Sunday, 24 February 2008

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Today we were on the sociable side of things for a change. We met friends at the NGV (National Gallery Victoria) and had ourselves a peaceful and tranquil time walking about in between pieces of European art (14th century onwards, read: lots of pictures of Jesus and his mother) and vases from the Far East. Even Dylan's occasional squeal didn't dent the atmosphere; it's definitely something we should do more often.
I did make one tragic mistake, though: In the chaos that reigns before taking Dylan out of the house while trying to be on time, I forgot to take my camera with me. Walking around each corner of the museum I could see virtually hundreds of missed out photo opportunities: shadow games behind a statue here, an interesting reflection there... All will be lost in time like puke that just misses Dylan's bib.

Museums are nice and all, but if there is anything this weekend is going to be remembered by it is going to be something completely different.
This weekend I took the plunge, finally. My desktop finally runs the Ubuntu distribution of the Linux operation system, installed in dual boot mode with the previously installed Windows XP. I am typing this text in the Ubuntu environment, as the attached shot of my new desktop environment shows, and I love it.
As far as operating system installations go, the version of Ubuntu I have installed - 7.04, tagged Feisty Fawn (if you think that's a weird name, what do you make of Vista?) - is as easy to install as an operating system can get. Especially when bearing in mind it installed itself in addition to an existing operating system and not on top of it.
The Ubuntu installation CD also serves as a live CD. This means that you stick in to your PC, reboot it from the CD instead of your hard drive, and you will get a working version of Ubuntu up and running - no installation required. This allows you to check that your hardware likes Ubuntu to begin with, and it also allows you to save precious files when Windows suddenly decides it doesn't want to start (just stick the Ubuntu CD in, wait for it to come up, and do whatever you want with the contents of your hard drive).
If you want to actually install Ubuntu on your hard drive all you have to do is click the Install application. It asks you a few questions about locality and language preferences, and then it gets you to the main event - partitioning your hard disk. If you want to have Ubuntu and nothing else it's a cinch, but if you're after dual boot things get a bit trickier, especially if you don't want to tread on your existing stuff. Ubuntu has a wizard that's supposed to be able to guide you through dual boot partitioning but that didn't work in my particular case due to my rather esoteric setup; I had to enter partitioning specifications manually, but it wasn't as hard as it may seem (good instructions on how to do that can be found here). After that, things were quickly resolved: I did some reading in front of my PC while Ubuntu was installing, but that's it.
Needless to say, there was a lot of preparation before I got to the installation itself: I backed up all my stuff and I defragged the existing partitions to make life easier for Ubuntu. Obviously, it was worth the effort given the smoothness of the installation.
Now that I'm using Linux I can see there is a long way ahead of me until I can truly say I can get rid of Windows. While Linux comes with many applications already installed - Firefox, Open Office - it lacks many others I regularly use (Skype, Picasa), so I need to install them. The basic setup is lacking, too: In order to adjust the screen resolution to match my screen and graphics card's capabilities I need to go through a special setup thing that's rather a pain (I guess that's the price you pay for not having tailor made drivers for the Linux environment).
I'm sure I'll get there, eventually. It all looks very promising: things are smooth, stable, quick, and safe. It's really funny to work without having a firewall, anti virus, and a multitude of anti spamware applications by my side. But then again, you don't need them in Linux! Yes, things are getting better all the time.
Time to call it quits for the night and hit the bed.

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