Well, yeah, it would be easy to think my headline had anything to do with changing my life, move to the other side of the planet, new job under new circumstances doing new and kick-ass things (more on all this later), but no, this is about how I wanted to “just have a look” at something which buggered my computer up, and how it changed things for the better.
So, many eons ago, I was a Linux hacker. Well, not a true hacker, but I used to adminster a Red Hat box and create some custom programs in C++. Hmm, must have been, like, about 15 years ago, as part of my civil service (military service is mandatory in Norway, which didn’t fit well with my non-violent ideals) which was at the same time I ventured into the Internet as well. So, a long, long time ago, in a place I’d rather just forget about, I fiddled and meddled in the dark arts of software computing. I’ve always stayed in contact with Linux, but my main OS from that time on has always been in various evil Windows incarnations.
Last week I bought a new computer, a slick Toshiba Satellite P300, that came with Windows Vista. Ugh. I had big reservations against Vista, but I was in a hurry, and thought to myself that surely, it can’t be that bad, right?
Well, it was. Slow, sluggish, confusing, and I seemed to have little or no control over who went online to download anything they felt like. I thought, in a quiet moment while the internet connection was bogged down by the virus program or the updater or some other bloody download I couldn’t figure out, that perhaps I should finally check out my good old friend, Linux, to see what he was up to these days. I went to the distro I know has got a good load of feedback, Ubuntu, downloaded an ISO (Gutsy Gibbon, 7.10) and burned myself a CD. I popped it in, and without thinking too clearly installed it using the automatic partitioning tool.
It’s that tool that made a boo-boo of sorts, and managed to wreck my Windows install; I couldn’t boot into it anymore, no matter how much I tried to fix it (I’ve got a bit of partitioning and formatting experience through the years, luckily). So I was more or less forced to have a deep look at it to see if it could do the things I need to do.
First, the whole install took no time at all. Vista felt like an eternity with multiple restarts (over 50 minutes on my laptop), Ubuntu just copied files over, did some juggeling, and one restart (about 20 minutes). Nice.
Secondly, the Gnome desktop environment is great. I installed some extra Compiz stuff as well, and I’m quite blown away with the options, effects and stuff you can do. The standard applications and tools is more than enough for most things, perhaps with the exception of something for all the web developers out there, but that brings me to the next point;
Installing Apache2, PHP5 and MySQL/SQLite was amazingly easy, even with the extensions I need, just “sudo apt-get” a few packages, and the rest is done for you. Locate the config files in /etc/apache2 and /etc/php5, and I was done in 5 minutes, including setting up a few projects that I work on that simply Just Worked (TM) straight out of the box. I was never able to get this right so fast on Windows, and yet here it was almost too easy. I’m very impressed.
Same with NetBeans, Ruby, Python, Firefox and extensions, it all just is find the file for the packager (based on the Debian packager) and the rest is easy. The selection of software is very good, and I’ve been using my system as a professional for a couple of weeks without a single hitch. It’s found all my hardware as well, except perhaps my Lexmark 7600 series Wireless printer (which I haven’t really seriously tried to install yet, only poked around) and some glitches with hibernate and suspend (but given the time it takes for this baby to properly close and boot up again, I’m not really saving much time trying to hibernate anyways).
All in all, my first impressions are really positive, and I’m glad I had an install glitch; I love my new Ubuntu, and I can’t wait to get more serious about it and Linux again. I think I’ve made the permanent switch.