Sunday, 3 August 2008

My experience with Linux

I guess adding the work Linux to the title of any blog is going to give away early on that I have quite a passion for all things technological. Before I get to the point I really want to cover let me tell you a little bit of background. Back in 2001 my step dad introduced my to Linux – I was using windows 2000 at the time and to be honest I found that Linux could be a pain in the neck. Simple things like playing a DVD or connecting to the internet were really complicated in comparison to the offerings from Redmond. My dissertation was written using OpenOffice and Visio (I know it is a Microsoft product but the was nothing under Linux at the time that compared). After this I started working and really had little time for my old Linux box.

So five years went by and my computing life revolved around XP – but during this time I never actually owned a computer (except the Linux box that was in storage). Strange for someone working in online marketing to not actually own a machine but it was not necessary because I always had access to a computer. I really think this shows how they are in many ways becoming terminals to the Internet, a way of getting online rather than an end in themselves. But in late 2007 I decided enough was enough and bought a Dell laptop, I was amazed by how cheap it was. Only £520 for 2 cores, 2gb of ram, high contrast screen, big disc and a case. When I last bought a machine a similar “level” not spec would have been over a grand.

The machine came loaded with Windows Vista which I have to say is pretty good. Everything works with ease and looks pretty. However, that said it does have a major downside – it loves power. Even with the spec of my new machine it felt slow at times. Linux has always been in the back of my mind so I decided that maybe it was time to give the OS another go. After a little research Ubuntu looked like a good candidate. A quick 700mb download later and I was ready to give the new system a whirl.

You can install it from Windows in a sectioned off part of the NTFS partition – very clever feature that I have not seen before. It seemed much simpler than resizing partitions, creating new partitions etc. It does have a slight performance penalty but for a taster I went with it. One install later and I had a flickering, distorted screen. Good job. Install number two using safe mode drivers went better. Followed by installing the propriety ATI drivers and control panel. So at last I had a machine I could see but not use. It took me a further two hours to get the Wifi working and I am still not quite sure what got it going.

Running the system is fantastic, it is really really fast. Has all of the software I need and works perfectly. However, it must be said that before Linux can go mass market it needs to become simpler to install. I have worked on or around computers for nine years and this was still a tricky task. Put simply it should not be that hard, Windows can be installed by a 10 year old with a Coca Cola the same can't be said of Linux which is a real shame.

I love Linux but until it loses some of its “quirks” it will remain a closed book to most people. Although I am sure it will get there and it has come a long long way since I last experimented with it more work needs to be done.