Monday, February 02, 2009

Hasta la vista, Vista

A week into my month long self-imposed trial of Ubuntu, it's settled. Vista can go bite the big one. No more gazillion windows updates checking whether my software is their software and chewing my data cap. No more credit card scams from unnecessary software. No more hyperactive processor grinding away every other second. No more DRM!

A system that takes 12 seconds to boot down, not 12 minutes. A system that can perform all the bells and whistles of the Vista UI without requiring 10 Gigs of RAM. A system that is blunt and beautiful without needing to resort to euphemistically obscure program functions. I mean, how long did it take you to find Add/Remove Programs in Vista?

Now I'm no full tit geek. I've dabbled a bit in BASIC and DOS, but mostly in the paddling pool of listing and changing directories. Navigation is OK but for the life of me I've never got the hang of driving or programming computers. It was this fear of fuck-ups that put me off trying out Ubuntu for a long time. Not to mention that some of my favourite programs only run on Windows. But after Miramar Mike's description of moving to Ubuntu, I had to give it a go.

On the first day, I downloaded the install program and burned it to CD (800Mb CD, not Vista's 2 DVD bloat). I booted from the disk but the 800 by 600 screen resolution was rubbish. The wireless network didn't work, nor the webcam. The cable connection for the internet was a doddle to set up, so that was something. An update notification advised that video driver updates were available. As installation of these required a reboot and the Live CD wouldn't remember the changes, I was stuck. The Live CD showed the UI worked, but it didn't work well.

On the second day, I installed a Vista/Ubuntu dual boot system. Even after backing up data and scrubbing a few programs from the hard drive, I was left with a measly 10 Gig of free space. Dual boot wasn't a long term option, but I had to see if the updates cured some of the Acer's ills. Reboot and voila! 1280x800 resolution!

On the third day I installed Ubuntu, overwriting Vista. The next great discovery was that there was only minimal playing around in the Alpha and Omega of the Terminal. On a really basic level, there was the Add/Remove engine that not only showed what was installed on the box, but what you could install. No more roaming the web for programs, it was all in one place. For more sophisticated or experimental software, the Synaptic Package Manager does all the hard yakka.

By the fourth day, everything was running well apart from the wireless and the webcam. I had my MP3s playing, my avis movieing, and had even got Photoshop working in a Windows shell program called Wine. The webcam was no biggie, but the wireless problem was. This is where Ubuntu Forums come into their own. After tweaking the search criteria, a little bit of trial and error, a brief foray into Terminal with copied and pasted sudo commands, and a reboot, the wireless worked.

A week of putting the new OS through its hoops, and finding myself with 20 extra Gigs of hard drive I never used to have, I am left with two questions. Firstly, why are you still using Windows? Secondly, why aren't schools, universities and all government departments using non-Windows operating systems?