Is Ubuntu for U? A Lawyer’s Take on Using a Linux OS

by Chris Mommsen on August 8, 2011

This is your computer. This is your computer on Linux?

Despite best efforts to make the anti-Windows operating system palatable to the masses, its market reach is still puny, and even reviews tend to be concentrated in super-geek sites. I’m here as a less-than-geeky attorney who’s converted to Ubuntu from Windows after years of using it to give an honest assessment of the feasibility of using it as the primary operating system in a solo practice.

Off the bat, I want to dispel any idea that Ubuntu is hard to use. Most attorneys will spend their computer time either using online applications or word processing. LibreOffice Writer (which replaced OpenOffice in April) is just as easy to use and creates documents just as well as Microsoft Word. Switching from Firefox to … Firefox should cause no difficulties at all. If you’re still concerned, this is what my desktop looks like. I can access all applications not on the sidebar with the “Applications” window which contains a search, and all other files from the “Home Folder,” also conveniently located on the sidebar.

The benefits of Ubuntu are:

  1. It is free to get, free to upgrade, and comes packed with free, open-source software.
  2. It will not get viruses and does not need to run virus scans to prevent viruses.

I once would have been able to add that it is faster and less packed with bloat than Windows, but in my experience with Windows 7, it is quite fast and comes relatively free of nonsense. Ubuntu 11.04 is not noticeably faster.

The drawbacks I have found are:

  1. Certain software is either non-existent or not up to par. The open source presentation software cannot match up to PowerPoint. There is no case management software, so Ubuntu users will need to use an online option like Loislaw. The PDF editors are simply not as good as Acrobat, either. All these issues are solvable either by dual-booting Ubuntu and Windows or running Wine (which runs Windows programs in Linux). However, that would go against my statement earlier that Ubuntu is super easy to use.
  2. Support can be a pain. Sure, Microsoft is horrible to deal with, but at least you’ll eventually get to talk to somebody. With Ubuntu, as easy as it is to use, if you run into trouble you’ll have to trawl through the user forums for a solution or pay for their support services.

Since Windows 7 addressed most of the glaring issues present in Vista, I’d say it probably is not worth it for most solos to switch if they haven’t done so already. The simplicity of just buying a computer and having it work is worth quite a bit, and 7 fits the bill there.

However, where Ubuntu shines is in taking an old machine and resuscitating it. A computer that is dragging from spyware and Vista bloat, but not worth the $200 it costs to add Windows 7, can get a fresh start with Ubuntu. It only takes a few minutes to install, does everything well, and is even pretty fun to use. Most importantly, you get a tiny sliver of nerd credibility.

Chris Mommsen is a criminal defense attorney in Denver.



Neil August 8, 2011 at 3:47 pm


Interesting post. I have to say that this is the first time I have heard anyone say that getting support for Windows was easier/better than for Ubuntu.

I am also pretty sure that as the Unity interface matures so too the speed we all love so much will come back 🙂

Enjoy your computer…

PS – Windows 7 however seems to be a very solid OS so far…

chris August 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

It’s not really about MS’s support (which isn’t great), it’s more about it being harder to find other people who use Ubuntu in person (the forums obviously are a different story) or having a central place you can call.

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