I recently purchased a new computer – specifically a cheap laptop from Walmart. It cost about 350 dollars and is what I would call “adequate.” It’s not a whole lot faster than my old desktop, but has more RAM and fits easily into my backpack. It came with Windows Vista Home edition, which I was initially excited to experience.
Initially, I say.
What I found was a system that was unnoticeably different from Windows XP, except that it dealt with certain media in a better way. What was bothersome – and this has been pointed out by hundreds of bloggers out there – was the way that Vista would be told to do something, then throttle itself in the process – asking for permission to do the thing you just told it to do.
The programmers at Microsoft live in MicrosoftWorld where the only considerations are security and proprietary rights.
The other way that it was different from XP was that it was monumentally slow in comparison. Running any program required massive processor time and the tapping of my impatient fingers.
15 days later I downloaded the Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon ISO.
Gutsy can be run from the cd alone to let you ‘try it out.’ This I did to see if the time had finally come for me to make the jump into the Linux world in a more serious way than I ever had before.
And it had.
Running Ubuntu on this laptop is a dream. I imagined Vista as a bloated Tetsuo-like monster, overwhelmed by its own self-consuming power. On Vista I would start a program, then be forced to start two or three other programs just because I knew I would be waiting for them to load while doing the first task. On Ubuntu I’ve found I can’t ‘get ahead’ of the computer – for the most part there’s no wait time for the programs I want to use. And when those programs are working I can just go to another desktop and run other programs without any noticeable slowdown. I imagine Ubuntu as a kinda twitchy guy giggling with mirth at his newfound 1 gigabyte of RAM, then running all over the room as if on some combination of speed and crack cocaine. Even now I have a glut of minor programs running on the desktop (you can see all the unnecessary icons I’ve added on the picture above) just for the joy of running a bunch of stuff.
There were some problems, initially, and some quirks remain that I haven’t figured out; but for the most part the install of this idiot-friendly linux was easy. The problems I encountered were that the wireless didn’t work, the sound didn’t work, and the display was stuck in its most basic mode. Luckily, i wasn’t the only person out there who picked up this Wal-Mart Special and was fed up with Vista. The forums at the Ubuntu website had a thread on my specific laptop design and, though I had no idea what I was doing, I was able to open a terminal window and type in the commands as instructed by others who had found success. I’m now up and running for the most part.
(having had used Linux in 97, I was familiar with many commands used, but some were new and it took me a while to figure out what was going on. For instance, I found I couldn’t ‘su’ but I was constantly running into a mysterious ‘sudo’ command. Eventually I figured out this command doesn’t have anything to do with a certain game I like to play that appears daily in newspapers.)
As it stands, the only conflicts I’ve found are that I can’t watch movies while the desktop is set to advanced visual effects, and that when I run certain games that require 3d awesomeness from my computer my mouse sometimes stops working, and that if the computer hibernates, suspends, or goes on screen saver there’s no way to get out without restarting. I believe these are all associated with the video adapter and I wait anxiously for the forum people to figure out how to cure these ills.
It’s been about 3 days and I’m mostly satisfied. So far I’ve not quite got it to a point that is stable enough for me, but it’s far more stable than Vista was. I find myself enjoying running as many processes and programs as possible just to know that I can and still surf the tubes without worrying about causing a system wide crash.
School work – which is what we ‘ahem’ purchased the computer for in the first place – has not been affected. I store all my notes online at http://www.google.com/notebook . I also had been using Open Office on both my desktop and this laptop, so it was no difficult switch there. Really, its the integration of online applications that has made switching over to Linux finally feasible for me. Since my Windows machine and my Linux machine both access the same Six Mile Village and the same Digg I don’t really have to worry about what work I’ll be doing on which computer.
My wife was a little worried at first, but I think she’ll come around once she’s had some time to try it out. As for me… I don’t think I’ll be going back to Vista any time soon if I can help it. In fact, I imagine the only thing that would entice me back to windows would be the upcoming Starcraft game. Perhaps some kind of dual boot can be arranged.
In any case, I’ll let you know if anything exciting happens.