Sunday, January 20, 2008

Linux - still going strong

Over three years of running my home PC on Ubuntu Linux, and looks like it's going good. Here are my rants and raves.

+ Application availability and easy install if your desired app is hosted in the apt system. From openoffice to k3b to edutainment (gcompris, tuxmath, tuxpaint, frozen-bubble)

The availability of kid friendly educational games is much better with Linux that Windows. Agreed, that there are commercial software packages available, but the ones you find at Landmark or Music World are sub-par and look as if they are created out of flash, with a few randomized questions and shoddy art-work. Compare this to Gcompris, it is much more polished with a whole gamut of games and activities that teach kids about maths, time-telling, typing and computers and an external interface (python or GTK based) to add your own lessons or games.

All other standard apps are provided and are quite capable, be it a browser, word-processor (though not as good as Microsoft's), music player, burner, and in some instances much better than their windows counterparts.

- Interoperability with other devices

The other day, I happened to get a wifi card from netgear. Having the cables sprawling around our rooms was not it. Problem was, I needed to consult four or five how -to's, download a few packages, edit a couple of scripts to get the card working occasionally.

My connexant based internal win-modem is not event recognized, which means I will never be able to connect over a dial-up modem, in-case my broadband link goes down. The drivers are available for a fee from a 3rd part vendor. The original is available as source, but were for an outdated linux distribution distributed a decade back.

The printer and scanner requires you to again go through the forums to install the right drivers. Your display is limited to vesa compatibility with no hardware acceleration.

Though some devices liky my pen-drive, digital camera etc connects properly.

- Gaming

One thing Linux lacks is with gaming. Though drivers are available for the latest graphics cards, most of the leading game developers are reluctant to release games on the Linux platform. Games targeting DX10, or DirectX are directly not not portable and requires an intermediate layer to translate the DX calls to the Linux equivalent.

+ Updates and support

Any OS or applications requires constant updates, security fixes. Over the course of three years, my Ubuntu install is still being constantly updated and none of my applications crashed or created incompatibilities which is a good thing.

Support-wise, you have the good Ubuntu forum and the whole wide web to post your questions or search for probles other users might have faced. The Ubuntu forms had been quite informative and up-to-date.

Similarly, my Linux box has remained virtually virus free.

+ Cost

One of the biggest advantages of an OSS based OS is it's free. With a legal copy of Windows XP or Vista costing over Rs.7000+ it is fine if you get it along with your desktop. But if it is a bare-bones box, you need an operating system. So, be prepared to shell out 7000+ or go for a free OSS based operating system.

With some of these parameters listed out and how it had impacted me and my family over the course of three years, you can assume that if you are not looking out for heavy duty gaming and possess a few Linux supported hardware, Linux is a good choice, particularly with a Rs.0 price tag!