Geeking out with Ubuntu

YellingSince Windows took such a massive, continent spanning shit on everyone with the release of Vista (which actually has a few redeeming features if you happen to have kids and don’t plan on owning any other hardware or software) and is punishing those consumers who want to use a better working, more accepted and easier to support OS in XP, and the fact that I’m neither a Liberal Arts graduate who works for half-minimum wage and tips at the local coffee shop to support the massive battery of antiseptic salves I have to apply to multiple festering facial piercings nor am I a overly pretentious ass-bag in a new Beetle, gently weeping through a Botoxed smile at the loss of my youthful hairline, I certainly won’t be using a Mac anytime soon and I’m getting pretty sure I’ll be moving on from Windows.

This leaves the vast Pantheon of *NIX based operating systems, a veritable buffet of usability issues, incompatibility issues, driver issues and rival fanboyism that has actually prompted flame wars and threats which have led to scrawny, sallow nerds leaving their comfortable desk chairs to spend whole minutes punching bags of frozen Tyson chicken tenders in a montage of Rocky-esque battle training that was about as incredible as it sounds, which is to say, not very.

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I opted for the KISS rule, which can mean Keep It Simple Stupid or Kangaroo Icicle Stagnant Suture, depending on how much acid you ate earlier. I wanted something that was easy to install, supported my hardware and had plenty of geekier-than-thou (or in this case, geekier-than-me) and brilliant bloggers and forum-posters. I wanted something that had the weight of a massive user base and cutting edge marketing behind it to pressure hardware and software developers to create native versions of software and drivers. I wanted Linux XP.

What I got was Ubuntu. The Hardy Heron variety, a naming convention which would strike me as Macintoshy if the Mac douches hadn’t stolen it from the *NIX guys who’ve been naming things weirdly since day one.

Let me give you the abridged version of getting this to work:

Holy shit, this sucks ass, my WIFI won’t work! Oh cool, this rocks. Oh shit, this sucks, why won’t my windows spin in 3D? Aw shit, my printer is supported by won’t load the driver. Damn. Damn damn damn.

1 day later:

I’m connecting from my work Windows computer, through Logmein, to XP, which is running on Virtualbox on my machine under Ubuntu. I am then connecting through VNC on the XP virtual machine to the Ubuntu Host, where I am watching a choppy World of Warcraft which is running on Wine (and still getting great framerates).

That is just fucking awesome.

We’re finally getting to a distro that’s less like a ball of duct tape and twine and more like an Erector Set or LEGO pack.

Like a lot of kids back in the day, I liked building kits, crystal radios, chemistry sets and such. Loved them actually. I did not, in any way shape or form, actually want to be, at 12, an engineer, chemist or architect. I did want to build something kick-ass or turn litmus paper a different color and then make it explode into green fire (it never did). There were well documented books with experiments and structural plans. I could modify those plans and come up with my own. I could, quite possibly, (and did) mix some chemicals together which could release a toxic gas cloud, but there weren’t enough chemicals included to make anyone sick.

This is what I need from Linux and what Ubuntu is starting to look like.

  • I don’t want to know how, why or when to compile a kernal. I don’t want to have to go through and manually update every program and dependency to get something to work. Give me a panel and a button and check that crap for me.
  • There’s enough power to destroy the whole shebang. Even if you aren’t clueless, a simple oopsie as root can seriously mess up any *NIX installation, and if you are clueless good luck fixing or even figuring out what you did. Fortunately with the latest Ubuntu, there are enough safeguards to make it hard for your cat to wipe the whole system by walking on the keyboard.
  • It’s not like Vista, which is so draconian and deliberately incompatible it’s like M$ took Apple’s ‘brick-any-third-party-crap’ philosophy and a bloated GUI concept and asked a group of coders who’d been in a drug-induced coma for the last 15 years to make it work before allowing evil zombie snake-shark mutants to come up with the pricing plan. Ubuntu is free and lets you change pretty much anything, and there’s a lot of cool and free things to try.
  • There a lot – a lot – of supporty forums, blogs and books. I mean like a lot. A simple google search reveals there are more opinions on ways to do even simple things in Ubuntu than there are human beings who have ever lived. This proves that the world is either hollow and filled with Ubuntu forum posters or that most geeks have multiple personalities. The point is, there are hundreds of pages of help for any single problem you may encounter, most of which are the same 10 people claiming they’re new to Ubuntu (and seemingly have been for a few years now), four hundred ways to do the same thing using different commands in the CLI, eight hundred pages of people swearing what you want to do is impossible and one page with an actually coherent and brilliant tutorial that (almost) works perfectly.

I’ll be leaving my dual boot up for now, because there’s still things that I can’t do, and if one of my cats does somehow wipe my system I won’t be totally screwed, but I’m going to give Ubuntu a shot – it’s getting good: generally easy to install (except for the damn wireless every goddamn time I install it), tons of support, that same feeling of exploration and invention you got when, as a kid, you found a new path in the woods or opened up the case on your first broken radio. The double-edged-sword of Linux is that you need good drivers and native games to attract users, but you can’t attract users without good drivers and native games. This rather obvious drivel has been pointed out for a long, long time. Between VirtualBox, Wine and a great marketing campaign, Ubuntu seems to be pushing through some of those preconceptions and gaining a lot of clout and momentum. Hopefully a little competition will keep the big ‘uns honest and inexpensive and help Ubuntu develop into the kind of clunky, oversimplified behemoth that we’ve all come to expect in an Operating System.

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