Thursday, September 17, 2009

On My Arranged Marriage to Windows; or, Ubuntu is My Dirty Whore (Part 1)

I don't even know where to start.

Maybe at the Verizon store.


When we waltzed in, irritated as can be about how our "smart" phones were stupid fking pieces of everynameunderthesun and if they didn't stop running out of the memory needed to send a simple gd text message we would run over them with our cars and they'd have to replace them because we have insurance and we'd keep running them over so they'd keep having to replace them until they gave us a phone that was actually smart.


The salesperson quietly led us over to the Blackberry section and told us that the only way to get the functionality we demanded in a phone was to get away from the Windows operating system.

I had a few flashes of the unexpected errors on my home computer. The times when I've had to force the poor thing to shut off when it freezes up. The updates and restarts. The expired anti-virus software that interrupts everything I do.

I blinked it all away so I could drool over the Blackberry in my hand. BB made the transition from old new phone to new new phone amazing. It is the smartest, most easy to use thing ever. I mean it.

That was a few months ago.

This month, I began scoping out the Dell site as I'm considering buying my daughter a laptop for Christmas. She just has all this STUFF. Her iPod, her digital camera(s), her Leapfrog Pen thingy, code upon code upon code from stuffed animals, cereal boxes, and candy wrappers. All of these things require her to use my computer. Now that she's in middle school, she'll have more assignments that she needs a computer for. My poor computer is getting old, it can only handle me. It told me so.

So I started looking at laptops.


That was the word starting at me. I had clicked on "open source operating systems" and there it was: "Dell now offers Ubuntu."

Hmmm. I had heard, of course, of this open source business before but, not being technically inclined, never really looked into it. Now, having started to realize (because of the little black beauty that is rarely farther than a few inches of my hand) that there is a whole beautiful, fully-functioning world beyond Windows, I decided to investigate this Ubuntu.

Twenty minutes on the Ubuntu site and a bit on Wikipedia had my interest piqued enough to send messages to my awesome Canadian friend Duncan and my kid brother, both in the know on technical matters. They both seemed a little wary of giving a kid an operating system that was different than what she'd be using in school.

But, I was already becoming committed. I had learned that Open Office's software, which comes (free, of course) with Ubuntu (also free, of course) allows the user to create word docs, spreadsheets, and presentations that are able to be opened and edited with MS Office products. In fact, most everything you do on Ubuntu (from Linux, btw) is compatible with Windows.

Then there was this: Windows comes on everything I buy, unless it's a Mac, even if I don't want it. I pay for it, it's my operating system. I pay for it and then I have to pay for everything that works with it. I have to buy software that is Windows compatible to work on the OS that I didn't choose. It came with it because they all do. I can't walk into Best Buy and say, "No, thanks. I'm going to use Linux, so just sell me a computer without Windows and I'll put the OS on myself." I can't do that because the computers already have Windows on them and it's included in the price because it isn't free. Then, I end up with a computer with a bunch of extras on it that I don't need/know how to use but am afraid to remove because I don't know what they are or what they do. So, I have to buy a computer, paying extra for the OS I don't want, and remove it myself so I can have the free OS I do want.

Duncan told me that if I decided to go with Ubuntu, there is a large support community. My brother told me that it would be good for him or me to try, but not to guinea pig Jenna.

I began reading. I read a very useful article written by a tech geek who went Ubuntu and then rated it on the basis of whether its various categories of functionality were as good as Windows. Most everything (but for 2 categories) worked as well as or better than Windows. It appeared that the only thing I was going to have to do to Ubuntu to make my computer work for me like it does now was install a different music player to make it play/store MP3 files as the format is proprietary and if Ubuntu came packaged with the software needed to process these files, they'd have to pay for licensing/charge for the OS.

What are the main reasons a person would leave Windows? Frozen screens. System crashes. Security issues (requiring the purchase of additional software to protect a computer). Cost.

I needed no further convincing. Exactly one week ago, I began backing up my files in preparation for my new OS.

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