Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

Jan 27 2009   12:54AM GMT

Overheard – Switching operating systems is like going to Burger King and trying to order a Big Mac

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

People encountering Ubuntu for the first time will find it very similar to Windows. The operating system has a slick graphical interface, familiar menus and all the common desktop software: a Web browser, an e-mail program, instant-messaging software and a free suite of programs for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Ashlee Vance, A Software Populist Who Doesn’t Do Windows

There’s a big blogswarm right now about about whether or not Ubuntu is easy to use.

It all started when a college student in Madison Wisconsin bought a Dell laptop for a distance learning class and the computer arrived with Unbuntu Linux as the operating system.  She was not a happy customer because she wanted Windows — so she went to the local TV station to get some help. The story got picked up by Digg and by Slashdot and Linux bloggers everywhere and the poor girl was bombarded with hate comments.

I’m just not getting it.

Is this an Ubuntu story?  Or is it a dissatisfied customer story?  It’s certainly NOT a story about how girls are stupid idiots and should not be allowed near a laptop running Linux.  But that’s what you might think from reading some of the trash floating around the blogosphere.

Sure, Ubuntu might look like Windows — but hey guys, does it work exactly like Windows?  That is, can you really expect the average college kid who’s grown up using Windows to open a laptop running Ubuntu without a hitch?  Apparently someone at Dell tech support thought so.  That is until he started getting blaimstormed in the media for ending this Wisconsin student’s college career.

The whole thing is kind of silly.  It’s not the girl’s fault, it’s not the tech support guy’s fault and it has nothing to do with Ubuntu.

You’d have the same problem if you asked a Windows’ user who’s never used a Mac to start work tomorrow using  OS X . There are going to be some moments of confusion and getting lost.  It would be silly to presume otherwise. Yeah, the basics are still the same, but things are put in different places and tools are called by different names.  It’s just OS culture shock.  You have a panic attack and you get over it. That’s all that happened to that poor girl in Wisconsin.

The real story here is “What is Dell doing shipping laptops with Ubuntu as the default OS?”

Aha! Now THAT’S an interesting story.  You see, Mark Shuttleworth — who describes himself as a billionaire, bachelor and ex-cosmonaut — has teamed up with Dell to make Ubuntu the operating system of choice for low-end laptops.  And he’s not doing it for the money. He’s doing it because he likes the challenge.  (And what’s more challenging than selling something the customer can get for free?)

His company’s name is Canonical.  According to New York Times it’s worth $30 million right now. Keep an eye out for Mark Shuttleworth.  Like Bill Gates, he’s an intriguing mix of businessman-humanitarian.  Mark Shuttleworth is going to be a very interesting personality to follow as the world’s economy recovers from the Crash of ’08.

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