Till January 1, 2010, Bye-Bye Linux!

Bye-Bye Ubuntu! Back to Windows …

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Ease of installing and configuring required additional “stuff”, additional drivers
    • printers
    • wacom bamboo tablet
    • synchronization with PDA (Windows ActiveSync, Linux <sigh>)
    • On Windows, DELL drivers for chipset, display, sound card, pointer, …
  4. Configuring Display
    • resolution, alignment
  5. Configuring Mouse and Buttons
  6. Making sure that docking station works
    • On Windows, DELL has some software to help with this
    • On Linux, pull your hair out
  7. Setting Power properties for maximum battery life
    • On Windows, what a pain
    • On Linux, CPU Performance Applet
  8. 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
  9. 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).
  10. 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)
  11. 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!
  12. 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).

16 thoughts on “Till January 1, 2010, Bye-Bye Linux!”

  1. You raised some fair points.

    Funny thing (not-so-funny actually), is that my Sanyo PLV-Z5 was working magnificiently on Windows; I plugged it on Ubuntu Jaunty, and – kazam! – it broke. I can’t display the native resolution anymore, even on Windows.
    Of course I don’t blame Ubuntu – but it’s funny to thing.

    Anyway, I still stick to Jaunty, though I’m really hating the hideous support for the Intel HDA microphone. There are hundreds of users having the same problem and yet nobody fixed it (voodoo-fixed aside).


  2. Oh, I forgot to say the most important thing.

    You will never say quick Firefox updates in Linux, because they have to be approved to be put in the repo, and this takes tiiiiiime. Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime.
    You could use the firefox dev repository, but seem like they have some delay respect to the Window builds.


  3. I also bounce around through various operating systems. I’m on a Mac now. Behind me are two linux boxes and one XP box. The Linux distro that I’ve really fallen in love with (and that has replaced Ubuntu for me) is Linux Mint http://www.linuxmint.com/. It’s a Ubuntu derivative, but has a ton of added functionality… it’s ~much~ easier to do monitor configs, especially external monitors. I spent 2 weeks debugging an issue with my netbook and an external monitor. (Needed to add the virtual keyword to the xorg.conf file.) Mint, from a live CD, saw this and suggested I use the virtual keyword immediately. It even offered to add it to the file for me. 🙂 I immediately wiped the system and put Mint on it. I haven’t looked back.

    Good luck with whatever you use!


  4. About the external display thing, it’s pretty easy to do, actually: “xrandr –output LVDS –off –output VGA –preferred” will disable the onboard display and switch to VGA output, and “xrandr –output LVDS –preferred –output VGA –off” will do the reverse. Might require some tweaking to get it working on different systems, but running xrandr with no arguments should give you the names of the various outputs.

    I recommend wrapping the two commands into a script, with a pause in the middle, so if something goes wrong you can just press enter to return everything to normal instead of having to reboot / remember the command without being able to see anything.

    Best of luck.


  5. Despite all of our work to make GNU/Linux and Ubuntu specifically a powerful, easy-to-use operating system, we haven’t managed to capture the most important demographic: douchebag with a WordPress blog. Oh well, back to the drawing board.


  6. On my laptop with Ubuntu, the external display “just works”. Regardless, you are so right about the Firefox update. Ubuntu is being very stupid on this issue and sticking to the letter of their policies as opposed to following common sense.


  7. Meh. Windows users who think using Ubuntu makes them Linux users. Gotta love ’em.

    Office workers, such as yourselves, probably need to stay with Windows just like the housewife needs the family van but construction Dad would never consider it.

    Personally, I haven’t used Windows in 5 years and only keep an old box so I can run Windows, and therefore IE, on it to test web sites. In fact, my whole company of 28 use FreeBSD exclusively. Even the office workers.


    1. Rob,

      Maybe I am missing something but last I checked, Ubuntu was a Linux distribution. They (the Ubuntu folks) believe that “Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers.”

      Between you and the Leroy fellow who commented earlier, I’m getting the impression that the “self proclaimed Real Linux User” is a person with problems adapting to society, and the intellect of a dish cloth.

      But, you are entitled to your opinion. I’m sure Microsoft appreciates your using some Operating System other than theirs.

      All the best to the other 27 people in your office, do you speak to them this way? What planet do you spend most of your time on these days? When you visit Earth, do drop me a note again. I really loved MIB and MIB-II.



    2. Hey Rob,

      Have some Valdecoxib. Did you know that Valdecoxib is a drug indicated for Arthritis and Acute Pain?

      The two of you (Leroy Valdecoxib and you) should go off on a picnic on Alpha Centauri or some such place.

      FreeBSD works there, I guess? Check it out.



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