Life with Linux

There are some posts that no real blog can be complete without, and that is some opinion about Linux. I’ve been using Ubuntu for over a year now and it occurs to me that I should write up something on it. Not that anyone’s asked, but then that’s what blogging is all about really isn’t it?

I switched from Windows to Ubuntu for no reason other than I wanted to see what it was like. I kept my Windows install in place on a dual-boot just in case, but mainly because I need access to Windows from time to time in order to work from home. Since installing Ubuntu, I’ve experimented with OpenSuSE and Kubuntu for a few months, but went back to Ubuntu when the Edgy release came out. I have a two year old Dell Dimension 5100, upgraded with an NVidia 7300GT video card.

At first, there was some mild anxiety to do with whether Linux would be up to the job of handling things like my Firewire video camera (Sony PC110), external Sony Memorystick reader and other stuff. I found that while it’s a little temperamental with peripherals (as indeed Windows can be), things pretty much just worked in terms of being detected. The only significant problem with external filesystems (like my USB Memorystick) is Ubuntu’s insistence in mounting these as root. The same goes for the Firewire: the only way I can control the camera is to start the controller app (Kino) as the super-user.

This is bar far and away the most serious problem with Ubuntu in my opinion. Luckily though, it’s really the only problem I’ve encountered. I assume there is some theoretical security reason why these devices should not be accessed by a normal user, but I’m buggered if I can think what that is. Thank god for gksudo.

There really is nothing much else to report. I have no problems running Linux, and Ubuntu (for me) seems the best distribution of that right now. The usability of Gnome is, I would say, as good as Windows in most respects. That isn’t saying very much, mind you, but it’s certainly not a negative factor.

Overall, the most positive thing about Ubuntu is the lack of nagging. The lack of Big Brother in the form of anti-piracy, licences, restrictions and other cramps on your style is just wonderful. It also exposes the twisted knots that some third party Windows applications get themselves in just to squeeze a few extra pennies out of you. It’s a delight to use CD/DVD burning software like Gnomebaker after the revolting usuries of Nero and its hideously over-complicated interface. Gnomebaker shows how easy burning a CD should be because it’s written by people who have the right priorities. This is a common pattern elsewhere too. The likes of AOL or Dell or HP any other of the big consumer computing brands are wholly absent from a fresh installation of Ubuntu, leaving you free to just use things without being harassed as if in some virtual souk.

I think Ubuntu (and GNU/Linux) can be as good, if not a better to use as Windows. In that sense at least, the creation of a multi-billion dollar corporation comes out really rather poorly against the output of as disparate band of worldwide volunteers. Who’d have though it? I’m a fan.