Better Workspace, and an Ubuntu Linux Install

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I have finally found a better place for my desktop PC which has been underused for some time. Ever since I got my laptop, I’ve tended to use that instead of my nice home machine with a 19″ LCD flat screen, wireless keyboard and faster processor. So I’m rather glad to now be able to use the better PC when I want, sitting at a new desk upstairs in the lounge / kitchen area rather than in a rather cramped spot downstairs near the bedrooms.

Having a better working environment has meant I’ve been spending time on the machine, so I’ve been updating a lot of stuff to latest versions. Having an LCD screen made me think about sub-pixel rendering options. The desktop still has Windows 2000 installed, but you can only get sub-pixel rendered (smoothed) fonts with Windows XP or Vista. I’m rather loath to go through another Windows install, particularly with having to pay another upgrade. The old machine couldn’t handle Vista anyway, so I’d have had to hunt around a bit for an XP licence. So I decided I’d try the new version [8.10] of Ubuntu, a version of Linux which seems to dominate the market currently. I got the previous version [7.x] running on the laptop, but I think a modern Linux desktop has higher requirements than my poor laptop can handle, though it does run reasonably with a bit of tweaking.

Installation was easy; download the CD image, burn it and boot from it. Everything was recognised, even my brand new USB WiFi key, and I was up and running very quickly. Installation options included automatic suggestions on resizing current disk partitions, and the base desktop install includes everything you need to get started using Linux – Office tools, Internet software, good control panels for configuration, CD burners, graphics tools and some fun games. There’s loads more stuff available by using the Add/Remove applications panel.

The first Linux I installed at home was RedHat 6.2, which was a long time ago (back at the very start of the century). Back then, partitioning the hard drive and getting Linux installed was not for the faint hearted. Resizing disk partitions wasn’t possible on NTFS filesystems used by Windows NT, 2000 and XP, so you had to work around that by copying to another disk and back again. Today, Linux is arguably easier than Windows to install. The only issue is that you have to get used to a few new ways of doing things. But you do get the latest software from the open source catalogue, and free smooth fonts without having to fork out a single penny.

4 Responses to “Better Workspace, and an Ubuntu Linux Install”

  1. Dave Knechel Says:

    Hi, Fruey -

    I’ve always been a Mac guy, ever since I started to use computers in everyday life and work. Recently, my Mac stopped working and I now use my laptop with Windows XP at home, where I do most of my work. I do work part time for a video imaging service and I use a laptop with the same version of Ubuntu Linux you have. I do have some minor issues with it, though. For example, when online and accessing e-mail accounts, the type function stops in mid sentence, like when I am typing in my name and/or password. It just stops and goes nowhere. Or it suddenly jumps to another spot to continue typing, so the text flow is way off. Also, if I access the Internet while the video software is running, the external HD icon disappears and I have to reboot.

    I’m not really complaining. My best friend, who used to own an IT company in NJ before retiring to sunny Florida, told me that Linus operating systems are primarily designed to run servers smoothly, that it is not an OS for every day use for the most part. What do you think? Personally, other than the minor quirks, I like it.

    By the way, I had a very nice Thanksgiving and ate way too much.

  2. lopo Says:

    We use Ubuntu for most of our non-developer PCs at Wahanda (http://www.wahanda.com) and I have to say its been fabulous. We buy cheap PCs on ebay stick Ubuntu on it and for less than £100 you have a perfectly good desktop and Mr. Gates hasn’t seen a penny. Not bad.

    Most impressively, we often put complete neophytes on these machines and they seem to figure their way around it in seconds. Ubuntu is not just for techies.

  3. fruey Says:

    Dave,

    Great to see you back. It’s true that for a long time, Macs had a real corner of the market in image & video processing. PCs took a while to catch up. I think for that kind of applications you can get optimised Linux versions, since I know that 3D rendering is big in the Linux space. I doubt they use a desktop OS like Ubuntu though. As for the typing in one place, and suddenly losing the cursor somewhere else… I’ve seen that a couple of times, but on Windows too (with the same browser i.e. Internet Explorer).

    I think you’re right, Linux is dominant as a server OS, but Ubuntu as a desktop (version 8, no less) is starting (finally) to make sense.

    -Simon

  4. fruey Says:

    Hey Lopo!

    I think it’s fantastic to see businesses using Linux as a desktop OS for non tech staff. I’ve always wanted to work somewhere like that, I spent a lot of my time in Morocco advocating Linux and installing it in educational & small business contexts. Of course, most people had pirated versions of Windows anyway so there was no economic argument, just a kind of philosophical one. I believe in Open Source not as a way to avoid paying money, but as a way to avoid everyone ending up reliant on a closed system. Linux allows for much freer innovation & experimentation, but the barrier to entry has always been high. That’s why I think Ubuntu is such a positive thing. Cool that it’s working out for your staff who use IT as an everyday tool. It shows that computers, for most people, are just there to get things done. Ubuntu (and other recent Linux desktop distributions) is way easier to get the hang of than say Windows 3.1 or even 95/98.

    -Simon

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