One year ago, today, I started upon a journey. A journey which really opened my eyes to the true possibilities of the Open Source Desktop. I was a little apprehensive but determined. I had used Linux on servers for over a decade and played with various versions of Linux on the desktop but never really found one that fit my needs or worked with all my hardware. I had played with Ubuntu as a desktop OS since Hoary (5.04) but never really committed to using it full-time. It was a pleasant distraction but mostly I stayed with XP as my Desktop OS. I must thank Microsoft for Vista because without Vista I fear apathy would have kept me playing with Linux as a Desktop OS but I probably wouldn’t have made the decision to change.
In the beginning …
Even though I’m a Software Developer by trade I don’t have any major requirements for my Desktop OS. At work I use Visual Studio 2005 to develop MFC/C# applications but I no longer wrote any Windows software at home, I mostly do web application development, for myself, with object-orientated PHP.
My requirements are:
- Email – Evolution works well with “Google Apps for my Domain”. I also tried Thunderbird but I’m waiting for the final version of 3.0 before I decide for good whether to use Evolution or Thunderbird full-time.
- Web Browsing – I’ve been using Firefox on Windows since v0.4 (Phoenix) so that was a no brainer.
- Office – OpenOffice works beautifully for my needs and imported the few Word Document and Excel Spreadsheets I had.
- Music – My wife bought me an 8Gb iPod Nano for my birthday last year so I was a bit worried I’d still need iTunes ( I don’t buy music online I prefer CDs, so all my music were plain old MP3s). I found Rythmbox worked beautifully, although I’m tempted to try Songbird or Banshee.
- Basic Image Editing – I’ve been using Paint Shop Pro 7 for ages to edit/organise my photos. This worked beautifully under Wine but lately I’ve been finding myself using GIMP/F-spot more and more so I may retire PSP7 soon.
- Web Design – I’d been using Dreamweaver MX 2004 for all my Web Development on Windows and found it to ran perfectly under Wine, when I installed MDAC 2.8 as well. However I recently discovered Geany and I’m quite impressed with its capabilities.
I had planned on installing VirtualBox, VMWare or KVM to run a Windows virtual machine for any software I couldn’t find satisfactory replacements for and one day I may actually get around to it 🙂
As time progressed …
When October came around I upgraded to Intrepid and was blown away at the simplicity of the upgrade. Hardware came and hardware went during this time and I’m now down to 3 main PCs and a Media Center box. Over this time I became less worried about whether my hardware would work with Linux and more interested in “What else can I do with Linux?”
I’ve recently upgraded my Desktop and Netbook to Jaunty and all I can say is “Wow!”. I’m blown away at how fast it is and just how easy it is to work with. This is how computing should be. I’ve also replaced several older Pentium III PC’s running various tasks about the house (and running various versions of Windows and RedHat), which I’ve donated to friends with Ubuntu installed, with a single Pentium IV running OpenVZ on a Hardy Server. It rocks. I’ve even put together some shell scripts to help me administer this box easily and a little website in the host OS, using nginx and PHP in Fast-CGI mode, to show some details of the VMs. All the while Cron happily backs up each VM nightly and Postfix is configured on each VM to send mail via “Google Apps” if it has any issues. I haven’t had this much fun with computers since I stopped tinkering with my Amiga 1200!
The future …
Next project is to convert the Media Centre box which is still running Windows MCE 2005. I haven’t had time yet to try MythTV, FreeVo or MyMediaSystem yet … I would like to use Entertainer, XBMC or Elisa but I need to be able to view and record analog TV, not that I get to watch that much TV anyway with 2 young daughters!
And finally …
All I can say is that for the last year, I have been using Ubuntu exclusively and I am loving it!