Thursday, July 6, 2006

Jumping out of Windows

A while ago I installed Ubuntu on an old laptop (thereby bringing an antique back to life). This past weekend, I wiped out Windows XP and installed Ubuntu on our family desktop computer. So with five computers in our family, the score is now Windows XP 3, Ubuntu 2. Our absolute reliance on Windows has come to an end.

The care and feeding of our family's computers has always fallen to me, and over the past six or seven years I've reinstalled Windows 98 and XP on various computers at least six or seven times. No matter how careful we are, problems, mysterious, impossible ones, appear. That's what happened this past weekend — bewildering freezes that could only be undone by disabling our wireless connection. Our arsenal of anti-malware, anti-spyware, and anti-virus programs could find nothing wrong; restoring the system with ERUNT was no help. The only way to resolve this problem was to reinstall Windows. That would have meant getting all of SP2 (an endless download), patching XP to allow a custom theme, reinstalling dozens of programs, tweaking all sorts of settings — in short, giving up a day or more to bring the computer back from the dead. And for what? I'd likely be doing it all again a year or so from now. So with my family's blessing, I went for Ubuntu.

Switching was simple. Wiping the hard drive and installing Ubuntu (from one CD) took about thirty minutes. (The installation includes Firefox, the GIMP,, and other programs.) As with the old laptop, establishing the wireless connection was a simple matter, and the system recognized and installed our printer in less than fifteen seconds. Updating Ubuntu and adding some programs from online "repositories" was quite straightforward and also took very little time.

Is everything perfect? No. The major problem thus far is that Suspend and Hibernate don't work, so all we can do is leave the computer running or shut it off. Ubuntu starts up and shuts down very quickly, so even this problem doesn't seem crucial. (It's widespread, so I hope that it will be solved with an update). I miss the backup service Mozy, though the Firefox extension Gmail Space gives us free online storage via a Gmail account (alas without automation). I'd like to have a program similar to AllChars, so that I can add em dashes in text files and type, say, /link and have the appropriate HTML for a link appear. (I would think that such a program must exist, but I haven't found it.) And there are various small issues that should get resolved as I learn more about Ubuntu. There is, yes, a learning curve, at least for the person who's maintaining the computer. I need to learn, for instance, about the advantages or disadvantages of partitioning our hard drive (I know how to partition; I just don't know whether it's appropriate to do so). The Ubuntu forums, easily searched, have already provided answers for many questions.

I suspect that as everyday computer users think carefully about the costs and complications of "upgrading" to Windows Vista and Office 2007 (both hideous, from the many screenshots I've seen), Ubuntu will become increasingly popular. I'd go so far as to predict a near-future in which many households are running at least one computer with a free operating system. It's relatively easy to jump out of Windows and land on your feet.

Link » Ubuntu

comments: 5

Genevieve Netz said...

My son, the gamer, will accept Linux more graciously when games offer a Linux version. We do have Ubuntu on a former Win-98 computer. I installed it myself with no difficulty, and if I can do it, most reasonably savvy computer users can do the same with little difficulty.

Michael Leddy said...

Hi Genevieve,

You can run (at least some) Windows programs in Ubuntu via Wine. I'm not the person to explain how, but you might look at the book Ubuntu Hacks (Jonathan Oxer, Kyle Rankin, Bill Childers). Then again, you might want to forget that you ever read this reply. : )

Anonymous said...

i've been checking out ubuntu, originally since 5.01, 6.06LTS,
and now ubuntu 7.04... i have a ibm netvista that i bought on ebay with windows 2000, which is now on extended support

now, i'm dual booting windows/ubuntu on the same hard drive which is incredibly easy to install

as of 8/2007, clearly ubuntu is far superior to windows, no comparison.. there are so many programs available, real good solid software in the works, ubuntu does almost everything xp does, and by far linux is a high
quality software compared to windows bloat and evident by vista, bugs... not on linux/ubuntu when they release it.. no software is perfect, however without any question, i'm very close fully migrating to linux..
keep windows if anything still depends on windows with the 10 years worth of saved files and build on ubuntu/linux with all the great, free software, guess what 2000/xp includes...NO SOFTWARE!

I don't even question in a year or two, i can 100% migrate fully to linux

ubuntu is really a great operating system, finally i can kiss windows goodbye.. but still keep it on the hard drive, just in case i need to refer back to it again. dual booting is incredibly simple

Unknown said...

"Our arsenal of anti-malware, anti-spyware, and anti-virus programs could find nothing wrong;"
When you have differant "protection" programs they can attack each other and then fail your system.To solve this you can isolate a "anti" program on a specific computer or "delete" it.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the caution. I should've been more precise — we were using just one of each.