A Linux example
Thinking about Linux? Here’s a real-world example. Keep in mind I am NOT an expert with Linux, I’m a Windows guy.
I just installed Xubuntu 8.04 on my Thinkpad X40 laptop. This is a high-durability, small-format laptop with P4 Centrino processor and 512 Ram, so from a system perspective it’s nothing special. It has no CD-rom drive (too tiny), so I hooked up an external.
The configuration had been dual-boot Ubuntu/WindowsXP, and since Xubuntu is a bit leaner (faster) I wanted to change it. I have three Linux partitions; /, /home, and /swap, plus one NTFS partition for Windows. I plugged in a network cable for installation, though the laptop us generally used wireless afterward.
Rather than install over the top of Ubuntu (I wanted fresh pastry, not day-old) I replaced the existing / partition and ran the install using defaults. In 15 minutes it was asking me a startling question that I have never seen before during a Linux install: would I like to import Windows accounts?
It had looked in the NTFS partition and correctly identified all the Win accounts there, and offered to import them so the files and settings would be available in Linux. Astounding. No more “never the twain shall meet.” I declined Windows file imports because, well, I fear change; but it’s a neat feature that I will try out on a test machine.
Xubuntu correctly identified all the hardware and set up the wireless, detecting my home network. I used Update Manager to get all new security updates, which installed in 15 minutes with no attention from me.
Then I needed to pack in my favorite apps. Using the Synaptic package manager I marked Open Office (a full office suite comparable to Microsoft office), Open Office Draw (similar to Microsoft Publisher), Quanta Plus (an HTML editor), Flash Plugin, and XMMS player for installation. Clicked “Apply” and went back to doing other stuff on my desktop computer for another 15 minutes until a little window popped up saying “Changes applied.”
There. Now it’s ready to use again. Total investment of my attention, about a half-hour. Total installation time, about an hour.
It takes about four hours to reinstall Windows on this same laptop, because all the drivers have to be set up manually, and the applications require swapping CD’s or installation from network drives. You have to watch for “stopper’ dialog boxes so you can’t really do other stuff during installs. So I don’t reinstall Windows on a whim.
Other than speed (considerably faster in Xubuntu than in Windows XP) both operating systems do pretty much the same things and work in similar ways. Not identical.