Day 1: Giving up Windows 7 for Ubuntu 11.10 for two weeks

I'm on a mission to see if Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot with Unity can really replace my Windows 7 work PC

I am on a two-week mission to see if I can quit using Windows 7 in favor of Ubuntu 11.10, code-named Oneiric Ocelot. Oneiric Ocelot was released last week from Canonical and, like the version before it, features the new Unity interface. This is Day 1, and like any change in behavior, I'm having moments of intense frustration coupled with moments of intense delight.

First, a disclaimer. I'm not a system administrator, just a good, old fashioned, self-taught power user. I'm not afraid to launch terminal and type in some commands ... but because I am self-taught, there are definite gaps in my knowledge. I won't blame those gaps on Ubuntu. I use Windows 7 for work -- so that's the operating system I'm on for eight hours a day, and I'm a long-time Windows user before that -- most of my work life has been on Windows (and MS DOS before that). My kids have a Mac desktop, which I use from time to time (mostly to load music onto my iPod). BUT, I've been using an older version of Ubuntu, 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) for a home/family machine which uses GNOME. 10.04 is the most current long-term support version, the one that most enterprises would choose, if they have Linux desktops around.Canonical sent me a test machine. It is a Lenovo E220s with a 4-core 1.40Ghz Intel i5-2537M CPU  (of the Sandy Bridge family), 3.8G of RAM running the 32-bit operating system.Let's start with the delight. Unity is slick. If you've used a Mac, you'll be familiar with the Unity interface, which puts the launcher on the left, the window control buttons on the left of each window and changes the top pull-down menus based on the open application, among other features. Moving from Lucid Lynx's GNOME to Unity has been a retraining but it is fairly intuitive. By the end of Day 1 I'm whipping around my various workspaces.

The Dash Home is a nice navigation feature for people like me, that tend to work with a lot of applications and windows open. The hotkey is the "Windows" button. Click on the hotkey or on the Ubuntu icon on the top of the Launcher bar, and it opens in a cool, ghost-like opaque way. It shows application groups (media, Internet, more apps, find files). Click on the tabs at the bottom to launch more apps, open recent documents, find music.

Dash home is a slick navigation tool in Ubuntu Unity.

Ubuntu Unity
Like the Windows 7 start bar, the launcher bar shows your open applications and keeps several icons to apps parked there for easy launching. You can navigate to open Windows by clicking on the icon. Or you can navigate to your workspaces via the Workspace Switcher icon.Setting up dual-monitors was easy. I bumbled around a bit until I figured out how to set up the big monitor as the primary, and the laptop as the secondary and to move the cursor between them. (Simply slide the cursor off the screen to the left to reach the second monitor, right to get back to the first.) No user manual to consult.Now with the frustrations.Sleep setting lost my dual monitor settings and my work. I left my PC long enough for it to put itself to sleep. When I returned, it would not recognize and turn on both monitors. One remained a blank screen.Unity kept minimizing Windows on me. I had carefully arranged my workspaces ... e-mail browser in one Window, HTML editor in another, open LibreOffice document in another. When moving around workspaces, particularly with multiple browser windows open, the system would minimize open windows making it hard for me to find the actual workspace I wanted. That is, if I had two instances of Firefox running and wanted one minimized, all would get minimized. I finally figured out that clicking on the launcher icon would show me all open instances (nice!) and I could navigate to the one I wanted that way.Initial problems installing Google Chrome.   To really leave Windows 7 for two weeks, I was going to need all my browser bookmarks synced in Firefox and Google Chrome. Setting up Firefox Sync was no problem (though it did, strangely take two tries for it to work).  But Ubuntu wouldn't let me install Chrome downloaded from the Google site. Firing up terminal and using the "sudo dpkg" command didn't work ... just gave me an error message. Chrome only installed through Ubuntu Software Center, the Chromium version of the browser (Chromium 14). That worked! I logged in and synced bookmarks.Bug won't list installed software. Ubuntu seems to have gone out of its way to hid basic software version info for packages installed. The "About" button just isn't there for most of them. The Software Center does give a tab for "Installed" software. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually list the software available on the machine. A bug keeps the category tabs from opening when clicked. Bugs and unresponsiveness. I'm stumbling across bugs, though I can't always be sure of the cause. I click, and nothing happens. Try again, nothing. Switch screens, come back, try again and it works.Cheating. I am still using my Windows 7 machine in one way ... e-mail. My company uses Exchange and I have been trying to stick with Outlook Web Access on the Ubuntu machine.  My first attempt to set up Thunderbird didn't work, and I just couldn't spend more time troubleshooting today. And when I think of all the tweaks I made to Outlook, not sure I want to go through that for a two-week experiment. So I've used the W7 machine a few times today to deal with e-mail and calendaring. We'll see if I can figure that out and stay away from W7 completely.

Launcher bar is easy to use, customize.

Worse still, all my settings were lost and the document I was in the middle of writing vanished. I mean, gone. This only happened once. When I put it into sleep and hibernate after redoing all my settings and re-writing my document, I had no problems. Did it have me logged in under a guest user instead of the actual user? I'm not sure how/why that could have happened, as I didn't log-out/log-in, but that's my best guess. My take-away ... verify my user login before working.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Now read: Getting grounded in IoT