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program). This powerful program provides nearly the same set of features as Adobe Photoshop . If you use Photoshop regularly, there isn’t much you’re use to doing that Gimp can’t handle.
Browsing the internet
Well, this isn’t really amazing news, but did you know that the Mozilla Firefox web browser runs in Linux? That’s right, you can have all the same features you’re used to in Windows: tabbed browsing, ad blocking, and all those fantastic extensions that make browsing an absolute joy! Still using Internet Explorer? Unless you want viruses, spyware, and other nasties, I suggest you stop right now and give Firefox a try!
Creating audio CDs and DVDs
Most Windows users are fairly familiar with using Nero to burn CDs or video DVDs. Kubuntu includes an even more powerful application called K3b. It can burn audio and data CDs & DVDs, video CDs, ISO images . It also makes it very easy to copy CDs and DVDs from your personal collection to your computer or to a blank disc.
The default video player for Kubuntu is Kaffeine. However, I’ve always preferred VLC (easily installable through Add/Remove). It will play virtually ANY movie format: mpg, mov, wmv, asf, avi, etc. Not only that, but it is a fantastic DVD player as well!
Word processing, etc
Have you ever used Microsoft Works or Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)? Kubuntu includes a free suite of applications called OpenOffice.org (OOo) that is a great replacement for the expensive Microsoft products. You can type simple or complex documents. Create detailed spreadsheets, presentations, or just have fun with OOo Draw. Not only that, but if you have a bunch of Microsoft Word (or other MS formats) around, OOo will open, edit, and save them without a problem.
Now, the gaming topic is iffy with Linux. While Kubuntu does come with a ton of simple amusements, you can not play most Windows-based games in Linux. But there is some fun to be had with the games included. Also, there are a few Windows games out there that are made to run in Linux without a problem (Doom3, Unreal series, America’s Army).
Kubuntu comes with a very nice “Control Panel” type of system for making changes to your system or preferences. Just take a look at the screenshot to get an idea how it works. Very simple…
What about X program?
Is there a program that you must use that you can’t find a capable replacement for in Linux? You have a couple of options. First, Kubuntu comes with Wine with is a collection of small programs that basically, without getting too technical, will attempt to trick a Windows program into thinking it is running on Windows. So when you run the program, it is possible it will run in Linux just fine with Wine.
If Wine doesn’t work, you can actually install Windows WITHIN Linux. There is a program out there called VirtualBox that can basically pretend to be any kind of system you’d like it to be. Run VirtualBox and install Windows into it. This isn’t exactly a beginner-friendly process, but it isn’t too difficult. I won’t get into it too much with this article. But with an actual, working installation of Windows running inside Windows, you can have all the benefits of Linux and still run whatever program it is that you can’t replace.
Eye-candy with Compiz Fusion
If you have a fairly decent video card (truth be told, some onboard video will perform these tricks just fine too), you can install Compiz Fusion (also included with Kubuntu). Compiz Fusion provides a lot of fantastic 3D effects for your computer desktop. Not only do they look absolutely awesome, but some of it’s plugins are extremely useful. For more information on Compiz and for a video of what it can do, just head over to YouTube and search for “compiz.” Or check out my screeshots…
If you’d like to know what’s going on in any of these screenshots, check out the videos, or ask me 🙂
Keep in mind that most of what I’ve written here is based on my own experience and experimentation with Linux. I have made a lot of changes to the default installation of Kubuntu (adding/removing programs, changing themes and colors, etc).
Feel free to post any comments or questions you may have. I love Linux. I love learning more about it. And I love getting others interested in it as well. I know I’ve left a lot unwritten here and that’s fine, this was meant as more of an overview of what is possible with Linux. When you can do all these things with Linux, what do you need a slow, virus- and spyware-infected, expensive operating system like Windows for?