Another Update on my Ubuntu Experiment

Environments are important. Whether it’s having the right desk and office chair, the perfect office or where you chose to live, my emotional satisfaction and motivations are impacted by my environment. It doesn’t matter whether you work solo or in a small group, your environment affects how you work and how well you work. I clearly remember driving to work on I270 in Columbus, bumper-to-bumper traffic and arriving at work in such a foul mood because of the commute. I moved to Grand Rapids, MI and there experienced cold overcast skies and lots of snow. I learned that I was suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.) I was able to change that for myself years ago, but the same principles apply whether you are looking at your work-flow and perhaps your workstation environment as it pertains productivity and satisfaction.

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Lessons learned, my commute today… Home office to patio and a lot less stress.

Another month has passed since I went over to Ubuntu as my primary OS as wanted to get back to those who may be wondering how it has gone. I must say, even with a five year-old mediocre laptop, it has gone better than I thought it would. Almost every wound I have suffered has been self inflicted.

Am I as efficient and effective as with my Windows machine? The answer is “yes.” Programming in WPS and surfing the internet has been the same experience as with my Windows machines. I have gone back to my Windows PC for bookkeeping chores when I needed. I chose not to try to move that application for this experiment. I considered it too much work and out-of-scope.

Since I started this experiment, Canonical has decided that they are going to drop their GUI interface called Unity and return to Gnome. Unity it seems, was a project that was designed to “unify” the Ubuntu experience across platforms such as tablets, phones, laptops and workstations. From my reading, the decision was made to stop the financial hemorrhaging and focus on workstations and servers at the expense of phones and tablets. I actually found Unity easy to use and not a hindrance at all.

I can understand and appreciate the reasons for that decision however. Mark Shuttleworth (founder and CEO) wrote a blog post on how and why he came to that decision. Basically, Canonical is a business (not a charitable organization) and he is treating it as such. Move to your strengths and develop those areas where the revenue stream is best.

But back to my Ubuntu experiment. I could go through each application that I use and talk about the anomalies that I discovered but that would be really boring. But suffice to say, that using LibreOffice was decent and a good enough replacement for MS Word. LibreOffice Calc was good enough for my spreadsheet needs as well. I did suffer using MS OneNote a bit. I’m a huge advocate of using OneNote to keep my ideas, plans and outlines in one place. It’s one of my go-to applications.

The issue I have with OneNote is using the online version. Unexplainably, it would insert extra space between words or even letters at random. It wouldn’t do it often, but often enough to be irritating. Perhaps it is the browser I used and I should try OneNote with a different browser.

I’ve been writing a vertical market application over the last four to six months in my free time. This is a street mapping application using R, Google Maps and WPS. WPS has worked like a champ on Ubuntu Linux. Everything I threw at it worked straight away. The Eclipse workbench is exactly the same as you would see when on Windows. As a matter of fact, I like the font used by Eclipse better than the one on Windows.

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By the way, the screen shot you see above that has the WPS Workbench displayed – this is the exact same interface you see and use with WPS Link on Linux. WPS Link is the “thin client” that World Programming distributes with their server software which allows users to interactively access the WPS software as if it was running on their desktop.

So, the question to be answered is “Can I move away from using Windows as my only OS platform for everyday use?” The answer to that is “yes.” I will most likely purchase a Dell Laptop that has Ubuntu pre-installed this summer and use that as my primary development workstation. I will keep a Windows workstation so I can test and develop on that platform as well. However, now that Skype is running decently on Ubuntu, there is no reason that I can find to not use Ubuntu. What do I give up other than forced reboots and forced updates? Not much…

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.