Linux to the rescue (kinda, sorta)

Posted: April 17, 2010 in Website
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Ubuntu wordmark official
Image via Wikipedia

As with everything else, comedy has migrated to the World Wide Web: videos, blogs, podcasts, etc., etc. Comedians are using social media to promote themselves, Twitter to broadcast one liners and so on. With the Internet a lifeline to the outside world, the thought of losing that connection makes me queasy. In my case, my connection is an aging IBM ThinkPad T42 laptop. This raises the possibility that the ThinkPad might die on me and I might have to replace it, which would mean I would lose momentum while I scraped together enough money for a replacement.

Actually, I have another computer which did go south, a Dell Latitude C600 laptop. This wheezing wonder with a 750 MHZ Pentium III, 256K ram, a 20 gig hard drive and Windows XP was surprisingly capable despite its limitations. I was able to do do a lot of volunteering for the Obama campaign through this machine, most notably making thousands of phone calls on Skype during the primaries and the general election. It took a long time to boot and did a lot of disk thrashing because it used the hard drive for virtual memory but it got the job done, albeit slowly. Early in the year I had it, the external sound went out. Like a trouper, it managed to hang on until after Obama got elected.

What felled it wasn’t hardware but software. I installed a free anti-virus program and apparently pressed the wrong button. Afterwards, the program always stalled out while trying to boot. Unfortunately, the Dell was a refurb without Windows reinstallation disks I got from a local computer store. If I’d known enough, what I would have done is buy Acronis True Image first thing and an external drive. That way, I could have backed up the fresh copy of Windows XP before I installed all the bells and whistles that brought it low. Live and learn.

Only sometimes you don’t. In January of 2009, I replaced it with the ThinkPad, once again without reinstallation disks. By then, I had an external drive and Acronis but didn’t think to back up a fresh copy. I may be slow but I’m not stupid. Next time, if I get a refurb, it will be with reinstallation disks or I will back up a mint OS with Acronis. I’ve found a friendlier local dealer who actually seems to want people’s business (Adam Bell of ALBTech of Richmond, VA).

That brings me around to  more than a year on clock for the ThinkPad and uneasily contemplating that it might be time for another meltdown, whether hardware or software. I was reading an article on about recovering documents from a machine that won’t boot Windows. One strategem they mentioned was booting from a Ubuntu Linux live CD. It was then that a light clicked on in my head. Why not install Ubuntu on the Dell? That way, I would have a back-up computer I could use until I got another Windows machine if the ThinkPad gave up the ghost.

I downloaded and burned a copy of Ubuntu and installed it without a hitch although it took a long time to install. Wonder of wonders, the sound started working again. Ubuntu was even able to download a driver for my Linksys WiFi card. Although I was able to find a driver for my Epson inkjet printer, it doesn’t work with the scanner. The only real fly in the ointment was the screen resolution was now at 800×600. It took about a week  or two of rooting around on the Internet to find a solution which bumped the resolution up to 1024×768. About a week after I installed Ubuntu, I ran into a kernel panic, the equivalent of the Windows blue screen of death, after a week but I haven’t had any problems since then. There have been several updates to the OS since, an easy process, and I haven’t had any problems since.

Ubuntu boots in about a minute compared to Windows XP on the Dell which took 20 minutes if not longer. However, it can’t turn a frog into a prince. Streaming video is jerky and Netflix Watch Instantly probably still wouldn’t work. The processor and disk are simply not up to the task.

The software you can download though Ubuntu is free. This includes the usual suspects such as Open Office and the GIMP. I haven’t found a video editor worth using in Linux but I will admit I haven’t tried that hard. The variety of software available through Windows isn’t there in Linux. The amount of features and polish isn’t what you get in Windows. I haven’t found the equivalent of Serif Publisher, Magix Audio Cleaning Lab or SoundSoap.

My verdict: if you have a brand-name desktop or laptop lying around that can’t be upgraded to Windows 7, you may want to give Ubuntu a try. I’m not sure I would want to use Ubuntu as my main computer operating system, though. As an alternative,  a backup or a glorified MP3 player, it works just fine.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s