I used to be a PC, now I’m Linux

Moving to NZ meant ditching my old desktop computer, which was running Windows XP. I’m most comfortable with XP, because it’s what I’ve used most at work and in my personal life. I had a laptop that I used when I traveled for work, but otherwise didn’t use much. This laptop was running Vista on it, which I wasn’t thrilled with.A   Using my laptop as my primary computer meant really learning a new operating system, so I thought I’d try Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a flavour of Linux, an open source operating system.

About a month before leaving Vancouver, I heard Richard Stallman speak on free software. While I found some of his politics a bit over the top, his ideas on freedom and free software resonated deeply with me, and inspired me to make the switch to a free, open source operating system.

I’ve been using Ubuntu for 2 months. I have found the switch almost entirely painless and have been really impressed at how well Ubuntu works from the default installation.

Things I like:

  • Ubuntu is free as in freedom (it’s also free as in beer, but for me the free/libre aspect is more important than it being free/gratis).  I feel better that I’m actively choosing something that supports my and other people’s freedom. I’m glad that my software choices are in line with my personal politics now.  It’s a similar decision to deciding to buy free range organic eggs.
  • Easy and fast installation.
  • Firefox and OpenOffice are included. It’s a small thing, but I’m glad I don’t have to download, install and select Firefox as my default browser.  It took me a few minutes to download the Firefox add-ons that I like, but I would’ve had to do this regardless. Also, I prefer the OpenOffice Word Processor to MS Word.
  • The default folder setup makes sense and works for me: documents, music, pictures, videos.
  • I’ve been able to download photos off of my mobile phone, and print things, without having to install or configure anything.  I had the misconception that it would be difficult to use other devices with Ubuntu.
  • Installing software is a different, but it wasn’t difficult to get used to installing most software from a centralized place (Applications > Add/Remove Application). I like that I can filter on open source, supported, and third party application. Every time I install a program it makes me think about of the degree of freedom of that application.
  • There’s a bunch of little things, like the 2 finger touchpad scroll, and having 2 workspaces (desktops), that make me happy.
  • Excellent documentation, both on the official Ubuntu help page and in the user contributed documentation.  In particular the guide to switching from Windows to Ubuntu was really helpful.
  • Friendly and knowledgeable user community. When I was having problems with setting up my laptop to use the wireless network in our house, I emailed the listserv of local user group and quickly got several responses within a few hours. I ended up paying someone who was fantastic and professional a nominal amount of money to come to my house and fix the problem. I like that there’s feminist Linux groups. I met a small but very diverse group of women at the local linuxchix meetup.

Things I’m adjusting to:

  • I miss IrFanView, a simple image editing program that I used to resize and crop images. The GIMP is a whole lot more than I need (closer to Photoshop), and it’s taken me time to figure out how to do the basic things I need to do (crop and resize photos). It takes longer to load than IrFanView, but I don’t do much image manipulation, so this isn’t a big deal.
  • I need to learn more about the Terminal. I’m much more comfortable clicking on icons and using menus than typing in commands. I can feel my pulse quicken when I read “open the terminal window and type…”. I want to understand what I’m doing, and am excited and scared at the same time.

Things I haven’t figured out yet:

  • I haven’t been able to load music on to my iPod, which I synced to a Mac. Amarok doesn’t recognize it and I haven’t been successful in configuring my iPod to Amarok. With gtkpod 4th Gen Nano isn’t an option in the menu where you select your iPod model, and selecting a different model doesn’t work. I think that part of the problem might be that I installed Mac software on it so it can talk to my partner’s Mac laptop.
  • I haven’t been able to successfully install Tweetdeck. I’m not sure if the problem is with AdobeAIR or with Tweetdeck. (Thanks CHB District Libraries for the help!)

Ubuntu is really user friendly and I like the default programs and settings.  I really wish I had made the switch sooner. I encourage you to try the live CD so you can see what Ubuntu is like, without having to install it.

If you have advice to offer on my iPod and Tweetdeck issues, I’d love to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “I used to be a PC, now I’m Linux”

  1. I used this to get tweetdeck on. I needed to update to the latest Adobe Air first tho.

    Open a Terminal and browse to where you downloaded the installer file (at the time of this post it was called à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…”AdobeAIRInstaller.binà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ )
    Type chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin and press Enter
    Type sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin and press Enter
    Enter your password and this will launch the installer. Follow the prompts accordingly.
    Now go here and download the TweetDeck Air file:
    Open with Adobe Air and install the application by following the prompts. You will need your Admin password.

  2. There are other choices for graphics work, especially for lighter fare, like (what sounds like) photo management. You don’t mention whether you’re running Hardy (Ubuntu 8.04) or Intrepid (8.10), but my Hardy install includes the F-Spot photo editor by default. Have you tried it? Does it meet your needs any better?

    The second choice might be to install Wine, a API compatibility layer that will let you install and run many Windows applications. It’s not available under ‘Add/Remove Programs’, but you can install it from System => Administration => Synaptic Package Manager. You’ll need to enter your password to get access.

    Then, scroll down the big list to ‘wine’ (or just type in wine, and it will find it for you), right-click and choose ‘Mark for Installation’. It will probably bring up a window called ‘Mark additional changes’ that list some additional packages that will need to be installed. Agree to that list. Then choose ‘Apply’. It will whir and click and install some packages.

    After Wine is installed, you can download the IrfanView installer, and run it just like you would in Windows.

    Not all programs work under Wine, but there are some positive reports of IrfanView running well under Wine in Ubuntu.

    Good luck, and welcome to Linux. Hope life in Aotearoa is treating you well. 🙂

  3. Hey Branflakes, I miss you and hope you’re well.

    I’m using Hardy. I have F-Spot Photo Manager installed. I thought it was a photo organizer, but indeed you’re right. It does the basic photo editing things that I need.

    I also had problems installing Wine, but I’ll give it another shot.


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