Sunday, March 04, 2007

Saying no to Vista (and Yes to Ubuntu)

I'm tired of listening to myself bitch about Windows.

Maybe it's my naturally suspicious nature, but the more I read about Vista, the less it appeals to me. I'm running XP on a couple of machines and it's bloated enough. Vista apparently takes bloat to a whole new level, and wraps it up with the worst Digital Rights Management ever. (An aside - notice how Digital Rights Management is never about your rights?)

So I'm exploring two non-Microsoft options.

The first is looking into getting a Mac as the family computer.

I got my oldest son an iBook when he went off to college and he loves it. This after years of Windows. It's easy to set up and simple to use. Unfortunately, beneath its sleek, elegant exterior, Apple's corporate heart is as rotten as Microsoft's. The way I see it, they're both Nazis; Apple just has better looking uniform

The other option is to go to Linux

I started out with Slackware years ago, and since then have tried Red Hat, Mandrake and SuSE. On the theory that I'll always gravitate towards using my fastest box, regardless of the OS, I installed Ubuntu on my Athlon 2800, relegating XP to the Celeron.

I choose Ubuntu because it's become quite popular and unlike some versions that seemed to be concentrating on commercial success, maintains its allegiance to its open source roots.

I downloaded a CD image and burned it.

The image is a bootable live filesystem, so you can try it out before committing yourself. The interface is clean and professional. To install, just click the "Install" icon on the desktop. You are presented with partitioning options (automatic or manual), and once these are done the CD image is written to your hard drive. Remove CD, reboot, and you have a Linux box. Of all the distros I've used over the years, Ubuntu is by far the easiest to get up and running.

A heck of a lot easier (and faster) than the last Windows install I did.

Upon reboot, you have a useable system with web browser, Open Office suite, and assorted other applications (you will surely want more; we'll come to that). First thing you'll want to do is update your installed applications, which is fairly painless if you have broadband. After than, browse the available applications, and have fun.

A couple of things need to be mentioned. Because of it's strong connection to the open source community, by default proprietary packages are not shown (for example, the MP3 codecs are not installed out of the box). It's a minor matter to turn enable these and install things that are not completely open source, but they are not there by default.

The other thing is that without a broadband connection you are not going to be very happy trying to install additional packages, since these are all pulled from remote servers. If you do have broadband, you are going to love it.

I initially installed to a stray 40 GB hard drive floating around in my studio. I was so impressed I went out this morning and bought a 300 GB drive on sale at Staples and did a re-install to it. I love it.

Booyah, Mr. Gates. And the same to you, Mr. Jobs.

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