Over the past few years, several developments have shifted my perspective on the traditional computing landscape for the average end user.
OS X-based systems remain the paragon of personal computing excellence. Unfortunately, they’ve also retained their premium price tags.
On the other extreme, the most popular and user-friendly version of Linux, Ubuntu, has increased its reliability, visual appeal, and ease of use to the point where, in my opinion, it can now be said to be truly accessible for the layperson.
Windows, on the other hand, has revealed itself to be emblematic of a company that is in complete disarray and whose future success in the consumer market is dubious.
For these reasons, I feel that it is time for me to make a case for Ubuntu Linux.
I started to experiment with Linux after becoming increasingly interested in open source software. For me, trying to imagine an entire operating system being maintained and improved via a distributed group of volunteers was a fascinating prospect. It was one thing to appreciate an open source application, like Firefox, being brought into existence, but an operating system involved a much higher level of complexity, and I wanted to gauge what the open source community was capable of.
The first thing that surprised me was how few system resources Linux distributions required, relative to more traditional operating systems (e.g., Windows). I found many dedicated distributions that were designed to have a minimal footprint and excel at performing well on older hardware.
Instead of being pressured into buying a new piece of equipment that could handle the increased demands of the latest, greatest OS, Linux gives users the option to extract more value from their previous purchases.
Live USB Keys
Also, Linux gives you the ability to create live USB keys. With the assistance of a handy application like UNetbootin, you can easily install your favorite distro onto a USB key. Afterwards, you can boot from the key and get a live preview of the operating system, without ever having to alter your computer’s hard drive or SSD.
When you’re coming from a Windows-only world, something like this is mind-blowing. Within the Linux community, there are many general and specialized versions of Linux, and they are all freely available for you to utilize, modify, and deploy. Best yet, before you make a commitment to a distro, you can take it for a test drive. This type of freedom is a foreign concept in competing ecosystems.
After an extended period of experimentation, I found that I kept coming back to the same distro. Let’s talk about Ubuntu.
Officially released in October 2004, Ubuntu (an African word meaning humanity to others) is a Debian-based, Linux operating system that was spearheaded by South African entrepreneur, and all around good guy, Mark Shuttleworth. Through the combined efforts of Canonical (Shuttleworth’s company) and a distributed group of dedicated, volunteer contributors, the Ubuntu project set out to create a high-quality, reliable Linux distribution that was easy to use, frequently updated, and embodied a spirit of fairness, equality, and good will towards others.
American and British spies undermined the secrecy and security of everyone using the internet with their efforts to foil encryption. Then, Edward Snowden foiled them by revealing what is perhaps – though we may never know – their greatest secret.
When I worried on Twitter that we could not trust encryption now, technologist Lauren Weinstein responded with assurances that it would be difficult to hide “backdoors” in commonly used PGP encryption – because it is open-source.
Openness is the more powerful weapon. Openness is the principle that guides, for example, Guardian journalism. Openness is all that can restore trust in government and technology companies. And openness – in standards, governance, and ethics – must be the basis of technologists’ efforts to take back the net.
While my initial Ubuntu experiences were marred by frequently encountered networking and display issues, I can now say that it has reached an exemplary level of functioning that makes it my number one recommendation for individuals and families that cannot afford the entry fees associated with entering Apple’s ecosystem. More importantly, in a post-Snowden world, where we know that many of the proprietary applications that we use are compromised, it is becoming increasingly important to rely on software that is transparent (i.e., open source).
What Mark Shuttleworth and the cadre of Ubuntu developers has accomplished is remarkable. Ubuntu is fast, reliable, and a joy to use. It is increasingly compatible with the majority of hardware a user may encounter, and it has plenty of great, open source applications available for it to help users accomplish their everyday, computing tasks.
If you are curious and want to see what Ubuntu has to offer, download and try out the latest LTS (Long-Term Support) version today.