Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Average John & the Ubuntu Switch

So, the Booth Ubuntu Linux switchover is complete, though not completely spit-shined yet, but … dude. This is freaking AWESOME and the overall experience has been way easier and smoother than I had anticipated.

Background: We've been a Windows family with every computer we've had, mostly for price and ease of use. Over the past year or so, I've been increasingly fed up with the constant bloating and slowing down of our computer. Yes, the memory and processing speed are well below cutting edge, but the truth is, we use the computer for pretty basic stuff: Web surfing, blogging, photos, writing. I haven't been addicted to a PC video game since the Star Wars first-person Jedi shooters finally outpaced what my machine could handle, and since last year, the Wii has been more than enough for all our gaming needs. (Okay, fine: I still really, reaaaaaaally want to play Portal, but not enough to buy a new machine to do it.)

Didn't want to buy a new PC with Windows Vista. Macs are fantastic and yes, please, I'll take four if you're buying, but price-wise, they're just not in our budget range.

So: The Linux Alternative. I'm a pretty low-level Magic User in terms of what I feel comfortable doing on our computers. I've hooked up hardware and messed with the guts of machines over the years as far as adding memory and modems, but I've never really taken the plunge and committed to a wholly new and unfamiliar operating system on my own. My friend Keith and his friend Pete, both extraorinarily generous and fantastic and patient computing-gods-walking-Earth, offered us some of their old dust-gatherers upon which to install Ubuntu and give it a try. (Our existing PC can't quite handle it. More on that later.) So, can an average household adjust to non-Windows, non-Mac environment? We'll see how it shakes out.

Here's where we stand now: Keith & I spent an evening putting Ubuntu on two machines – one desktop, one laptop – and he taught me a few Linux basics, since I'm starting from 0,0 on that learning curve. The only trouble spot we had was with the laptop's wireless: Hardware recognized, driver present, but no network activity. Not a huge priority at this point, so we'll get back to it later. (In fact, the actual Ubuntu installation was the easy part. Most of our "work" that evening was the hours spent Googling for and testing solutions to that laptop wireless problem. And making some kick-ass tacos for dinner.)

Back at home now, I've got the new Ubuntu machine running and, after resetting the cable modem, I get it to recognize the network connection and woohoo! we're back on the Series of Tubes Twittering and reading about bacon and zombies and autographed d20s and ooookay, get back to work, slacker! Next up: Printer and scanner hookup. Printer: Peachy. OpenOffice test print: Win. Scanner: Eh, not yet. I need to find the driver CD, but it is hooked up in parallel and not screwing anything up by being there. Pulling photos from digital camera? Check. Video? Haven't tried yet.

I don't think Jenn will have any problem with this: It's all very intuitive and Windows-esque, only without the freeze-ups and slow churns (so far).

Hurdles remaining: Haven't succeeded yet in hooking up the wireless router. For some reason, even if all I do is hook it up and run the computer directly into it, the machine's not finding Teh Intarnets. Similarly, until I can make sure the router is properly feeding us, I can't mess with the laptop's wireless card, either.

Caveats: My daughter will be getting our existing computer. Since it won't run Ubuntu, after backing everything up, I did a WinXP re-install, which strips things out and makes it a bit speedier than it was. So, yes, technically we have not completely abandoned that universe, although I can't right now see a need for me to get back on the machine, since all my docs are on CD and ready to put on this one.  If I find I can get something Linux-based that's relatively simple & friendly – I'm thinking Puppy – I'll put it on her computer for security reasons after we've settled in with the new systems. I'm also hoping to get the wireless working soon so that I can just plug a USB network detector into that machine rather than run cable through the ceiling & walls.

Personally, I'm digging the whole thing, and learning all this stuff is fun. I only wish we'd done it sooner.

February 8, 2009 - Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Ohio, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing


  1. FWIW, I think Ubuntu is a great Linux distro, but complete newbies would be better served with OpenSuse, Mandriva, or PCLinuxOS. They are simply much better for the novice. If one feels like moving to Ubuntu after that, feel free.
    Wireless will be much easier to setup beginning with kernel 2.6.27.
    Glad you enjoy Linux. I’ve been using for 10 years strong, now, and I’m not looking back.

    Comment by LinuxLover | February 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. I can’t stress enough how novice I am – I’m honestly just learning my way around the Linux command lines and procedures, so this extremely Windows-esque environment is very friendly, since at this point, I’m hardly using the actual terminal. Thanks for the welcome to the community, though – I’m really glad we made this choice!

    Comment by JohnBooth | February 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. Don’t fear the terminal. It may seem like something arcane to someone coming from Windows, but even Mac users have embraced it. It’s very powerful once you learn your way around.
    Good luck with your adventures in Linux!
    Just a wonderful little tip for you, since you’re so new to Linux: In your home folder, there are hidden folders for your apps that start with a “.” before the name. When an application acts up on you, delete the corresponding app’s hidden folder. Your app should return to default settings and act right again. You couldn’t pull something like that off in Windows, could you? Linux is wonderful…

    Comment by LinuxLover | February 8, 2009 | Reply

  4. Linux(and its dad, Unix)==totally badassssss.
    I am a software developer, and I work in Linux and OSX every day. In fact, I am the guy who is guilty of helping John with the switch. He is a good learner, and I think I’m helping him peel back the GUI and see the stuff behind it.
    Also, I’m trying to impress upon our n00b friend that Linux will teach itself to you through the magic of man pages. Fortunately, John is extremely bright and will master this stuff in no time!
    Also, John, I’m thinking we should max out the RAM in your “Windows” machine so we can Ubuntu-ize it, too!

    Comment by Kink | February 9, 2009 | Reply

  5. OMG. You are a total gearhead!!
    Dude, your technicality is surpassing even my modest skillz! Awesome!
    How is open office? I keep hearing about it and may try it out.

    Comment by Ivan | February 9, 2009 | Reply

  6. Ivan – well, much credit goes to Keith for guiding the setup and instilling the confidence in the changeover: Honestly, the system itself is extremely intuitive. The tests will come over the next week or so as I try stuff like video editing and music management and seeing how I cope with stuff like a driver missing or an update that won’t take. I haven’t had much reason to go poking through the terminal – although I do open it and read the manual entries for various terms and stuff, just to get an idea of how stuff works.
    (By the way – you should really do this.)

    Comment by JohnBooth | February 9, 2009 | Reply

  7. […] print that this particular software requires (of course) Windows. Well, crap. Look, I get that by switching to Ubuntu, we’ve limited some of our software options, but come on: I’m ordering only digital […]

    Pingback by Something fishy. « Cornfield Meet | April 30, 2009 | Reply

  8. […] Done, thanks to friends Keith and Pete. And while we still keep Windows on one machine for Jenn & Kelsey’s easy use of iTunes and Rhapsody, all the rest of our work has been on our new Ubuntu systems, all speedy and virus-free. […]

    Pingback by Reflections and goals. « Cornfield Meet | January 2, 2010 | Reply

  9. […] been really happy with the Linux switch since we made the jump as total n00bs early last year, and really haven’t missed much of Windows world at all. My only quibbles were not having the […]

    Pingback by One less Window « Cornfield Meet | March 21, 2010 | Reply

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