Ubuntu LINUX! Yeah!

Okay, so I’ve been threatening to move my main computer to linux, Ubuntu specifically, for a very long time. A very, very long time. The problem was that Windows XP is a decent operating system. Sure it has its problems. It’s totally and completely insecure by itself. Microsoft claims we can’t pay them enough to not release a buggy operating system. Despite all that, most software developers, specifically game manufacturers and hardware manufacturers, develop their software exclusively for the Windows operating systems. Times are changing.

When Windows Vista arrived, people took a look at it. Due to a myriad of troubles, a lot of it Microsoft, but some of it due to computer vendors (Dell, HP, Compaq, Gateway, Sony, IBM, etc) the personal computer experience was abysmal. People started to look elsewhere. Most went to Apple. (WHAT are they thinking?! … I’ll leave that rant for another post.)

Anyway, due to mostly technical reasons and not liking being treated as the criminal, I vowed never to upgrade past Windows XP. Windows 7 has nearly made me change my mind. Microsoft has made a very good operating system with Windows 7. Still, I and the general consumer are not Microsoft’s customer. (Another topic and rant.)

Recently, my computer hard drive crashed. I thought of all sorts of hardware reasons as to why this might be, but I’ve finally figured it out… the part of the hard drive that stores critical boot information became corrupted. Everything I’ve tried has failed to restore it. Only just today have I been able to reliably access and retrieve my files.

But because of this hard drive failure, it has forced me to decide whether to reinstall Windows XP, spend $150 to upgrade to a Windows 7 (64-bit), or go Linux, I’ve decided I will make the plunge. Ubuntu, here I come!

I tell you what, this switch, while it has its problems, has been very, very nice. Canonical (the company the maintains the Ubuntu distribution of Debian Linux) has made the switch fairly seamless for the Windows users with their latest Ubuntu 10.10 release, Maverick Meerkat. Installation was a breeze and convenient. Absolutely any type of software I want to use is easily obtainable. Just use the Synaptics Package Manager to find the application you want, put a check mark on it, and click apply. It downloads the necessary files, installs the application, and places a link in the Applications toolbar (like the Start menu).

Much of the software you see on my sidebar started its life in the Linux world. OpenOffice.org (soon to be LibreOffice) is preloaded on the computer. It comes with a decent e-mail, instant messenger, news reader application in Evolution. I switched it out for Thunderbird (easy, easy). Firefox is preloaded, I just grabbed my add-ons and was off and running.

Oh, what about those games one might ask… Well, certainly the mainstream gaming applications (World of Warcraft, Half-Life, Oblivion, a bunch of others I had loaded on my computer). Well, there is an application called WINE (Windows Is Not Emulated). Long story behind the name, which included several lawsuits. But essentially, it allows a Linux based computer to load Windows specific applications on the computer and the application will barely know the difference.

One of the problems with the Linux world is that there devotees are sometimes very fanatical in their approach to software. For example, some in the Linux world are upset that Ubuntu will allow people to load “closed source” software on their systems. While I prefer open source software, I will use whatever works. What’s the point of all this? Adobe has dragged its feet for a very long time in making Flash work with Linux. Shortly after the Windows Vista debacle, they finally did it. Partly because, ooh!, the MacOS is somewhat Linux based. (Yes, I know it is BSD… I’m trying not to confuse everyone.) Also, more people were jumping to the Linux bandwagon (who wants to spend a 20% markup on hardware and be limited to just one source for more hardware and software on the Apple side of things). Finally, Redhat, Canonical, and Novell were all putting their weight on Adobe to finally release a working Flash application… and so they did. I have no trouble playing flash games watching youtube or hulu videos, etc.

The one problem I have… and this is rather disappointing, Netflix streaming will not work with Linux. Netflix has decided they will use Microsoft’s Silverlight code. Silverlight is like Adobe Flash. It’s like comparing a Toyota with a Ford. They’re both cars, but a Toyota will have its light knob placed in a different spot than a Ford. I was going to say it doesn’t work with Macintosh, but I suppose they did. Upon further reading it’s all about the DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) OK OK it’s Digital Rights Management… certainly not my right to consume the product for which I paid, though. (see my other rants on DRM.) Using a virtual machine (VirtualBox or VMWare Player), I will be able to use Netflix… but that will be a bit of a pain. (I’ve got to load Windows XP, ensure all software is up-to-date, ensure security software is proper, etc.)

So, I’m about 6 hours into total Ubuntu Linux immersion and I am liking it. … I’ve just spent 3 hours of not playing games to type up this post … The installation was extremely fast (20 minutes) and I was able to browse the Internet at the same time it was installing! (Take that Microsoft and your 1 hour install time with nothing to do but leave the computer, and then it is 1.5 hours minimum of updates and at least 3 reboots).

For those of you who think I’m taking the easy way out with Ubuntu… know that I have installed Gentoo Linux on a computer. That was several days worth of frustration because you are literally building your computer from scratch and compiling everything. (I spent a good 30+ hours on the thing, learning a whole lot, but not even ending up with a usable windows manager.) While this is a good exercise for learning, I don’t have that time at the moment. Just a couple of hours a night after the girls go to bed. Don’t, ya’ll worry, I’ll be knee deep in config files and the terminal before too long. I’ve got to get OpenSSH working without passwords, figure out why my Samba shares aren’t working properly, and get VNC up and running (and preferably through the SSH tunnel).

How’s that for an updated blog post?

On my TODO list:
* Figure out why Quicken 2008 is failing in Wine.
* Determine if I should bag it and install Windows XP in VirtualBox and run Quicken from that
* Decide if I want to spend $30 and get Moneydance to replace Quicken as my financial tracking software.
* Get MythTV working on the computer connected to the TV (mythbox)
* Get the mythbox connected to the TV, Internet, and configure MythTV software
* Configure the TV capture card in mythbox
* Get VirtualBox running on mythbox with Windows XP so Netflix can be utilized.
* Find a video editor suite or see if I can’t get Video Studio working in Linux.