Retreat from Ubuntu

It was with great regret that, having purchased a Dell Mini 9 with Ubuntu, I found that I really couldn’t make it work for what I needed. Which is not to say that there weren’t plenty of applications available, nor that it didn’t run well. In fact, I was very impressed with Ubuntu and the Dell netbook experience. But here were the basic reasons I reinstalled my Windows XP.

Fortunately, I still had a license from the desktop I recycled upon getting my Dell Mini 9.  I had installed it on the 9, within Sun’s Virtual Box, in order to support Microsoft apps that I might need to run.  Since I had the Mini as a personal alternative to the Lenovo Thinkpad, I wanted to have some compatibility with typical office productivity software.


This was pretty much a deal breaker.  While I was able to rip and burn discs on Ubuntu, I had a variety of problems getting the recorded MP3s onto a variety of portable devices.  For the most part, I could drag and drop to SD cards and play them in my Palm.  But I also have two Sansa Express players, and the ID tags saved by Rhythmbox appeared very strangely, or not at all, on the Sansa players.

Microsoft Office 2007

I installed Codeweaver’s Crossover Linux to support Microsoft Office 2007.  The applications installed fine – I loved using OneNote from within Ubuntu.  Also, there was no problem installing Windows True Type fonts to make the portability of my documents complete.  It worked great when I opened a previously created document.  But when I created a new file, I ended up with a frequent problem saving the files.  When the save as dialog box appeared, it would lose focus, and sit behind the document window.  It became very difficult to save a file created in Office on Ubuntu.

Internet Explorer

You can install IE6 under CrossOver Linux but not any of the IE tabbed versions.  Frankly, it wasn’t worth it.  I need IE to get into our corporate Web mail but also for alternative research.  I installed Internet Explorer 8 on Ubuntu by using Sun’s Virtualbox but that was slower and using virtualization seemed overkill for a simple Webmail application.

Palm and Sync

Gnome Pilot never really worked for me.  I was able to get some syncing to work but for the most part, Hotsync under Windows, particularly with the latest versions, is much more straightforward and syncing from Windows Media Player works much better (to SD and MP3 players).

Full Compatibility

Otherwise, most of the applications I was using were the same in either operating system.  These included:

  • Skype, although the Windows version had some additional functionality;
  • Evolution e-mail, which works fine under Windows with the port from DIP Consulting;
  • and, of course, Mozilla’s Firefox, Audacity,and  Open Office.

I did experience a bit of karmic retribution, though.  Two weeks after installing Microsoft Windows XP on my Dell Mini 9, saying goodbye to Ubuntu, the drive died entirely.  It took about a week to get Dell to service the machine but since then it has been as good as new.

The beautiful thing about Ubuntu – and other flavors of Linux, I’m sure – is that it definitely can handle the majority of any business person’s needs.  The more independent the user, the greater the amount of Web based work, the more Ubuntu will fit into someone’s technology environment.  I expect a lot of the weird compatibility issues that have derailed my Ubuntu adoption will either not exist or not be important the next time I give it a try.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.