Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why I Use Ubuntu as My Sole Operating System

Doug Holton's recent blog post, Using Ubuntu as your sole operating system in academia caused me to think about my own position on choosing operating systems for my computers.

I juggle between three computers:
  1. a university-issued Dell desktop in my office (dual-boot Windows XP Professional SP3/Ubuntu 9.04),

  2. my personal ThinkPad R52 laptop for use at home (Ubuntu 9.04 with Windows XP Professional SP3 accessible via Sun Microsystem's VirtualBox), and

  3. a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 netbook (running Windows XP Home SP3) that use when I am traveling.
I made a conscious and deliberate decision to switch fully to Ubuntu in April 2008, with the release of version 8.04 (Hardy Heron). The only exception is my IdeaPad S10 netbook, which I have kept as a Windows XP system. My S10 netbook goes with me when I travel for conferences and presentations. I learn the hard way that having a Windows XP system makes it easier to connect to specialized projection systems with default settings to Microsoft Windows (indeed, my Mac-using colleagues have horror stories getting their MacBooks up and running with some of these projection systems).

For the most part, everything I needed to use is available in Ubuntu (OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, GIMP, etc). I have no problems running Adobe AIR applications like TweetDeck in Ubuntu.

And from time to time when I need to use Microsoft Office because of students' Word and PowerPoint files, I have installed Microsoft Office 2003 on both my office Dell desktop and personal ThinkPad. Microsoft Office 2003 runs perfectly under Wine in Ubuntu. This allows me to access my students' Word and PowerPoint documents that have fancy/complex formatting or layout, which sometimes do not convert properly in OpenOffice.

On my office Dell desktop, I can always dual boot into Windows XP when I need to run Windows-specific software (e.g., SPSS) or visit a website that requires me to use Internet Explorer. For my personal ThinkPad, which is a strictly Ubuntu-only system, I configured Windows XP Professional access via Sun Microsystem's VirtualBox. The reason I did not create a dualboot system is because I find that 95% of the time, everything I need to do can be done in Ubuntu. The 5% of the time is mainly with certain financial institutions' online sites that insist on a Windows/Internet Explorer environment for proper functioning.

See also: my other Ubuntu postings.

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