So I’ve finally done something new to boost my geek cred: I installed a build of Linux on one of my computers. I had an old laptop that used to belong to my dad, and since it had an install of Windows 2000 Pro that was flakier than a fresh-baked croissant and had for some reason been sitting in our pantry for the better part of a year, I decided to give it a shot. I figured the worst that could happen is that I would have a computer that would never work instead of one that would only occasionally work, and I could just put it back next to the cans of stewed tomatoes and forget about it again.
For those of you that don’t know, Linux is an operating system for your computer, just like Windows or whatever fruity thing that Apple users have. The big difference is that the various Linux-based operating systems are developed collaboratively by hobbyists and other enthusiasts under what’s called an open source software agreement, so they’re completely free to download and use. The caveat is that they sometimes require a bit of work and specialized knowledge to install and use.
Actually, in my case that wasn’t true, since I used the extremely user friendly Ubuntu distribution that didn’t require me to even “decorn a colonel” or whatever it is the hardcore Linux geeks like to talk about. Just download the installer, burn a CD-ROM, and pop the CD into the drive of the laptop. That easy. Well, maybe not easy, but at least straight forward. The installation process ran EXTREMELY slowly and locked up a couple of times, but I attribute that to the aged hardware. The third time was the charm, though, and I eventually had an Ubuntu install that worked perfectly.
In fact, I’m pretty impressed. Ubuntu is easily as slick, professional, and easy to use as any operating system I’ve known. It also comes packed with TONS of applications, all of them free. There’s word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software from OpenOffice, there’s media players, and there’s web surfing and webmail through FireFox. It all worked perfectly once I had the system installed, and it was all FREE. In reality, though, I just wanted a laptop to keep in the kitchen so I could browse the web over breakfast or other moments of free time, and it’s working just fine for that.
So as far as first experiences with Linux go, this has been a good one. I’m impressed and it essentially saved an old computer from the scrap pile. Of course, there’s a one-word reason why I would never switch my main machine to Linux: “Games.” They just don’t make AAA games for the platform, so I’ll stick with Windows XP on my desktop. But still, for a secondary computer Ubuntu is working just great.
Finally, if this has piqued your interest, there’s a pretty good article entitled “30 Days with Linux” that goes through a LOT more detail than I’ve provided here. It’s a good read.