As I’ve mentioned before I am in the process of switching the PCs in my house over to Linux, specifically Ubuntu. Why? Well recently Brandon sent me a post of a fellow Microsoftie who was tired of it all. Of course he was only a six year veteran; let’s see how he feels when he’s been there thirteen years!But I do at times feel like a dinosaur and that I have had MS-blinders on most of my adult life (I started as an intern at Microsoft at 19, full time at 24). I started the year by installing MediaWiki and banging around in that for a while. That was fun. Then I [obviously] installed WordPress and started writing posts, most of which are boring and lame but at least I learned something new about what is out in the wide world.And then Ubuntu… I colleague mentioned the Live CD which you can use to run Ubuntu without messing up your laptop. I tried that and thought it had a lot of merit. There are some things about Windows XP I miss but most of these come from a relearning process. “Ah, Alt+F1 opens the Applications menu” for instance rather than hitting the Windows key. Okay, it’s an SMB drive and not a UNC mounted drive with a handy letter like M:. I can get used to that. But there are some things I am really struggling with:
- iTunes. I miss iTunes. Mostly I miss iTunes for the iPod synching feature but after spending some time with the players available via Ubuntu’s Add/Remove Programs (and oh man, if that isn’t one feature worth the migration pain I don’t know what is) they just aren’t as clean or useful.
- Why won’t most applications let me use an SMB drive? I store all of my music on another PC so my wife, son, and I can access it. On Windows I just point iTunes or Windows Media Player or whatever at that drive and it works. Given iTunes doesn’t have folder notifications which is a really crummy oversight on Apple’s part but still… it works. But of the players I have tried so far (Banshee for instance) they either don’t support SMB or don’t support iPod synch.
- The Windows key. If you would have asked me what I thought I’d miss on Windows XP, this wasn’t it. This could be from five years of learning — hit the Windows key and stuff is there. On Ubuntu I need to learn that Alt+F1 opens the Application menu but that isn’t quite the same thing. Close and maybe the menus just need a little revision to make it work better.
- Installers. Many of the things I want on Linux download as non-executable. This means I cannot just double-click and have them work. At this point I know I need to open a terminal, chmod a+x, then run ./program.name (which always confuses me that I cannot simply type program.name and have it do the same thing. I am sure there is a perfectly good reason for this but it escapes me)
- The shell doesn’t show thumbnails of images. For years it has bugged me how slowly XP will paint thumbnails. And it always leaves a little thumbs.db file behind. But compared to not showing them at all, it’s annoying. I don’t have Beryl running as it makes my PC freak out so maybe with an advanced package or setting I can get this to work
- Last but actually most importantly, an internet filtering tool. I have been messing around with Dansguardian and a very nice guy named Jereme has written an install script and GUI for this but so far I cannot get it to work. This is an annoyance but also shows how nice the Linux community is; if it is out there odds are good someone has a script for it and will chat with you until it works.
- Sidenote: the install script is part of the “Ubuntu Christian Edition”. I am not a Christian and don’t really want a full-blown Christian Edition. However isn’t it one of the more Christian acts to provide something like this to help parents safeguard their children and not push the whole distribution at the same time? Nice tip of the hat for this.
I am not sure how long this experiment will last. Google Docs is fine for short little blurbs and spreadsheets but the one time L tried writing a report the formatting was seriously messed up. Thankfully he had OpenOffice on his Ubuntu PC and that worked just fine. I haven’t found a great photo editor and image management tool yet although I note that Picasa is available for Ubuntu. It’s a little shaky right now (two crashes on launch so far) but still does what Picasa does (although it doesn’t support SMB either!).