Par Wars: The Mediocrity Continues
It's the six-week mark on my "switch" to Linux (specifically Ubuntu) from MS Windows. I have my machine set to dual-boot, but I've been spending most of my time in Ubuntu. I also have a set of nifty sounding instructions that explain how I can boot my windows partition as a VM inside of Ubuntu... but I can't quite get this to work. Mind you, I haven't gone after this hard-core yet.
In fact, honestly, I haven't really gone after any of the underlying machinery hard-core. At the moment I've been quite happy to float on the surface of Gnome like a dumb and happy user, clicking the pretty things. As long as it's working, you know?
Part of the reason is that I hate to guinea-pig on my live machine. It never leads to happy places. I need to set up a machine to abuse. Err, use as a test sled.
On the whole, though, things are pleasant. I wish there was something outstandingly Earth-shattering to report one way or the other, but no, just a different form of status quo.
Ubun2: Return of the Sith
Ahh, the wiki-spelunking continues. I have my DVDs playing again. I still haven't found an MP3 jukebox that I'm really comfortable with, but that's not a huge deal - one will turn up. Or somebody will respond with a half-dozen suggestions. Whatever, it's all good.
I'm still in the market for good spyware and AV products. I found something in the synaptic manager that said it was Antivirus, but I can't for the life of me figure out where the application went when it "installed". Or, for that matter, where most of these applications go when they insall. Or where the icons on the "Applications" menu live, or how to edit them.
Sure, when something installs it (usually) puts an icon somewhere in the menu, and I can hide icons using Alacarte, but Alacarte doesn't seem to offer a way to create a new folder and/or move icons from one folder to another. Some menu editor.
I'm starting to have sympathy for the Windows users I serve everyday. I follow some set of instructions, and things happen, but it might just as easily be BFM for as much as I understand what just happened.
And, as much as I was trying to eschew All Things Windows, I finally found the application that made me install wine... PokerStars. No Linux client from them, and I'm not giving up my poker. At least now I have some fragment of a directory structure that I know my way around. (insert Beavis laugh here)
Time to switch
I'm a sysadmin in a totally Windows shop. I know Windows. I'm good at Windows. I'm comfortable in Windows. Familiarity breeds this. When I need to twiddle a setting, I know where it is, and if a piece of software isn't working, I know the usual suspects.
Familiarity also breeds contempt. I am no fan of Microsoft. I won't call Windows "substandard" - there's quite a bit about it that's good, but there's also quite a bit about it that's barely adequate. Their business practices are predatory, and in some ways criminal. And there's just something to hate about the 800-pound gorilla, whoever he may be.
The latest version of Windows, though, is too much. An annoyingly intrusive UAC, outrageous system requirements, oppressive limitations on what I may or may not be allowed to do with content I've purchased, compatibility issues with the software I already have, burdensome and expensive certifications required for any software I may buy in the future (that threatens to wipe out small independent utilities or home-grown apps)... it's all just too much. Like I said, I'm a sysadmin, so I'm going to have to swallow this eventually, but not on my personal machines, ever.
Instead, I'm going to (finally) switch to Linux. I've used Linux before for some applications where I needed an inexpensive server or other such dedicated task. It's really good in a "set it and forget it" way. I have never, though, given it a serious run as a desktop replacement. I've wanted to. I've talked about it. I like the ideals of the OSS movement, and I've used many OSS solutions - just on a MS platform.
So why am I writing this? Well, mostly to document my experience for posterity. Somewhat as a goodbye letter to Microsoft. Maybe somebody will actually read this. I don't know, but it seems like the right thing to do at the moment.
And Oh - My - God, where to start... as a "new user" wanting to switch, the first question to be answered is "Switch to WHAT??" There are just scads of distros to wade through, every last one with advocates, apostles, high priests, and holy wars. KDE or Gnome? Debian, Suse, Knoppix, Fedora? As its own distro or as the base for someone else's? "Free as in beer" or "Free as in speech"? Should I bag it all and buy a Mac?
So I've read articles, reviews, and opinions far and wide and have come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter which direction I pick, I'm in for some pain. This must-have app works great here but not there, but this other one barely works here and fantastic there. Oh, but don't worry, there's a wiki or two (dozen), and on one of those there's the answer that will Make It Work.
That's going to be the biggest pain of leaving Microsoft. For all of its warts, there's a lot of "Just Works" in Windows, as opposed to a lot of "Can Work" in Linux. This is the single biggest issue that holds Linux back from corporate adoption. I have several hundred machines to answer to spanning several generations of hardware. I don't have the hours in the day to hand-hold solutions for Linux that are "click-done" in Windows.
Anyway, I settled on Ubuntu. It seems to be the hot ticket in town at the moment, and if it turns out that I hate it, well - it's free so I won't feel bad about dropping it and trying a different flavor. My first concern was how dog-slow the livecd was. An install to the drive isn't going to be this god-awful, is it?
The only way to know is to do it. But not at the expense of the copy of XP that I already have running. Hey, though, my livecd includes GParted, which rocks some free space on my HD at least as well as Partition Magic ever did. I have to say, that's a good start, and well worth the effort. The install to HD runs as fast, and boots faster, than XP. Even better.
Out of the box it has a few little games, office applications, the normal utilities one would expect out of an OS. It's a nice, pretty blank slate... for which I have no documentation, and no way to get to the documentation I know exists because wireless doesn't work. OK, I can plug a wire in, but still, this is a problem that's a deal breaker. Wireless gets fixed, or I go in a different direction.
Out of Ubuntu, back into XP, off to the wikis. Of course, now I'm not in Ubuntu where I can test the solutions I find... at any rate, a few rounds of this had my wireless running. The deal is back on.
Then the next problem - a web browser, but no plugins. At least it's firefox, that's familiar turf. It's pretty good about going out and finding plugins to make itself happy, this should be easy.
But it's not. I need Java. Another search of the wikis, another set of hoops. Dammit, I forgot to flag the installer as executable. Dammit, now I forgot to type sudo. Dammit, the instructions are telling me to create a symbolic link in a directory that doesn't exist.
Repeat for flash. Repeat for quicktime. And realplayer. And WMV. And I'm a knowlegable user, there's just no way a noob is going through this. I finally have Firefox all tweaked up so it'll show me everything on that intartoobs thing.
Next I need to figure out how to make a DVD play. Ah, well, that's a battle for tomorrow.
I bite my thumb at thee
I've been modded redundant (for the first time, incidentally) for posting a lame rewrite of Monty Python's "Dead Parrot" sketch. I reiterate my laugh, MWUAHAHAHA! "Why?", you may ask. Again, you may not, how should I know? But assuming you were to ask "why", I shall tell you thusly: It made me laugh. Yes, I know quoting Python is passe'. Yes, I know bad parody borders on the wrong side of lame. Yes, yes, yes, and still - it made me laugh. I chose to share my laughter with anyone who cares to enjoy it with me, and hold no malice to those (many) who probably ignored me. I chose to post the lame, Karma be damned! After all, there was no harm.
And yet, somebody in all their wisdom saw fit to burn a precious mod point smacking my little score: 1 piece of lameness down as redundant. And so, it is that person's right, however much I don't understand. And it is to said moderator that I title this - not as a sign of disrespect, but simply because I can think of no sillier "insulting" gesture available.
Good day, Dear Moderator!