This is a tech rant, but I expect to be working towards a happy ending.

Background. I tried to switch to Ubuntu earlier, but hey, I am getting a bit rusty, and there was never time and old habits die hard, etc etc. A few months ago, I got myself a new laptop, a dead cheap, but pretty nice Dell Inspiron 1750. I came from an old Inspiron 6400 with XP on it (managed to Dodge Vista, high five!). This friend came with Windows 7 pre installed. Now, I know a lot of people will not agree with me, notably the ones who DID use vista, as well as system administrators, but….. I hated it. From day one I hated it. I won’t go into much detail, but it was crap. Can’t find what I need, interferes with sound settings, craps up the software I earn my living with big time, etcetera. But I was in the middle of a project, so I suffered through.

Today, something snapped. Again, the details are unimportant, it was not ALL Microsofts fault, but hey, enough is enough. So, I bit the bullet, and now seriously.

  • Installed Ubuntu 10
  • Installed VirtualBox
  • Installed XP in VirtualBox (yes, all the way from my original ‘SP-0′ CD through all it’s updates till present time). For those who want to probe the water: VirtualBox can be run on a Windows host too.
  • Moved everything that was NOT OS dependant to my new Linux partition, including all my office files (I have been using OpenOffice.org for a long time, so that was a no-brainer, My truecrypt container (oh-yeah!), 4o+ GB of music, etc etc.
  • Installed Skype (too bad the Linux version is far behind)

I have a long way to go. Bear with me. It’s time for a change my friends. I’ll keep you posted.

Addition Aug 10 (I am taking this slowly, still dual boot).

  • Got my IBM Notes environment up in the XP Virtual machine. Was an unrelated issue. This means I can now do my WORK in this environment. Check!
  • Speaking of VirtualBox: I am really impressed. As Ubuntu cordially mounted my NTFS drive automatically, giving me access to all my “Windows” data native, I can bring up ANY folder, so that includes both that NTFS as well as the linux filesystem in a share in the virtual machine. I am really doing a soft-over, as all my data is in ONE place still. Check!
  • Printer: This may sound trivial, but it’s not. First of all, printing is never trivial, and second, my printer is a HP3600, which is a “host based rendering” printer. I did not expect a good driver for this but I was wrong. Out of the box btw. Whoa. Note that this printer does not work properly under Windows 7 and HP is giving everybody the finger. Check!
  • Goodbye, my friend Notepad++, hello gedit (included). Check!
  • GIMP (photo editing): Check!

Addition Aug 12

  • Citrix client, after some issues with not having the proper root certificate (Firefox’s root store anyone?): Check!
  • Blackberry desktop manager: ugh that has to go to the virtual XP machine (and right now, it is giving me a huge pain!). Note: well, over bluetooth it works, but I cannot manage applications. Seems to be related to USB handling change from Ubunto 9 to 10. Known issue.

Addition Aug 13

  • Winscp (a must if you need to securely connect to non-Windows host): Simply not needed! Ubuntu’s file manager connects as easily to Windows hosts as well as FTP, SSH, and a plethora of other protocols through Places > Connect to Server. Check!
  • PdfCreator: Not needed. A PDF printer is standard available (as is a pdf viewer). Check!

Addition Aug 14

  • JetAudio (I mean come on, Windows Media player never did it for me ever!): again, not needed. Ubuntu’s included Totem Movie Player does everything I need. Check!
  • eReader: I switched to the ePUB plugin for Firefox. Not the best reader in town, but works for me and platform-independent. Check!
  • Oh and speaking of eReader, I also installed Calibre, as I want everything I ever download in unencrypted EPUB format. Note: small addition here: I like Calibre’s reader better than the Firefox plugin actually.

INTERMEDIATE CONCLUSION

I have done this conversion so far without a lot of pain. I was seriously worried about needing to dive too deep into technicalities. So far nothing has been a real show stopper. I currently only use the windows emulation for the Notes environment and the Blackberry desktop. My data is still in NTFS and I will probably keep it that way for a few months, as to not burn my ships, just in case (yes, I am a wimp).

I am truly surprised how much functional software is already either installed or can be installed with literally 2 mouse click from Applications >> Ubuntu Software Center. No downloading msi’s and installers, no heading out to Java, Adobe, ectetera. This all saved me tons of hours that I am used to spend doing a clean windows install. Again, this is totally against my expectations.

One thing though that has eased this move tremendously, apart from the insane work of the Open Source community, is that I switched to Firefox (from IE) and OpenOffice.org (from Office) years ago. I urge everybody who is contemplating of leaving windows to start with that.

Addition Aug 17

  • Audacity (audio editor, which I already used under Windows): Check! Again, since I already used Open Source software for this, instead of, say the Adobe flavor, I could switch to Ubuntu without literally any change. Same user interface, same program, same everything and installing was literally 2 mouse clicks, the string Audacity, one mouse click.
  • Miro (on demand TV for free channels, as I cannot think of a better way to describe): See Audacity: Check!

Addition Aug 18

  • Eclipse (programming): Check!
  • And for the great fun of it: Stellarium, your private nightsky emulator. Really cool: Check!

Conclusions

I am going to wrap up this post. It looks like I am on Ubuntu to stay. I feel more at ease than in Windows 7, and so far I have not ran into total show stoppers. If this is a route you like to follow without deep technical involvement, I would advice to take exactly the approach I took, and in this sequence:

  1. Be very conscious on what applications you use. This really step one and you should start doing that months before taking the dive. The open source community is a good starting point, as most OSS is written for multiple platforms. This takes the edge out of switching operating systems. Examples above. Of course you can skip in the build-ins.
  2. Do a side-by-side installation of Ubuntu. This will give the ease of mind of being able to “go back”. Even if you won’t (you won’t) :)
  3. Leave your data for a while on the Windows partition. Ubuntu supports NTFS out of the box, and Windows surely does NOT supports ext4 out of the box! Again, this might not be the most efficient way of running your system, but it supports the ease-of-mind.
  4. Install VirtualBox to run your die-hard Windows programs.

In the spirit of Open Source Software I herewith offer to help TWO people make the same transition, on the sole condition that they too, will make the same offer to others.