After four months with a new laptop, I realise that I’ve accidentally migrated from Ubuntu Linux back to Windows.
This wasn’t my intention when my new Dell Vostro arrived in September. I started using Ubuntu back in 2006 and was, until September, predominantly a Linux user. My ratio of Ubuntu to Windows use was about 90:10.
So what happened to turn me into a Windows user again? It’s about effort and inertia. Dual booting is much harder than it was just two years ago. Here’s why:
- UEFI firmware interface – Everything I ever knew about the boot process (and how to install and repair it) went out of the window when my new laptop arrived. One thing I have learned in 7 years of working with Linux on the desktop is: always make sure you know what you are about to do, or else be prepared to lose data and start again. With UEFI, the learning threshold just went several notches higher. I’m not saying that an auto install of Ubuntu wouldn’t work perfectly, but the risk just went up. Finding consistent guidence is harder than ever – just try a search in the relevant forums, such as the Ubuntu community site.
- Windows 8/8.1 learning curve – any operating system requires an input of effort to acquire proficiency. That was certainly true of all the Linux environments I’ve used. But Windows 8 is in a special category. Ironically, there are certain aspects of it that share similarities with Ubuntu – for instance, the Start screen vs the Ubuntu Unity Dash screen. But the learning curve is immense – like scaling a cliff face. Fortunately the Windows 8.1 upgrade allows the user to virtually abandon the ‘metro’ interface. Still, it remains the case that the getting to grips with the latest version of Windows was more than enough to handle without dual booting.
- Microsoft Office – It’s hard to escape the fact that Word and Excel formats are still the standards for exchanging documents between businesses. Openoffice and Libreoffice are excellent alternatives, and in the majority of cases they are easier and simpler to use than the latest versions of Word and Excel. But their rendering of documents in the Microsoft standard formats is not always perfect, particularly with complex documents. When you need to be absolutely sure that your document will have no formatting issues, there is no option but to use Microsoft office. And that means running Windows on your desktop.
- Welcome to the mainstream – I use a number of software tools that just aren’t available in the Linux world. For instance, Evernote’s desktop app. There just isn’t a substitute for this on a Linux desktop, where the only viable option is to run Evernote in a browser. That’s okay, but the functionality and user interface is nowhere near as useful as running the desktop app.
To sum up, it’s about effort. And so far I haven’t had the spare capacity to install Ubuntu on my laptop alongside Windows 8.1. I will get round to it eventually, but I can see this taking months.