We run a mixture of PCs (XP, Vista and Win 7) and Macs and, earlier this week, we spent some time investigating whether the Ubuntu Operating System might be worth installing on some of our older Windows XP machines.
Ubuntu is a free and user-friendly version of Linux that looks and operates in a similar way to Apple’s OS/X. It’s fast, small in size and “just works”. There’s no need to do things in Terminal or learn obscure Unix commands in order to get it to work.
Ubuntu has a reputation for turning tired old computers into sprightly young beasts, and it is certainly fast. A machine running Windows XP took 10 minutes from power up to the point where you could send an email. Launching Ubuntu on the same machine (so it can dual boot) reduced that time to less than two minutes. You could argue it’s better than Windows 7.
As a platform for Technical Authors, unfortunately, there are some frustrations. The word processors (Libre Office, for example) don’t seem to be as robust as Microsoft Word. If you import a Word document, bullets and formatting can often be a mess. Your favourite Help Authoring Tools are only available in Windows (there are a few for the Mac), so there are limitations there as well.
If you’re authoring in a browser environment, then you shouldn’t face any difficulties. If you install a Windows emulator or set the machine up so it can launch into both Windows and Ubuntu, you can use Windows for some specialist tasks and Ubuntu for others (web browsing, emailing, messaging etc). As a platform for mainstream computer users, it’s great. Unfortunately, for the specialist, there are times when you may still need to use Windows instead.