Proprietary Software Not Necessarily The Best Software

I’m a big fan of open source software. I use it extensively at home and at work. I’ve also contributed to a few projects here and there. I think that on average, it is usually more secure, more stable, and more extensible than proprietary software. Oh, and it’s usually free too.

I got a little reminder today that proprietary software isn’t necessarily the best software. I recently upgraded to Ubuntu 8.10. The first time booting up into the new version of the OS, a little pop-up notified me that some proprietary drivers were available for my graphics adapter. Sweet, I thought. Maybe now I can finally enable Compiz on my work laptop. The driver installed without a problem, and sure enough, most features of Compiz worked without an issue. However, over time I noticed Compiz was slowing things down a bit (it’s an older laptop, with an older graphics adapter), so I disabled it.

Today, I was scheduled to give a presentation to a small group of peers at work. I arrived on time, hooked up my laptop to the projector like I’ve done a hundred times before, and hit the magical key sequence to change the resolution and output to the projector. Nothing. I tried again and again, even rebooting. Nothing. Fifteen minutes after the presentation should have started, I finally bit the bullet and booted into Windows to give the presentation…something I have only done one other time since putting Ubuntu on my work laptop. Man I was pissed, especially since it took Windows forever to boot…reminding me why I switched to Ubuntu in the first place.

This worked fine in version 8.04. What the heck happened?

When I got back to my desk, I did some searching on the web, and found some forum threads indicating that a proprietary video driver could be the cause of such an issue. Remembering I had enabled the proprietary video driver, I quickly disabled it, hooked up to a projector, and tried again. Bingo! Worked like a charm. As a side benefit, I also got the dual-monitor support that had been advertised in the newest version of Ubuntu. Up until now, I couldn’t get that to work either.

So, the moral of the story is, just because it’s proprietary doesn’t always mean it’s better.

Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) is out!

I’ve been an Ubuntu user for about a year now. Before that, I played around with SuSE, RedHat, and a couple other Linux distros. However, Ubuntu is the first one that I use on a day to day basis. Installing applications is easy. Getting and installing updates is easy. Everything just works. It is the first Linux distro that I would recommend to non tech savvy users. It runs my web, Subversion, FTP, and and other servers at home, and I run it on my laptop. It is very easy to use, the community is very helpful, and I’ve never had a major issue with it. It, and a whole bunch of applications that are one click away from installation, are completely free. Who says you get what you pay for!

Previously, if you wanted to try out Ubuntu, you needed to boot into it using the Live CD, which loaded the OS into memory, and greatly limited what you could do. However, with Hardy Heron, you can now install Ubuntu right on your Windows box, without disturbing your Windows installation or your system’s boot record. Since Ubuntu lives on your file system, and not just in memory, you can now give it a real test run to see how you like it. And, if you decide not to stick with it, all you have to do is uninstall it like any other Windows program.

So, go download it and give it a shot.