There is nothing like a foreign operating system to remind you how narrow your knowledge of computers may be. All of my professional computing days and many of my academic ones have been spent on Microsoft platforms.
Although this is not my first foray into the land of Linux, I have recently started some home development projects based on a Linux machine. My chosen “distro” is Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope. I do not have a good reason for not choosing the “Karmic Koala”, I just didn’t.
Having spent many years in GUI land, there was no way known I was going to start with a “server edition” and command prompt! I remember the basics for navigating around a Unix system, but there is only so much fun you can have changing directories and listing files found in them! I need as much “hand-holding” as possible, thank you!
I have a number of reasons for choosing Linux over Windows this time around.
- I wanted to see what a modern Linux system was like.
- I wanted some experience at using Linux. (Never say “never”! It may come in handy!)
- It was free! (as in “free beer”)
I have already discovered that “free” as in “free speech” is not always what you will want. For those of you still in Microsoft land, Ubuntu features a package manager that allows you to install software through a nice GUI. Simply search a list of applications, choose the one you want and allow the magic to happen! (Using the power of the Internet to update this list and retrieve the packages)
This is great, but it favours installations that “do not restrict your rights”. After using Windows and software that features the words “All Rights Reserved”, I don’t really care! “Free beer” still means more to me than “free speech”. Well, when it relates to software, at any rate!
I wanted to use the Eclipse IDE on this system, which meant I needed a Java Runtime Environment installed. The package manager will default to using an Open Source version. It turns out that this does cause Eclipse to have a few head-aches and it is better to get the “original” from Sun. This too is possible – it is just not the default behaviour of the package manager.
For those of you contemplating trying Linux, Ubuntu does have a classy offering. As long as you get to the point of having Internet connectivity, you should not get too stuck! The biggest thing I have noted is how often you will turn to editing configuration files and using a “terminal window” to perform operations on the system.
The internet appears to have answers to the most commonly asked questions such as, “How do I turn off the annoying system beep?” . I am sure earlier versions featured a way to do this from the desktop window, but these days, it is time to modify those configuration files! Times such as this help remind me that there is nothing like a foreign operating system to remind you how narrow your knowledge of computers may be. Wish me luck!