Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm running free in Ubuntu

While I am an Iron Maiden fan, I was never keen on the single Running Free, and couldn't quite understand how it became somewhat of an anthem from their earlier material in spite of its relatively uninspired musicality from a band that was on its way to becoming the defining act in the story of the heavy metal genre, the final book end culminating the legacy of their countrymen, Black Sabbath, the band that ushered forth the new era in music. However, the chorus just keeps looping in my mind as I attempt to put into words how I feel during this first exploration into using a Linux operating system.

My computer guru at work had highly recommended I try Linux (Ubuntu, specifically). I was hesitant to install it and begin what I've been warned is a steep learning curve, having been a Windows user for the last 18 years.

But, after enough annoyances and frustrations with Windows on both my work laptop (which I couldn't change) and the home machine (which I was hell-bent on changing), I was looking for a legitimate alternative. Yes, I probably could have/should have gone Mac, but I figured, hey, trying Ubuntu won't cost me a cent; I'd still have the familiar comfort of Windows incase the experiment didn't work out, and Apple is always standing by for the conquest should I wash my hands of PCs altogether and find the money to invest.

So, I went dual-boot with Ubuntu and XP and, thus far, I'm quite enjoying the experience.

I actually found a PIM, J-Pilot, with which I can hotsync my Palm OS 5 Treo. I've got Skype hooked up, media play flawlessly right out of box; I installed an app to manage my webcam, installed Opera and Chrome browsers to run alongside Firefox (for secure transactions online)...Internet Explorer? Muahahahahahahaha, I hope to never see it again.

I'm writing this post in the Ubuntu environment right now. The rest of the family all have their own user accounts, set up was simple, and it works (Windows was such a mess in handling multiple users I was sorry I implemented it...but that was yesterday, and this - the peace and serenity of Ubuntu - is today. And tomorrow.

I fully expect that not everything will be perfect. But, guess what? It's FREE. What's amazing is that it works this well for free while...other operating systems cost no small amount of money and may never be as stable as this is. Shucks, the install took a few minutes and was itself an indication of the pleasant environment into which I was about to enter. No stress, no fuss, no muss...

No, I have not bothered to even look at the console yet. I want to see how much I can do, as a non-techie user, without having to deal with a command prompt. That will no doubt be a head ache.

I have read warnings of what "not to do" when making the jump from Windows to Linux. I got similar tips from my guru at work. They hold true. Only on entering this new world does it become so painfully clear how cluttered my mind is, with Windows annoyances that I can drop like so much dead weight. Installing applications in Ubuntu can be a piece of cake, things just work, no need to restart the machine (sheesh! That alone is worth the price of admission...oh, wait, it's FREE, there is no cost beyond the time to learn). It will take a while to get familiar with this environment, but, I'm tellin' ya, the first impression is just so refreshing.

Back in Windows, I use Outpost Firewall, and Avast Anti-Virus, and CCleaner, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. In Ubuntu, I use...none of the above. (I may find out that it's still a good idea to use a firewall perhaps, or use anti-virus to avoid being a carrier...) but the fact that there's no registry in Ubuntu is another dead weight I'm dropping - how an operating system has so many "back doors" through which malware can insidiously install itself on your machine and wreak havoc boggles my mind. For free, I now have an operating system that has nothing to do with such foolishness.

At work, we're on Windows 7. I don't like it. Why? Because the settings that were in place when I first got the machine (the nice visual effects, etc.) have slowly reverted to a "Windows XP feel". I didn't tell Windows7 to do it. Windows7 didn't tell me it was going to do it. It did it, and didn't even have the courtesy to tell me how to undo it. And there it sits, Windows7 looking more like XP. I really hate that.

One of the things I read during my research with people who like Linux is "it does what you tell it to do, it does not do what you don't tell it to do" and "you set your settings and they stay how you set them." I really love that.

What's the big deal? A computer is a computer is a computer, right? Um, yeah no. If you're sitting in front of a computer for six hours a day (minus lunch and time to stretch your legs, cruise by the logistics department, etc.), little annoyances add up to the kind of subconscious stress that makes people less productive, less happy, more irritable, less able to focus... this is an operating system that gets out of your way so your energy is better spent doing other things such as, you know, getting your work done.

Yes, there are all kinds of flavours of Linux. I did spend time trying to understand "which was right for me." Ultimately, I returned to the brand recommended by my guru (in case I'd need support, of course). I may find myself getting to know others in the Linux family over time.

Some apps I attempted to install didn't install. Or, at least, I don't know where to find them to make it go. That's just because I have no idea what I'm doing. But, I'm still in my first week - for all the hassles I've endured with Windows, I surely have all the patience in the world for an operating system developed by people without pay. By this standard, you'd think an operating system developed by a company with billions in cash would put out a perfect product. You'd think.

Anyway, so far, so great. I'm fast becoming a big fan of Ubuntu and the open source community.