Free for all: using Ubuntu in my business

My new Ubuntu 10.04 LTS desktop

This blog post is about my experiences of using Ubuntu, probably the world’s most popular open-source operating system, in my business.

First, I must declare that I came to use Ubuntu because I was writing copy for Ubuntu. Without being involved with Ubuntu and Canonical (the business that leads the Ubuntu project) I may never have used Ubuntu. But these words are my own and they are not paid for, requested or endorsed by Ubuntu or Canonical.

The good

My computing needs have always been modest. Windows was always OK. But when my work with Canonical nudged me into installing Ubuntu on top of Windows XP, I realised that OK was far from good enough. Ubuntu made my old laptop faster, smoother and more reliable – and it did it all for free.

Ubuntu is an excellent operating system, but I want to assess how well it functions in a world dominated by Windows. First impressions were great because I could use Spotify, Dropbox and create .doc files just as easily as with Windows. So I was able to work in exactly the same way as I always had – except my computer was faster to start, faster to operate and faster to shut down. Ubuntu is different, so it took me a little while to find things and to get used to the minor differences, but it was surprisingly easy to ditch Windows.

For me, the best thing about adopting Ubuntu was the novelty of change. Ubuntu provides a fresh vista to eyes tired of gazing upon Windows. Ubuntu feels friendlier than Microsoft products too – it gets out of your way and lets you own your computer.

The bad

When you need help doing something in Ubuntu, you’ll often find advice that features all kinds of scary code, written by someone who assumes you know what to do with it. Far too many fixes require you to use the terminal or command line – something that the average computer user (and me) doesn’t really understand or feel comfortable using.

OpenOffice is the Microsoft Office equivalent that comes with Ubuntu. In a million ways, OpenOffice is amazing. It recreates an expensive Microsoft product and gives it away for free. That’s amazing. Thank-you to everyone who has ever contributed to the OpenOffice project. However, it does have its failings – although for me these are only obvious when I try to collaborate with people using Word. Track Changes and formatting do not carry well between the two programs, making it difficult for me to use in my work.

When I bought a new laptop (which I was forced to buy with Windows 7 already installed) it came cluttered with all kinds of junk. My fresh desktop was loaded with products – although this was probably due to Acer (the maker) rather than Microsoft. When you install Ubuntu you get a clean slate; your desktop is a blank space – because it’s your space.

The rest

I love the fact that Ubuntu makes computing more affordable. I love the fact that every six months my computer gets a free makeover (a new version of Ubuntu is released every six months). I love the fact that every six months my computer gets to take advantage of new technologies – all for free. I love the fact that I’m free of Microsoft, and that I don’t depend on such a questionable organisation for anything. I love the fact that all around the world, people are busy making free software.

So, for the time being, I’m sticking with Ubuntu.


  1. Great post Leif. Welcome to the land of the command line! 🙂

    The sad fact here is that both of us is we bought a machine with Windows on it before installing Linux and Microsoft get rewarded whatever we decide to do with their bundled software — I think you can claim the money back on the operating system but people rarely do so. See the strangle hold they still have over the market.

    Well done for setting your business free.

    Comment by Michael Rose — May 4, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  2. Good post. I have to use and support Windows, Macs and Linux. But can say that since I moved my family’s computers over to Ubuntu the unpaid support calls (from said family members) have dwindled. They are able to just get on and use their computers for what they want and so much more quickly than on Windows too.

    90% of what I need to run my business will now work on Ubuntu & I’m urging on the other 10% of my key apps to work on Ubuntu too. I can’t wait to have the choice.

    Comment by Pete Jenkins — May 4, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

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