About a year ago I decided to investigate Linux. I was living in China at the time and had a nice fast internet connection so was able to download the ISO file and burn it to a CD for installation and testing.
I had previously used Linux in my work as a computer tech and network engineer, for data recovery and resetting of Windows passwords. But now I wanted to investigate actually using it day-to-day.
After a little research, I decided on Ubuntu Linux 7.04 (7 is the year: 2007, and the 04 is the month: April, so this one was released in April 2007. I write this as 8.04 is going to be released next week. Ubuntu try to make a release every six months), as that seems to be the recommended distribution for beginners. Built on Debian, it is also a fully fledged distribution, so advanced users are able to use it’s power too. The best of both worlds!
Immediately I ran into a problem. I tried to boot the CD, but it couldn’t get past the initial screens and then the CD would just stop spinning. The judicious application of Google, told me that my laptop was at fault, and that I had to use the “hpet=disable” kernel boot switch. This worked like a charm, and I was able to get it to boot the LiveCD. For those unsure of what a LiveCD is, at this stage I am not installing Linux nor am I overwriting Windows. The software is running purely off the CD, but I have a full desktop and can actually surf the internet, create, edit and save documents and do lots of other things. Only slowly, as it has to access and load the software from the CD each time I want to do something.
What I really want to do is have this on my hard disk so it runs faster. I run the installer and it asks me what I want to do. I partition the hard drive into two sections: one for Windows (which I do want to keep) and one for Linux. I select my location, keyboard layout, username and password and a few other things. Then it installs, which takes about 20 minutes. It also installs a little program named GRUB (the Grand Unified Boot Loader), so that I am able to choose if I want Linux or Windows to load up.
After all of this is done, it reboots, and I am able to select Ubuntu Linux. There are some updates to install. As some of the additional software it has installed (for the video card and the wireless card) is proprietary based, it asks for a reboot, which I do.
Now, for the first time I am using Linux properly! I connect to my wireless network, and start having a play around with it. I am able to install lots of software (all for free) and get all of the functionality that I am used to with Windows XP. However, what I am able to describe in two sentences actually takes a little while to do, as I don’t have the familiarity with Ubuntu that I have with XP.
A new version of Ubuntu is released (7.10) and I upgrade. I get some extra functionality working on my laptop (eg Bluetooth, which I don’t use, now works “out-of-the-box”). Some of the other software is upgraded and now I can have a pretty 3D desktop with some nice effects (check out this video to see what can be done). For day-to-day use, I don’t bother with it, and turn it off.
Windows XP is still on my laptop, but after a year of using and working in Ubuntu Linux, I can barely remember the time when I last booted into Windows. I know it was late last year when I took my laptop to University as they have a proprietary wireless authentication scheme, which requires Windows or Apple Mac to work. But since then I don’t think I have used XP. There’s simply nothing that I do which requires (absolutely requires) XP to achieve.
What I do on a regular basis, and what I use to do it:
- Web browsing: Mozilla Firefox with various plugins
- Email: Mozilla Thunderbird or via a web browser
- Listen to music: Rhythmbox
- Organise music: Rhythmbox
- Watch videos: VLC Player
- Bittorrent downloads (legitimate only!): Azureus
- FTP client: FileZilla
- Office Suite (think Microsoft Office replacement): OpenOffice.org (this can also open and save Microsoft formats)
- Project Management: Gantt Projects
- Create CDs & DVDs: Gnomebaker
I am sure I will have left out a bunch of things, but as you can see, there are applications in Linux which can get everything done that I could do in XP.
I hope this is food for though for some people. And please feel free to register and leave a comment.