Since I built my new PC roughly two months ago, I have been running Linux (Ubuntu 8.04 64 bit) as my primary operating system, and I have not looked back.
While in the past I have always had machines running Linux (or FreeBSD) at home, my primary PC had always been a Windows PC. But when I made the switch to a true 64-bit environment, Linux made perfect sense. My old PC was running Windows XP 32 bit, in order to take advantage of the 8 GB memory installed in my new machine, I had to move to a 64 bit OS. So my choices were either to buy a copy of Windows XP 64 bit (Vista? No thanks.) or use the freely available 64 bit Linux. And the choice was quite easy to make.
So, I decided to go with the most popular distro – Ubuntu. In fact I could have easily chosen openSUSE, or even FreeBSD (which is based on BSD UNIX) since my previous experience with them were quite positive as well. At first I did have some question whether or not I would be able to do the majority of my work on Linux, without having to constantly turning to a Windows PC. As it turned out, those worries were totally unnecessary. For the past two months, I had been using Linux almost exclusively at home except for a few moments when I needed to test something in Visual Studio .Net.
For web browsing, I use Firefox 64 bit, since there’s no 64bit Flash available for 64 bit Linux yet, I installed the 32 bit version as well. The default email client GNOME supplies is Evolution, which is quite powerful. Unfortunately, it could only import my outlook mail hierarchical Inbox folder structures into a single folder. So for my mail client, I chose Mozilla’s Thunderbird instead. For word editing, OpenOffice 3.0 is an excellent choice. In fact, I personally found it quite comparable to Microsoft Office 2007, and most Office documents can be opened/edited without any issues.
Since I like many of the tools provided in KDE, I installed the KDE environment as well (the alternative would be to install Kbuntu first and install GNOME based tools later, but it really doesn’t matter, this is the beauty of the versatilities of Linux). The default simple text editing tool (gedit in GNOME/kedit in KDE) is quite powerful compare to Windows’ notepad. The syntax highlighting capability is built in. For viewing PDF documents, I use kpdf, the KDE version of the PDF/PS file viewer. If you are used to the sluggish performance of Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, you’ll be surprised to find how snappy kpdf is.
I use K3b (KDE’s CD/DVD creator) to burn CD and DVD discs. K3b’s features rival most of the commercial CD/DVD authoring programs in the Windows world. In terms of media playback, Ubuntu handles almost all media formats out-of-box, even proprietary formats like wmv can be easily accommodated with a single mouse click. And for photo editing, I use GIMP, which is rather easy to use and almost as powerful as Photoshop.
For software development, I use Code::Blocks and KDevelop for C++ applications, MonoDevelop for C# programs. Occasionally I needed to research some work related programming issues. Since some of these issues are Windows specific, I would fire up an instance of Windows XP (or Windows Vista) within VMWare Server and use Visual Studio from there.
There hasn’t been a single instance where I couldn’t do something conveniently in Linux for the past two months. In fact, for the majority of the stuff I do I felt that Linux was actually easier. There are a few rough edges, of course. For example, copy and paste sometimes do not play well between GNOME and KDE applications and the Flash play back performance under Linux is far inferior then under Windows. But it does not matter to me that much (I block flash content on my Windows PC anyway).