windows alternatives / kubuntu odyssee

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Well, I’m working with linux. It’s been probably 10 years since the first encounter and 8 or 9 years since I put up my first linux-only machine back at my parents’. Since then I always had a linux box at home. My main machine however always ran Windows (sometimes different versions in parallel) and my Desktop was always MS-dominated.
Then I added linux as another option to my desktop os’s but for about 2 years it didn’t take off. After I started work for Impara where I administer the linux servers and used Fedora on the Desktop I took interest again in having linux as my desktop.

In the middle of 2006 when Vista came nearer and I really fell in love with Mac OS X (which unfortunately is not available on the hardware I own atm) I wondered what Linux has to offer. Well, and today I can say, after probably 2 months of research, try&error and playing around I can announce that I do believe the world has changed profoundly: Send Vista to hell (where it probably comes from anyway) and get a linux!! (You can do it right now, and read on once you’re fnished installing g)

I run Kubuntu 6.10. It’s a great distro based on Debian (which I always used for my servers) but 100 times easier to handle. It’s easy to install (even for non-hackers) and most of the basic tasks are easy to perform with graphical tools inside KDE the “Made in Germany but not only by Germans”-Window Manager. It’s different -of course- but for a non-computer-literate person that doesn’t know Windows I’d say it’s as easy to learn. If you’re already used to Windows… get yourself a linux geek and let him introduce you to the future. I’m serious here!
You may say you have all those important Ms Office Documents and I’d answer: OO… which means OpenOffice. It can read all the formats from Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It’s not perfect though but… hey, it’s free! (Like in free beer as well as in freedom)
No, seriously Word and Excel files are treated really well, Powerpoint has to be improved but I’m sure it will be. Calendar, Email-Client and more Tools than you ever might need are already available and included.
You say Photoshop, I say The Gimp. You ask for a browser, I say Firefox, Opera, Konqueror, Flock, whatever! You say proprietary video or sound formats and I say… well, it needs some tweaking but with tools like automatix2 it’s quite easy to meet all your proporietary needs (flash plugin, adobe reader, skype, codecs, players…). You say music player, I say amaroK (really rocks), Xmms, Noatun and many more. You’ll find every feature there that you might know from Winamp or the Media Player.
I can remember the days when installing 3D supportive drivers for my graphics card (nvidia) was torture but nowadays the basic driver is available from kubuntu right away. The latest (beta) drivers are a bit more complicated to get but Google is your friend and there are many people around the world who have solved this problem so you don’t have to. I use two displays one CRT and one 19″ LCD display. NVidia DualView is what I used in Windows to create one big desktop across the two screens in different resolutions. It does work in linux (they finally even managed to let me choose which screen is the first aso).
You want Mac OS eye candy?? Well, after I got the latest drivers and installed Beryl I got this: Transparent Windows, Water effects, a Desktop Cube, neat effects as windows pop in and out. You can actually build a system that looks exactly like Mac OS (or Vista, if that’s what you want) and it’s all hardware accelerated! I tested Vista on this very system and it didn’t work half as fluid although Beryl is only in version 0.2 beta (as of this date). Run full screen video while you turn the cube in real time! I’ve been amazed. Even my Audigy 2 is fully supported, only some driver depended features are missing. The remote control needed a little hacking but works great now. You want Widgets on your desktop? Aye SuperKaramba!

After all you might still want your old windows apps. And that’s actually what I wanted to. I need to test websites in Internet Explorer. I like Irfan View and Picasa. And some of you might want Office despite all the nice things I said about OO. Well, don’t wine… Well, actually do! WINE is what lets you run many Windows apps on linux. I so far have Firefox, Internet Explorer 5.5. and 6, Goldwave, Irfan View, Picasa (Google offers it on their Website) and -yes- Jedi Academy. It basically runs most of the apps that don’t need DirectX so far. It doesn’t run iTunes (yet) and that would be really cool to have.
You have old progs from DOS, Amiga, Atari, Nintendo or Sega consoles? Linux brings emulators for most of these and you just need to use them! You like old LucasArts adventures? ScummVM is going to play them for you. FreeSCI runs your old Sierra-stuff.

I very much got the impression over the last weeks that we are pretty close to replace Windows on the average PC. Linux has the answer to whatever question you can come up with. I’m still researching which other tasks I can move to linux but apart from gaming it’s probably everything. And for this I’ll probably buy a Wii soon. 😉

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