I used to be an MS user, ever since the days of DOS. And naturally, there are things that I miss in Windows. On the other hand, having used Ubuntu at home exclusively for the past couple of years, there are always things I miss when I sit down in front of my office PC (a fact I am slowly changing by virtualizing my workspace).
So today, I’ll be telling you not only the top 5 things I miss in Windows, but also the top 5 things I miss in GNU/Linux.
DISCLAIMER: Many of you will disagree. Some of you will give suggestions. These are my own experiences, based on what I use my computers for. You’re daily activity and workflow will differ from mine.
THINGS I MISS IN WINDOWS
1. See Your IP Address Quickly Without Opening A Terminal
In Windows XP, you double-click the LAN icon in the system tray (you have to set the “Display Icon in System Tray When Connected” in the connection properties, but you only have to do this once) and the local area connection dialog pops-up. If you go to the Support tab, you can find your connection’s information including IP address and subnet there.
2. Middle-click scroll
Yes, the middle-mouse button doesn’t scroll your browser or application in Ubuntu. I’ll tell you why later. While it is possible to set this in Linux, (heck, practically ANYTHING can be set somehow), there is no fancy GUI way to do it so it’s definitely not for the lesser-experienced. The middle-mouse button is useful for those lazy days when you’re surfing the web and just don’t want to scroll that mouse wheel.
3. Adobe/Macromedia Flash Yes, I know you can go to YouTube, Miniclip, and everything plays fine. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the Windows-only application that lets you make those Flash applications. Flash 8 and Flash MX both have Platinum ratings for Wine, meaning that they do work almost flawlessly in Linux under Wine. But personally, and this is a really subjective thing, I would prefer a native port or an equivalent. For most applications, I’ve gotten by with a Linux equivalent, and most perform even better than their Windows counterparts. But it seems strange to me that there is no worthy equivalent for Flash. Heck, I don’t even need the CS3 features, just basic animation and even ActionScript 1.0 would do, but alas the closest thing we have is the long-dead F4L project.
4. Drivers for Weird Devices I really want a device driver for my 1-Seg TV tuner (ahem, driver writers, please get in touch with me). Don’t know what 1-Seg is? Thought so. Linux has no problem handling video cards, sound cards, webcams, and in recent months even wireless support has improved greatly. But there will always be that uncommon device that only a minority would have and that only has Windows drivers. And in my case, it was made by a Taiwanese vendor whose email link at their website isn’t even working!
THINGS I MISS IN LINUX
1. Compiz Fusion
Oftentimes I find myself moving my mouse to the upper-right corner of my screen because I want to see all the windows I have open. It always ends up in disappointment because sadly, not even Aero can provide such feature. In fact, Vista’s Aero doesn’t really provide anything useful, or new for that matter, to the table as it was meant to just prettify your desktop, and at a higher performance cost. For a list of Compiz features, take a look at its Wikipedia page. And then take a look at the Windows Aero page.
2. Built-in FTP program that doesn’t suck Say it with me, “MS Windows’ FTP program sucks!” Didn’t know that Windows has a built-in FTP program? Well, it’s more like a built-in plugin for Windows Explorer that’s stuck in the tar pits of the stone age. You just type in ftp://yourFtpSite.com in the address bar. I can’t stress enough that it sucks. A few examples:
- In FTP sites where log-in is required, you are plopped onto some sort of limbo directory and you have to Right-click and select Login As… to actually log-in.
- When you Right-click > Properties a file, all you’ll get is the size and permissions. No EXIF data for images, no codec info for music, basically nothing useful.
- Try dragging and dropping, copy-pasting between directories, or any of that stuff you’d come to expect from a modern OS, and you’ll be disappointed because it won’t work in Windows.
- Want to edit files directly from your FTP? Again, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
So fire up your Nautilus and log on to your FTP, because in Linux you can proudly say “Yes! We Can!” to all of these.
3. A Codec Manager
When you play a DivX video in Windows Media Player and you haven’t installed the codec yet, WMP will offer to search for a codec for you…and it will fail you every single time! Back in the day, the best way to be able to play all those videos and mp3s was to download the Gordian Knot Codec pack or some other codec pack.
There is no more need to manually download and install codecs one by one for DivX, XVid, Ogg Vorbis and Theora, MP3s. In the modern age, you use Ubuntu, double-click on your media file, and if you don’t have the codec, Ubuntu will tell you and offer to install it for you.
4. Driver Support
I’ve been asked by quite a few Windows-using friends, “how did you find drivers for your hardware?” My answer is, “I don’t have to”. I’ve said this a couple of times in previous posts. I no longer need driver CDs. For all of you out there, go check out your drawers, computer tables, etc. Are your driver CDs still eating up precious space? If you think so, go ahead and throw them away because the only CD you’ll be needing from now on is your Ubuntu CD (maybe your Warcraft CD, too).
While Windows does have a few drivers built-in, in most cases your PC or PC parts came with a couple of driver discs for a good reason. And hardware experts will almost always recommend that you use the manufacturers’ own proprietary drivers instead of the ones made by Microsoft. Go figure.
Back then, and even today, device manufacturers wrote their drivers exclusively for Windows. And the Linux people had to resort to their own skillz to reverse-engineer or communicate with the hardware vendor and write their own device drivers in open-source fashion. In my opinion, I think it was precisely because of this that Linux driver support is so good: Linux users with their hardware + Linux device driver writers far outnumber the employees at Microsoft. And they don’t do it for money, they do it to make their hardware work well.
5. Middle-click paste
Yes, I know I said I missed middle-click scrolling in Windows, but considering that I still had my trusty mouse-wheel, middle-click pasting turns you from one lazy middle-clicking-net-surfing couch potato to a highly-productive middle-click-pasting l33t hax0r!
What is middle-click pasting anyway? Well, normally you would:
- Select text
- Click copy
- Right-click on destination
- Click paste
With middle-click pasting it’s reduced to
- Select text
- Middle-click on destination
That’s 3 whole steps removed, increasing your speed by 60%! Even middle-click scrolling can’t beat that.
6. Easy music preview with mouseover
Do you have lots of music files, say voice recordings or even previewing the quality of an MP3 you just downloaded, and you need to preview them? Forget opening each one of them in Media Player. Just roll your mouse over it and it’ll play! Assuming you’ve installed the right codec of course, but that isn’t really a problem because Ubuntu has it’s own codec manager!
7. Always On Top-ify ANY program
Sure, Yahoo! Messenger, Winamp, and a handful of programs have the “Always On Top” feature, but if you’re typing a document or creating a 3D model or whatever and you need to constantly look at a reference, being able to “Always On Top-ify” that Notepad sure would save you from the dizzy of alt+tabbing. Well, if you’re using GNOME (the default window manager of Ubuntu), you can now say with me, “Yes, we can!”.
Just right click on the program on the taskbar or its title bar and choose “Always On Top” and you can work while keeping that chat window with your honey or never missing a beat while that Totem Video Player is playing the latest CSI DVD you just got.
Ok, I really intended to do a 5-on-5, but try as I might, I could only think of 4 things for Windows and I really had to stretch it. On the other hand, it was quite easy for me to think of stuff for Ubuntu. I hope you guys find this info useful. If there are any Mac users out there, I’d love to hear your side of the story. Hit the comments for your ideas and suggestions.