At Home With Ubuntu

Posted on Jun 27, 2006


I’ve been trying to get some version of Linux installed in one way or another on one of my machines for a very long time. A good portion of the work I do is still very unfriendly towards Windows. It never worked because I could never get an install working with all my commodity hardware working. I may be a geek, but recompiling a kernel is not something I’m eager to learn how to do. If I can’t figure out how to work around the problem in 15 minutes with Google, forget it.

With Ubuntu, this problem is solved in the extreme. When I was last decontaminating my parent’s computer from its spyware infestation, I had to rebuild the machine from scratch. Seeing my opportunity to move one step closer to not having to support Windows any longer, I took the opportunity to install Ubuntu Breezy (the latest version at the time). The install was over, with everything working, in about 30 minutes. I even had the printer installed and working as well as the e-mail client set up.

With Windows, it took HOURS. And I was lucky that I knew to save everything in the C:\DELL folder very carefully or I’d be spending even more time downloading drivers. I was blown away by the fact that on commodity hardware, Linux was an easier install for me than Windows was.

The Beautiful Part

Ubuntu Dapper is free. It’s free as in “free beer.” You can go to the Ubuntu website and request that they ship you a CD. It’s free as in “free speech”. If I were so inclined, I could download the source code and figure out how to change anything I might want to change. Fix typos, etc. in my case. Other people can do more. I’d then have to speak to a friendly developer to get it actually incorporated into everyone’s copy, but that is the idea. Anyone can contribute. That’s a powerful idea.

My Own Dapper Install

Web Applications

That’s what I do, and getting them set up on Dapper wasn’t a problem in the slightest. Sun has allowed Linux developers to package the Sun version of Java with Linux, which is like upgrading from a Pinto to a Cadillac.

I also run a version of Atlassian’s Confluence product, since they are currently giving away personal licenses free. That means I can use Confluence, the finest Wiki I’ve encountered, as my personal scrapbook. I like that.

I already mentioned that I am using Tracks. That was dependent on my Ruby and Rails setup, which I’ll be detailing soon. I’m hoping that post will be good enough to make the rounds a little bit.

Installing Apps

The package management system has been my second major stumbling block in terms of Linux adoption. Debian makes this a no-brainer. The apt-get system is simply brilliant.

Not So Fast

I am not anywhere close to leaving Windows entirely behind. Some web applications still require Internet Explorer to function. There’s still no real equivalent to Microsoft Money that I’ve found. TiVo Desktop is still a Windows application. Fortunately, I have an older machine that can handle XP and I just RDP into it when I need to. A small price to pay!