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Second Month with Ubuntu

In June I was traveling with a notebook that was too damaged to run Windows, but it run Ubuntu almost flawlessly. The experience was not so bad. Back home I could choose again between Windows and Ubuntu. In past dual-boot situations I gradually reverted to fully use Windows. What happened this time?

Good news: Most of my time at the computer is still with Ubuntu. However the dual boot workstation is mostly in Windows (when it is on). I did not spend that much time at the computer; the motives for my choice of spending time with Ubuntu point to a more nuanced verdict: there are still applications for which I am more comfortable/efficient on Windows, and even such for which I have no choice. And as usual, I see potential for improvement.

Computing Time

Despite the worst July weather on record since 1992, I spent less time than average at the computer. Other priorities rule.

This does not mean that the computers did not work: they did some heavy lifting (such as rendering a DVD) while I was not at my desk.


When choosing between the workstation or the notebook, I often preferred the latter (which runs Ubuntu only) because of the flexibility to work anywhere – in this case in an air conditioned room. The workstation is in the office (with the server and other heat generating devices) and my boss is too cheap to add more air conditioning. Did I mention I am self-employed?

Comfort is about reducing heat and noise. This is why I just turned my atom box into a perfectly silent machine. And it runs Kubuntu most of the time.


Besides physical comfort, the main consideration for the choice of box (and operating system) is the application. Drawing in Inkscape is the same on Windows and on Ubuntu, so I rather do that on Ubuntu. Office tasks, surfing the web, email, all the same.

Video Editing

On the other hand, for AVCHD video editing I am still captive of this proprietary software. Nothing of comparable quality has come across my way in the FLOSS world, although playback of raw material out of the camcorder is now better in Ubuntu (using VideoLAN) than any media player in Windows on the same hardware. After one month of traveling I had plenty of video footage to edit, render, and sometimes publish. I use xvnc4viewer to remotely control the Windows workstation on simple tasks, but editing is something to do at the workstation itself. I scheduled this for the cooler nights or early mornings. The hours of rendering to Vimeo or to high quality DVD (I have not tried BluRay yet) were clocked on Windows but without me.

Code Development

I kept my contributions going for Hugin and related tools. Unsurprisingly, for coding Ubuntu is a far superior platform than Windows. Cmake runs faster, and if you ever tried to change the library location or linker settings in a Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition, you probably feel like you’ve been dragged inside a never ending Russian doll. Nevertheless the Hugin project needs some Windows coding work. So I got my Windows toolchain back up and running, but I can’t motivate myself to use it much.

Version Control Systems (VCS)

Where Windows is still superior is with GUI client access to source control integrated in the file browser, i.e. TortoiseSVN and the likes. But the Linux world is catching up to the tortoise world. Enough developers have seen the light and realized that it is a more efficient way of working than the command line. Modern distributed VCS such as git, mercurial and bazaar all have their tortoises. TortoiseHg integrates in Nautilus too.

Software Installation and Removal

I confess: I’ve been toying with Ubuntu for more than two years now, but this month was the first time I used Synaptic to install software. I had grown tired of graphic installers over the years in Windows  (I sometimes believe Windows installers are a conspiracy of shady doctors looking for more RSI patients: click-next, click-next, click-next…). When I first migrated to Ubuntu I either used `sudo apt-get install` or, most often, went straight for the tarballs or even the repositories for a build from source.

To understand the experience of Hugin users, I removed all traces of my self-built Hugin and related tools and installed the official distribution packages with Synaptic. It was amazingly simple, easy efficient.

And I noticed a few things:

Positive: Ubuntu distributes autopano-SIFT (the old, mono-dependent version). I found it in Graphics(universe). Is this because Ubuntu is not based in the US? US-based distributions such as Fedora/Red Hat avoid it, and even Debian does not carry it.

Negative: The packages are seldom updated. So unless we step in with a PPA, users of older Ubuntu versions, including of 8.04LTS (supported until April 2011 if I am not mistaken) will not be upgraded from 0.7.0beta4. And even the upcoming Ubuntu 9.10 seems to have only 0.7.0!

So we need to support our Ubuntu user base. We can’t expect everybody to update to the latest Ubuntu – there are good reasons for people to stick with LTS versions. Nor can we expect people to build the tools from code. I’ve started Hugin PPA Packagers team. If you know how to build Ubuntu / Debian packages, you’re invited to join. The goal is to provide packages of Hugin, Enblend-Enfuse, Autopano-SIFT-C, Libpano and the Panotools for all currently supported versions of Ubuntu (8.04LTS, 8.10, 9.04, 9.10) in both 64bit and 32bit flavors.


Have I migrated? not yet. I now have applications that attract me to both sides of the divide. Not sure if one side will prevail. Nor does it have to. My favorite applications are those that are operating-system-agnostic. Thunderbird or Firefox are for all pratical purposes the same, on this side or on that side of the divide. There are still apps that hold me captive to one side or the other; and there are apps that run better on one side or the other. The real stress test will come when I have to be fully productive again; when time is money; when efficiency is key. To be continued.

3 Responses

  1. i agree with you, i just got a new computer and im cheap and dont want to pay for windows xp or vista 64bit. Im still between linux and windows though, some apps are better on windows and some are better on linux. I am trying to find replacements for my window apps or find a solution. I got my computer to be awesome with virtual machines so i might run a vm of xp on it and use the windows apps i need instead of doing dual boot.
    *im waiting for my graphics card to use my new computer*

    good luck on your transition, it might take some time to finally be devoted to linux but the coolest thing about using linux is the command line tools. Once you get good at that, your productivity is way faster then it ever would be on windows.

  2. I wouldn’t say that it’s being cheap choosing Ubuntu over Windows, with Linux you get to learn a better way of computing with no spyware and no viruses on your pc.

    Many windows applications can be used via WINE so it’s not bad if you’re dependant on that. Certainly using the command line has been a learning curve, but once you’ve got going there’s no looking back.

  3. @scouser73: please note that in my article the cheap refer to me choosing not to install an air conditioner in the office and not to the choice of operating system.

    I’m proud to have kept my Windows box free of spyware and viruses for more than a decade with two simple rules: don’t let email display HTML and don’t exdcute downloads from untrusted sites.

    GUI? CLI? I’m using both and there are tasks for which I am more efficient with the one and tasks for which I am more efficient with the other. I’ve been administering FreeBSD servers for the past 6 years (and Red Hat servers for 5 years before that), mostly using the CLI via SSH, although occasionally a GUI like Webmin is just great for the lazy me.

    There is always a looking forward and I expect GUIs to become even more efficient with touchscreens and other natural user interfaces.

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