Around the New Year each year, the fact that I am bored silly leads me to do strange things. For the past couple of years, in addition to drinking a lot of Samuel Adams Double Bock or Black Lager, I kick Windows XP, Vista or whatever Redmond has to offer and install Linux on my laptop.
For two years now, Ubuntu has been the linux of choice. New Year 2009 saw me installing 8.10 (Ignorant Ignoramus) and later upgrading to 9.04 (Jibbering Jackass). But, I write this blog post on my Windows XP (Service Pack 3) powered machine.
Why the change, you ask?
This has arguably been the longest stint with Linux. In the past (2007) it didn’t stay on the PC long enough to make it into work after the New Year holiday. In 2008, it lasted two or three weeks. In 2009, it lasted till the middle of August! Clearly, Linux (and Ubuntu has been a great part of this) has come a very long way towards being a mainstream replacement for Windows.
But, my benchmark for ease of use still remains:
- Ease of initial installation
- On Windows, stick a CD in the drive and wait 2 hours
- On Linux, stick a CD in the drive and wait 20 minutes
- Click mouse and enter some basic data along the way
- Ease of setup, initial software update, adding basic software that is not part of the default distribution
- On Windows, VMWare (to run linux), Anti-Virus, Adobe things (Acrobat, Flash, …)
- On Linux, VMWare (to run windows), Adobe things
- Ease of installing and configuring required additional “stuff”, additional drivers
- wacom bamboo tablet
- synchronization with PDA (Windows ActiveSync, Linux <sigh>)
- On Windows, DELL drivers for chipset, display, sound card, pointer, …
- Configuring Display
- resolution, alignment
- Configuring Mouse and Buttons
- Making sure that docking station works
- On Windows, DELL has some software to help with this
- On Linux, pull your hair out
- Setting Power properties for maximum battery life
- On Windows, what a pain
- On Linux, CPU Performance Applet
- Making sure that I login and can work as a non-dangerous user
- On Windows, group = Users
- On Linux, one who can not administer the system, no root privileges
- Setup VPN
- On Windows, CISCO VPN Client most often. Install it and watch your PC demonstrate all the blue pixels on the screen
- On Linux, go through the gyrations of downloading Cisco VPN client from three places, reading 14 blogs, web pages and how-to’s on getting the right patches, finding the compilers aren’t on your system, finding that ‘patch’ and system headers are not there either. Finally, realizing that you forgot to save the .pcf file before you blew Windows away so calling IT manager on New Year’s day and wishing him Happy New Year, and oh, by the way, could you send me the .pcf file (Thanks Ed).
- Setup Email and other Office Applications
- On Linux, installing a Windows VM with all of the Office suite and Outlook
- On Windows, installing all of the Office suite and Outlook and getting all the service packs
- Install subversion (got to have everything under version control). There’s even a cool command line subversion client for Windows (Slik Subversion 1.6.4)
- Migrate Mozilla profile to new platform
- Did you know that you can literally take .mozilla and copy it to someplace in %userprofile% or vice-versa and things just work? Way cool! Try that with Internet Exploder!
- Restore SVN dump from old platform
OK, so I liked Linux for the past 8 months. GIMP is wonderful, the Bamboo tablet (almost just works ™), system booted really fast, … I can go on and on.
But, some things that really annoyed me with Linux over the past 8 months
- Printing to the Xerox multi function 7335 printer and being able to do color, double sided, stapling etc., The setup is not for the faint hearted
- Could I please get the docking station to work?
- Could you please make the new Mozilla part of the updates? If not, I have Firefox and Shrill-kokatoo or whatever the new thing is called. What a load of horse-manure that upgrade turned out to be. On Windows, it was a breeze. Really, open-source-brethren, could you chat amongst yourselves?
But the final straw was that I was visiting a friend in Boston and wanted to whip out a presentation and show him what I’d been up to. External display is not an easy thing to do. First you have to change resolutions, then restart X, then crawl through a minefield, sing the national anthem backwards while holding your nose. Throughout this “setup”, you have to be explaining that it is a Linux thing.
Sorry folks, you aren’t ready for mainstream laptop use, yet. But, you’ve made wonderful improvement since 2007. I can’t wait till December 31, 2009 to try this all over again with Ubuntu 9.10 (Kickass Knickerbockers).