Ubuntu's Hype is Misleading (Real Test)

by Anant Gowerdhan

I'm running a computer institute and I have new, middle and advanced users. People who know Linux very well and those who don't even know "L" of Linux. Recently, I've been trying different distros. Trying a distro is always based on the reviews I read on the web. Most of the reviews are based on the stability and performance but none of them I found which is meant for a normal user who is a new user in the Linux world. This time I thought, lets do it practically, give different distros to my people in the Institute and get their opinion. For this I chose Ubuntu, PCLOS 2007,Dreamlinux, and Mandriva One.

The most misleading hype I got is about Ubuntu. They say that "Its a replacement fof Windows", "Windows users will feel they are in home". I don't know why they have created such hype when its not at all true.  Its bad marketing and not ethical. I agree that Ubuntu is the largest community and they have a stable OS, but back to the reality, I'm testing different distros from the normal user point of view. Users who'll like Llinux and leave Windows, means it should be as easy as Windows for them. I've given each distro a day and asked everybody to do their daily work on it.

Mandriva One:

A beautifully designed distro, looks pretty, and it's fast and stable. My users gave me a good feedback for this distro when it comes to stability and performance, but they were not able to run websites like YouTube and some of the online news channels. They were not able to run DVDs and some of the win32 format avi files. It is because this distro doesn't contain any proprietary software. They reported another problem that is when they click on "My Computer" they see only Linux partitions, but no Windows partitions (not even FAT32 partitions) are there, so accessing files from a Windows drive is a pain. Installing software from the repository is easy, but the repository is not very good, a normal user doesn't find Skype, Gizmo and Win32Codecs, which is proprietary software in their non-free section.

So at the end, my users, (Normal and Advanced), both rejected it to replace windows for their personal use.

Dreamlinux MMGL:

Its a fantastic distro with lots of eye candy and full of multimedia features. It uses Debian's repository so a normal user can find everything in the repository. My users tried it for a day and they were very happy with the performance, it was 20 times faster than Windows on the same machine. Everything worked smoothly, websites like Youtube worked out of the box, and it was supporting all the media format. There were some difficulties because XFCE workses differently than a Windows desktop, like right clicking on the desktop to change the desktop wallpaper. Other than small issues, my users were very happy with this distro, but there are a few stability issues. When they triedy to run Amarok, it ran and suddenly it crashed. It happens to most of the users. I think it's because KDE libs are not supported properly by XFCE. Killing a running application is also a pain, because if you press CTRL+ALT+ESC, you can kill an application which is stuck, but not when the program what about which is stuck is in memory and you don't have any GUI to work with. Well some of my new users used the above key combination and when they clicked on the desktop, so their desktop was gone. When they restarted, and it came back.

Well the over all review of this distro was very good and my 6 out of 10 users said they may think of replacing Windows on their personal laptop or home computer.

PCLOS 2007:

PClinuxOS 2007 is my all time favorite and I wanted my people to test it and give me some positive feedback. When I gave it to them to test for a day, they gave me extremely strong feedback. They were able to share their Windows drives and it was as fast as Dreamlinux, all the media were running flawlessly and it didn't crash in all day use. CTRL+ESC worked as good as CTRL+ALT+DELETE in Windows and, in fact, it worked better than that. They found everything worked out of the box. They found Messenger with Video chat to Yahoo, K3B for burning CD's and Ktorrent for handling torrents. It was able to detect plug and play devices as good as Windows. One of my users attached his Digital Camera and his photos opened in DigiKam. He was very impressed because for the same thing he had to install a driver + the album software on Windows.

Well, the over all review of this distro was fantastic, (as I expected), and 10 out of 10 of my users said they will, not maybe, replacing Windows on their personal laptop or home computer immediately.

Ubuntu 7.04:

Well, what to say about this distro? It's hyped that it's for the users who are switching from Windows. I gave it to my users for a day and here is how they responded. One guy told me that, "If this is what best Linux is, I'll never move from Windows because its not as user friendly as PCLOS & Dreamlinux". All ten testers reported that it is running slower than Windows on the same machines. It doesn't support any proprietary tools or software out of the box and for many things you need to know the Linux command, it expects you to go back to the command line and do some tweaking there. The experiences of my users were not good, they said it's not at all user friendly and it's slower and doesn't act like Windows at any point. It's not a replacement of Windows, they said. "It could be a stable OS but I'll never move to Ubuntu even if it's the only distro in the Linux world." They also said that they would prefer "Mandriva One over Ubuntu 7.04 because it's at least faster and it doesn't expect users to go to the command line."

So the overall review of Ubuntu was the worst from new user point of view and PCLOS wins here. My users say that in their opinion, Ubuntu is overhyped and that it's not for the normal user. It is for those users who know Linux very well and have high end systems with at least 1 gig ram.

That ended the 4 days of testing. All of my 10 users took a PCLOS live CD from me and they installed it on their home PC or personal laptop. I wish Texstar and the PCLOS team the best of luck for future releases and I believe we'll be able to see some more stable, fast, and user friendly releases.