I have been a Windows user since 3.x on a 33 MHz Packard Bell PC with 2 MB of video RAM, which at the time cost an arm and a leg and blew our Mac 2e out of the water (the video memory was later upgraded to a whopping 4 MB to run Rebel Assault II, a top priority in my life at the time – along with some legendary SCUMM-based Lucas Arts titles , a topic in itself for an entire post). Since then, I have stood witness to several Windows releases, from the industry-changing release of 95 to the flop of “Millenium Edition”.

Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with the philosophy of open source software and was the only FreeBSD desktop user that I knew, but the lack of universal support and the work that went into configuring a usable system (I admit – this was actually most of the appeal) always had me turning back to a Windows-based system.

Now fast-forward to this past April, when the open source blogosphere was ablaze with rantings and ravings about Ubuntu ’s “Hardy Heron” release. I had been an early adopter of Vista, ready to move on after having “eXPerienced” for what felt like an eternity.

Dozens of system crashes later, I had almost migrated back to XP several times – if I could only remember where I had put those disks. After a thorough investigation of Ubuntu’s feature set, and the instant attraction to Compiz Fusion’s eye candy , a friend and I decided to just go all in. A fresh burn of Hardy Heron later, and I was up and running.

Without reiterating a boring list of features that can be readily found elsewhere, here is a list of the top five reasons I am glad I made the switch to Ubuntu on my personal laptop – and haven’t even considered looking back:

1)      An impressive click-to-install software repository. After my dabbling in FreeBSD and becoming familiar with their impressive ports tree , I was happy to see that Ubuntu had adopted a similar method for software installation. Mix that with an extremely intuitive GUI frontend, and you’ve got the winning combination that makes up Ubuntu’s package manager.

2)      Compiz Fusion. Period. See this link if you don’t already know what I’m talking about.

3)      Customization. I suppose this is true of any Linux flavor; it comes down to user preference. If you don’t like the way your UI looks, then change it. If you don’t like your UI to begin with, then change it. Hate GNOME? Use Kubuntu. Everything is customizable here, without sacrificing compatibility.

4)      Lack of Distractions. With limited support for games and a host of other time-killers, the environment of Ubuntu is conducive to a getting-things-done mentality. While there are ways to play your favorite Windows titles on Ubuntu, you’ve got to really want to.

5)      Vista is nowhere to be found. This is pretty self-explanatory. Not to say that Vista won’t continue to make improvements, but it’s had its share of problems. So far I haven’t had a single system-critical error on Ubuntu. Did I mention that it’s free ?