What’s in an OS

The imminent release of Ubuntu 9.10 and the release last week of Windows 7 has prompted me to consider what I actually want from an Operating System. Rory Cellan-Jones (BBC technology Correspondent) produced a storm of response to his off handish dismissal of Ubuntu. In a similar vein the Deputy Editor of PC Pro did much the same in the last issue of PCPro – his main complaint the ‘clippy’ in Open Office for goodness sake.

All this is a shame because actually Ubuntu, out of the box, provides much of what the average Joe wants for his computing needs (Email, Web Browsing, Word processing and possibly Music and Video / DVD). Strangely, Windows loses out here as there is more ‘bundled’ software with Ubuntu than there is with Windows now.

So, what do I want from an OS? Well not a lot seems to be the answer. I believe that the OS should be a way of interfacing with the hardware – the enabling layer, but they all (Standard Ubuntu Desktop included) try to be all things to all men. So enabling layer; GUI (desktop and graphics manager), File Manager, Network Manager (including fixed, wireless, Bluetooth, 3G), Printer manager, Package (Software) manager, Update manager, Security manager. Have I missed anything?

Once I have this enabling layer, I can add what I need. Here then is the biggest difference between Ubuntu and Windows. For Windows, you need to go out onto the internet and find the package. On Ubuntu, while other research helps, the most common packages are available from the Package Manager. This is akin to the iTunes Store model which works well for Apple!

The biggest sticking point for me to migrate completely is threefold; one, a program I have had for years Serif PagePlus – a must have. Secondly iTunes – no really, nothing yet comes close (although it does get annoying at times). Finally MS Money (though I am playing with GnuCash which again is bundled).

I am in the middle of a project to Virtaulize my Vista Installation and If I can get that to work then I will zap that and move to Ubuntu. My aim will be to reduce my dependency on Vista over time to just the 2 programs mentioned above. As we move more to the ‘Cloud’ world of Google Docs I suspect that the urge not to buy Windows will increase.

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