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s my trusty (mostly) laptop approaches its 4th birthday, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of finally switching from Windows 7 to Ubuntu on a permanent basis, as a way to get more out of an aging device. This is because I won’t ever be buying another laptop. I buy my gear for the long haul, and don’t see the point in investing in anything without a touch screen, whether it be a tablet or some future tablet/laptop hybrid. Touch tech is mature and useful, and the software to support it has arrived (Android, iOS) and will be arriving (Windows 8).

I tried several ways of testing out Ubuntu: live CDs, virtual machines, and hard drive swaps. I settled on booting off an external hardrive. This gave me the chance to test on my actual hardware, with the convenience of making no changes to my Windows 7 hardrive. I spent a few weeks using Ubuntu as my primary system with my mind open, and have come to the conclusion that although it has come lightyears in usability, Ubuntu still isn’t ready for prime time. The value proposition still lands in Microsoft’s favor: it’s worth 100+ dollars for an operating system that supports my laptop hardware.

Most of the time I was able to use Ubuntu just as I would use Windows 7. The browsing experience in Chrome is the same, and local networking functions well out of the box. What got me was the little annoyances. The things that don’t work that should just work. Here’s my list that I plan to keep updated until Ubuntu does catch up:

  • No Netflix – Ubuntu needs to throw their weight behind this one. Netflix is supported on set-top devices, smartphones and tablets that all run on Linux, so don’t tell me DRM is the issue.
  • Power management issues – Ubuntu won’t automatically dim my screen when I unplug the AC. That’s just one of the symptoms of poor hardware resource management.
  • Battery life – I got half the battery life I get when running Windows. This had to do with the system not managing the display as I mentioned, or managing the CPU. The fan was in operation constantly.
  • No Logitech Setpoint – I use a very common Logitech mouse that has extra buttons. I want to be able to use those buttons, but I can’t.
  • No pretty graphics – Windows 7 Aero Glass looks good, don’t deny it. Ubuntu has some transparency, but still maintains a solid grey bar a la Windows XP for task management. It looks very last decade.
  • Webcam support – I got my webcam working by using drivers that a savvy ubuntu user had packaged and published. I would expect this to work out of the box.

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