A few days on Ubuntu

For several years now, I have been threatening to switch to Linux on my desktop at home. There are several things that have kept me on Windows: the drivers for my ESI Waveterminal 192M are only available on Windows. So is FL Studio, one of the few pieces of software I have actually been prepared to shell out money for. Only having dialup internet access has been another reason, but more about that later.

I have for the past few days been running Ubuntu, which I installed next to Windows XP on my hard drive. I’ve installed many distributions over the years, tried them a little bit, and formatted the partitions again and switched back to Windows. Now, however, I’m finding that I am being productive with Linux, and starting to feel a little more comfortable.

So why did I choose Ubuntu? I guess there are many reasons, but one thing I have always looked out for in a Linux distribution is its popularity. This gives me some assurance that there will be lots of community support, and that there should be lots of packaged software for such a distribution. If you look at DistroWatch, Ubuntu has for a long time (it must be going on years) had the most page hits, and therefore been at the top of the list.

Why do I even want to switch to Linux? I ask myself that sometimes too. Getting everything set up is not a walk in the park; it’s certainly not as easy as on Windows. Getting my NVIDIA driver working, for example, took a considerable while. I think there is something romantic about getting down and dirty on the computer, though. It’s like in the old days of DOS where you were faced frequently with the command line.

I think part of the attraction of Open Source and Linux in particular, is the feeling of freedom. It’s like the love affair with the young couple where they run off and get married. It doesn’t matter that they can only afford a cramped little place where the roof leaks and the stove doesn’t work. All they need is love. With Linux, it’s a bit like that.

Having said that, I would certainly not be making the switch if it wasn’t for broadband internet access (so much for the romance), which I have only had for a few months. If you know anything about the telecoms industry in South Africa, then you know that we have one fixed line operator monolopy, due to which internet access is very expensive by world standards. As a result, I’ve survived on dialup for many years, although after switching to ADSL, I don’t know how I could go ever back.

I see having a high-speed interenet connection as a necessity for running Linux. If it weren’t for the ability to download the NVIDIA drivers that I mentioned above, or MP3 support for Amarok (which fortunately it offered to download for me first time I tried to play an MP3 file) or being able to quickly look for help in forums, I would give up very soon.

Apart from that, there are a few aspects that will take some getting used to. After being a KDE fan for a very long time, I now prefer GNOME, simply because there is less clutter. However, I find on both desktops that there is lots of wasted space, because of the size of icons and buttons and the like. When I log on to Windows, the interface just seems neater. These are mere trifles, however.

Anyway, I’m making the transition very slowly, one step at a time. I don’t see myself as a geek by any means (and I use the term in the modern, respectable sense – many years ago people used to look down on geeks). Ubuntu is probably one of the easiest Linux distributions to install and use, so I can’t make the boast of being one. Let’s see how it goes.


  • Helmut

    Funky… I’ve always thought of playing with linux a little, but was never really convinced. I must say, that the version of Ubuntu I saw a while back wasn’t too bad, and is probably even better now. But, to be honest, I like Windows. It does what I want, it’s not too difficult to configure, and it has all the features I need.

    The other thing is also that I develop mostly for Windows, which makes moving to Linux a problem. And Windows has Visual Studio Express, which is the best Dev Environment I’ve ever used. And even though there are projects like Mono and DotGnu, they don’t have near as many features as VS has.

    Anyway, I guess it’s a matter of preference or taste. Or a decision to go with one OS and stick with it. It’s quite cool that you’re having a nice experience with Ubuntu. It’s always good to dare to venture into unknown territory.