Ubuntu-logo-unique-image Creative Commons License photo credit: Jeffpro57

In the last number of weeks I have been seriously considering taking the plunge and wiping my Windows laptop clean in order to switch to Ubuntu as my primary machine. Although Windows 7 has gone a long way toward smoothing over the problems Vista brought, it isn’t perfect.

Windows isn’t a bad operating system, by any means. Like OS X and Ubuntu, it has its strengths and weaknesses. However, as a developer whose primary work involves web pages, I definitely see Windows as more of a barrier to efficient workflow. There are a few pieces of software that have kept me on Windows for awhile but which just don’t hold me back anymore:

1. Microsoft Office I definitely qualify as a power user for this software. Yes, OpenOffice can do most of what MS Office can, but I will sorely miss the features that “most people” don’t use. However, the majority of my work doesn’t touch Office - in fact, it’s relatively rare that I will need Access, or Word, or even Excel. When I do use these programs, it only tends to be in support of a client who has used them inappropriately for some data storage.

I’ve long outgrown Outlook due to the amount of mail I keep; I don’t like to delete anything because true professionals are able to refer back to projects no matter how old. I don’t have a replacement mail program yet; but so far the Gmail interface has been more than sufficient.

2. Visual Studio This software is giving me pause. If I switch over, I will be giving up my ability to truly work in the .NET world, which is where I have largely been for the past decade. Most of my workflow recently has been with the open source, PHP-driven web world and I’m not sure that I’m excited about going back to a pure Microsoft environment. That said, I want to be sure I’m not closing any doors.

Mono has made great strides in bringing the .NET platform, specifically C#, over to Mac and Unix, but the more Windows-centric database and GUI interfaces don’t translate over very well. I can always run a Windows Virtual Machine for the rare instances I will need to work on that platform, but it seems a bit counter-productive to keep around an environment that I don’t use for the sake of a few days each year.

3. Quicken My other strong reason for staying with Windows has been my love for Quicken - the Mac version just doesn’t compare to the Windows version - and my inability to manage my finances on paper after years of dependence. Since so much of my data is tied into this software, any switch will involve either years of data entry or a major hit to my forecasting abilities.

Fortunately, Wine has come to the rescue - last night I was able to get a full install of Quicken on my test/Ubuntu machine with absolutely no problems! The fonts looked a little weird in the reports, but otherwise all of the functionality was there and working beautfully. It even looked like a Linux app - unbelievable!

Should I Stay or Should I Go? So the big thing I’m weighing in my head right now is whether I can stand to give up the .NET programming I have been involved with for so long and switch to a full Linux environment. I still love my Windows environment and software, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense to keep it given my current open source focus.