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.