Sunday, June 07, 2009

Doing the geek thing with Linux

A while back I mentioned that I had an old PC (a 2003 Compaq) on life support which I was determined to keep going without spending any money, just for the sport of it. Since then the operating system (WXP Home Edition) became corrupted. I found that HP/Compaq no longer supports that machine and my own trouble shooting efforts failed. Worse yet, after I wiped everything out in a restoration attempt I discovered that the operating system CD was missing. What to do?

When I first heard about Linux years ago all I knew was that it was difficult to use, had no GUI and was reserved for the elite among the computer savvy. Later on I heard that some GUI based and more user friendly versions of the OS had been developed, and were free. A few weeks ago as I was checking out a couple of computer books at Borders the guy at the register, a self-described geek, started talking enthusiastically about Ubuntu, one of the more popular GUI based and user friendly versions of the Linux operating system.

It turns out you can, for free, download the version of Ubuntu you want as an ISO image file, burn that to a CD, then install it from the CD. For me that was easier said than done (after a few unsuccessful attempts I found out I needed a special version for ancient machines---also freely available) but finally I was up and running. It’s very cool, easy to use and like having a new machine!

So far I have noted a few distinct advantages:

It comes loaded with freeware including Mozilla Firefox, games and various media players. The software included in the free download rivals Microsoft Office in functionality---every bit as good for most users, I suspect. (I love free stuff).

It’s practically immune to virus attacks because nobody bothers to write viruses that will attack Ubuntu. That may change as its popularity grows. (Although some users boast that they don’t even bother with antivirus software it’s recommended that you install the free AV program that comes with it, as it will intercept viruses, thus preventing you from passing them along to others).

There are no proprietary or licensing issues. No activation or registration is necessary. You can run it on as many machines as you want. Burn an extra CD and give it to a friend. (They encourage it!).

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer this will give you a sense of accomplishment.

This isn’t for everyone. I have Windows Vista on my lap top and have no intention of changing. I use WXP on the computer in the living room where I do most of my blogging and it’s working fine. But when I want to retire to my cave, the place where I have my books, baseball memorabilia and assorted other prized possessions it’s nice to have the Ubuntu machine there to keep me company.

I’m not recommending you switch but if Windows has crashed irreparably or you’re just really, really sick and tired of some of Microsoft’s “issues” this might be the option for you. Here’s an Ubuntu pocket guide to get you started.

Image: Tux the Linux mascot. Image source Wikipedia. Larry Ewing, Simon Budig and Anja Gerwinski, copyright holders.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been running Ubuntu on my pc for three years now and I love it. With windows I always had problems, now with Ubuntu my pc does everything twice as fast without any problems. I recently ditched windows from my other pc as well and now only have it available in virtualbox for the occasional time I need it.

Oh and also good to know is that you can get a free Ubuntu cd shipped to you from