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Making the Switch

I know I’ve spoken a lot lately about going open-source. You probably remember my award-winning column called Open-Source My Life, because you remember how it made your skin all bumpy with chills when you realized you could liberate yourself from the oppressive hand of the big boys. I know you also have probably been sitting there hitting F5 every several minutes for the last few weeks, hoping a new column would show up on the site. I know, I know. And I’m sorry. As it turns out, I have learned lately that Haycomet is a lazy writer. She drags butt around the office and almost never writes anything. I see her standing in office doorways and at cube openings, coffee in hand, just talking to all the other SpaceBrew employees.

It’s okay though. There are still plenty in the archives for you to check out. (out which you can check? meh) So anyway, I have one more column to write about going open-source, and I’d like for you to read it. I promise you won’t be bored by it, and it won’t be two thousand words, and you might actually learn something. And it may change your life. The column, not the topic. So read on, my laconic friends.

Well I mentioned in my last open-source column that I would soon be getting off of Windows. Well I wasn’t kidding. Let me tell you how it all went down. My mom got a brand new Sony Vaio notebook. Pretty slick deal. She was so tired of her crappy cheap Compaq laptop not working for her. It was infected with Windows Vista, and it just gave her hell all the time. So I set up her new system for her, migrated all her data, and in return, she gave me her Compaq notebook. Why did I want it? Well read on, my taciturn friends.

Once I had the old Compaq notebook, I ran the system recovery and just started messing with it. I wanted to see how much of her pain was user error. Granted my mother does cause a lot of her own grief. All system fonts must be italicized and enlarged greatly; she has to have wallpapers that change automatically once a day; her weatherbug and prayer widgets on the desktop, fancy Betty Boop screen savers… All of these things are okay, but the more crap you have going on in the background, the less processing power you have to put toward the work you’re trying to do! So I wanted to see if this cheap, very basic notebook would do anything for me. Want to know what happened? Well, read on my reticent friends.

First off, I went ahead and upgraded to Windows 7 on it to get rid of that nasty Vista virus. I used it for a while and determined that it actually worked just fine as far as the hardware goes. I mean, besides the keyboard’s missing its space bar. :rolleyes: So after a couple of days, I figured it would work for me so I set about refurbishing it and sold my old trusty Vaio. The Compaq was not physically as good of a machine, but it is newer. Thus with newer technology, it is faster. It will support twice as much memory, it has a SATA interface for the hard disc, and it’s a dual-core processor. Want to know what else I like more about it? Well, read– okay. Sorry. I know that joke is getting old.

It also has a 16×10 widescreen, which is nicer than my Sony’s 4×3 aspect ratio. And probably the biggest advantage is that it has built-in wifi. My Sony came out just before they started putting radios in every laptop. So I had to have a USB dongle to go wireless on the Sony. Meh. Anyway, I sold the Sony, then ordered a new keyboard and AC adaptor for the Compaq. Then I bought a new, bigger hard disc and cleaned all the nail polish and mars off the screen. With the new hard disc and keyboard installed, and the screen cleaned, it looks like a brand new machine. But I was not going to put Windows on this one. No sir. I installed Linux.

Welcome to Ubuntu 10.10. I installed that with no secondary Windows partition. No parachute beneath the seat. Nothing to fall back on. If I couldn’t do something on Linux, I’d simply have to find another machine to use entirely. I wanted to dive straight in and immerse myself in this new operating system. I wanted to force myself to figure it out. And it wasn’t really even that much of a challenge. So I think you should do the same! Here’s why you should convert:

  • It’s open-source, so you have an entire community of people always working to make it better, to fix bugs, and to help answer questions and help you figure it out. Not one company who only cares about your money.
  • It manages your memory and processor better. Face it: Windows is a resource hog. They care more about see-through menus and shadows behind your cursors than they do about making the experience more performance-based.
  • It’s open-source, so you don’t have to worry about licensing. No one’s going to come get you for using a ‘counterfeit copy’ or disable features until you purchase the full version. This includes OpenOffice.org, which comes pre-installed on your system. It’s free, and always will be.
  • It simply does everything Windows does. And for the Windows apps you just positively cannot live without, you can run Wine, and install the application in Linux. It does everything Windows does, and I prefer the way it does it.
  • Linux doesn’t really get infected. There are a few virii out there (so I’ve heard) but I’ve never actually seen a Linux box infected with a virus. Shrug.
  • It’s more stable. Since it does handle your hardware more efficiently, it doesn’t crash. It doesn’t blue-screen, it doesn’t freeze up – it just works. Occasionally an app will gray out for a moment and then come back. If it does hang, you kill it. The rest of your system continues working though.
  • This is maybe not as enticing a reason for someone who’s already bought a computer with the OS on it, but Linux is free. If you’re considering buying a new machine, buy one without an OS on it, and save the money you normally pay for Windows licensing. That can be as much as a couple hundred bucks.

There are probably a thousand more reasons to switch, but those are the main ones. The best ones. It comes with just about everything you need to do everything you want on the computer. And it just works. It takes about thirty minutes to get used to it. But really it’s as easy (or easier) than it was for you to learn how to navigate through Windows. It’s just a lifestyle change. A simple, consolidated place to get software, auto-organized applications menu, and a fun, exciting interface are all good reasons to at least try it. Go to the Ubuntu website and read the instructions on how to setup a bootable flash drive or CDROM, then boot to it and just try it out. You can check it out without even installing it or making any changes to your drive. No commitments! No contracts! No strings attached! No licenses!

One final note here: it passes, as Siege says, “The Grandma Test”. If a grandma can use it and work her way around the system without calling someone for support every ten minutes, you know it’s easy. Well my mother’s new Sony Vaio is running happily on Ubuntu. Not Windows. And she’s not called me once. She used to call at least once a week on Windows. So far, I’ve helped convert the following people to Linux Ubuntu. Join the crowd and get your name added to the list!

  1. Space (myself: 5/6 computers)
  2. Two-Step (my red-haired wife)
  3. Heather (my ex-wife)
  4. Peligro Pete
  5. Linda (my mother)
  6. Stout

I do have six machines running at home and only one of them is still running Windows 7 as the primary operating system. My two gaming stations do still dual-boot to Windows XP because all the games I’ve bought run on XP. Ask me for details on dual-booting, too if you’re interested. I will probably convert the final one to Ubuntu pretty soon, as I only kept the Windows 7 as a justin case. I’ve not needed it for anything I couldn’t handle on Linux though.

In closing, yes it is my goal this year to help liberate the world from Windows, one computer at a time. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll provide as much assistance as possible. If you use your computer a lot, it really will change the way you look at computing.


2011.04.14 – All computers in my house are now running Ubuntu. And there are now seven.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Peligro Pete

    Man, I couldn’t be more pleased with my netbook now that you converted it to Ubuntu. The speed is astounding. I had pretty much abandoned my netbook under Windows 7, but you made it usable to me!!

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