Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ubuntu is easy or Computer recover with Linux

It seems to be the time for hard drive failure in our house. Heather has had two hard drive failures in the last two years and I have finally had my first disk failure.

On Christmas Eve, my windows PC gave me a blue screen of doom error. I decided that it was a good time to turn it off. When I turned it on Christmas afternoon, my disk was clicking and clacking and the BIOS found no bootable disk. Not a good thing to happen.

I wasn't concerned because all my data was backed up with Carbonite. A good backup strategy is a great idea, no matter how you do it. Comcast provides some backup software with the free with subscription McAfee Security Center and there are scads of online backup services. But I really like Carbonite because it runs in the background and backs up to a remote site. I can selectively restore files or even to a new computer!

But, I needed a computer. Okay, I really wanted a computer - I store recipes online, I keep my tasks with Remember the Milk, and I was sure to get one or two Christmas greeting emails (I use Gmail). Just about everything I do an use is web based, so as long as I could get online, I was good to go.

I had also been wanting to play with some distro of Linux. This was my excuse to do it. I downloaded the latest Ubuntu Live CD, burned it to a CD (on my wife's computer) and just like that, I was able to boot my PC.

It was super easy! Unfortunately, it did confirm for me that my hard drive was entirely fried. But it wasn't a big deal, I had a working computer until my company was able to send me a new hard disk (well, a new laptop, too because it was time for a new computer anyway).

So, I've been running Ubuntu Fiesty Fawn for a short while (and know that I will continue to do so in the future) and here are my thoughts:
  1. Incredibly simple install. You answer a few questions and then it does its thing. You don't have to sit and supervise it.
  2. Package managers (either with the command line or a graphical one) make installing software so easy. I was very quickly able to get the software I wanted up and running (and it automatically installed all the required other libraries as well). For those still running Windows, check out Appupdater for that same type of functionality.
  3. Almost all of the software is free! Free! Ubuntu is free!
  4. Linux does a better job of memory management than Windows. I can run the same several memory intensive applications (Open Office with giant spreadsheets, Google Earth, GIMP and then several Citrix based java apps) simultaneously with better performance under Ubuntu. Linux will keep an older computer running longer than under Windows!
  5. There is so much information available online to support Linux. Sure it helps to have a smart friend (I've got a few of them) for computer support, but there are all kinds of forums and blog postings out there. Okay, at the same time this can be problematic - some of it wasn't up to date, but there is lots of information available.
  6. Ubuntu has a great UI. Most people think of 'nix and the command line, but you don't have to use the command line (editor's note: the command line is such a faster and easier way to do stuff, so check it out). The learning curve was almost flat from a user standpoint. If you are a just turn on the computer and use it person, you can do that with Ubuntu. If you want to get into the backend of the system, you can do that with Ubuntu.
  7. I'd like to give serious props to the Wireless Network Manager in Ubuntu. Under Windows you always have to enter your wireless access point's WEP key in hex (numbers 0 - 9 and A - F). With the Gnome network manager, you can actually enter the plain text phrase - real words that are easy to remember and know that you typed correctly. Oh yeah, and you only have to enter it once as opposed to twice (or more if you type it wrong) under Windows.
So far the only thing I still have to figure out (and it is from a lack of looking, not that Ubuntu can't) is to manage my music and iPod. For the time being, it isn't a problem, because I manage my iPod on my daughter's PC, but I'd really like to be able to do that at some point.

Ubuntu is definitely as good an operating system as Windows, if not better, both technically and cost wise. The applications are out there and they too are as good as or better than the commercial alternatives. I'd recommend checking it out and thinking about it for your next OS.


Unknown said...

All I just understod in this blog is, "Wha. Wa-wa. Wha-wa." Call me Charlie Brown. You are such a freaking computer geek. But you're my computer geek. Kisses!

Mark said...

I've really enjoyed playing around with the Unix that's under the hood of my Mac, which has made me curious to try Linux. I'm getting a new computer for my office, and I'd like to install Linux on my old one. I don't know if our tech people will go for that, but I'll give it a try. Keep us readers updated on your adventures with Linux!

Erik said...

You might want to try Banshee ( - haven't tried it myself, but have heard good things.

I used to use grip for importing, and xmms for playback, but now I'm just using itunes (grip still seems to work well, but xmms' interface sucks - there's gotta be better stuff out there nowadays.

I also use mt-daapd to share my linux-based music store with itunes on my laptops...