Moving to Ubuntu

I’ve finally made to switch: my desktop now is open source! I’ve pushed back for quite some time, had too many programs that still required Windows, and generally just wasn’t ready. But now I did it. My laptop needed a fresh install, and I tried out the latest Ubuntu (going under names like 8.04 and Hardy and Hardy Heron). And decided to stay with it, after trying out things for several weeks. Why?

My Ubuntu desktop
  • Windows XP was running smoothly, but I found myself duplicating efforts on figuring out how to do things on Windows, when I just did them on a Linux server, to have a good local development environment. And I had already switched to mostly open source software for my day-to-day work.
  • Linux is catching up with the usability thing. The latest Ubuntu managed to present a desktop that didn’t feel like falling back into the last century, and it recognised most hardware. Particularly, I now could get my wireless working without a lot of effort, something I didn’t manage 2 years ago.
  • I’ve been able to find reasonable alternatives for almost all software I used. Sometimes it is a bit half-baked, but then again, it covers the 80% of the cases I use it for, and at least I can do my work the way I did, most of the time. Installation and removal of “supported packages” definitely is easier. And a lot of software is more “hackable” (example in a next post).
  • VirtualBox is like the VMware I had (but now it’s free), and it allows me to run a Windows XP virtual PC inside my Ubuntu desktop. Sadly, though, it fails on the only thing I really need: reporting my invoices and expense declarations…

There’s still stuff to be desired, too:

  • Most of the special features of my laptop seem to be unavailable, even though it’s not really the latest model. It is a Sony, with several Intel components, where Intel is supposed to be reasonably open source friendly. But the LED light for the wireless doesn’t work, and I can’t do dual screen (on the other hand, I can do 1920×1200 resolution on my external screen, which wasn’t possible under Windows)
  • I easily find myself searching the interwebs for solutions, with information from 2006 or even 2007 that seems to be completely irrelevant to my version, and lots of software that is hardly documented at all. A lot would be more or less “impossible” without knowing quite a bit of the technology under the hood, and ample time to research and hack away.

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