10 November 2007

A first-timer's travails with Ubuntu

My column for this week's issue of Vox Bikol.

ABOUT a month ago, my aging notebook PC was waylaid by a worm called Brontok that skipped past the defenses of my otherwise reliable antivirus AVG. To make the story short, I had to move all my data files to a secondary drive, reformat my primary drive where Windows XP is installed to snuff out Brontok, and install a new copy of the operating system.

I wrote an entry about that experience in my weblog, and it attracted a number of comments. Some suggested a superior antivirus software, which I eventually did; Maryanne Moll and Dominique Cimafranca, alumni of the prestigious Silliman writers conference, on the other hand suggested something else -- abandoning the virus-prone Windows for Apple and Ubuntu, respectively.

Now, a Mac -- which I understand is the preferred weapon of choice by artists -- would be fantastic, except that a new laptop is out of the question these days. Much of my salary have already been “obligated” -- to borrow the language of a budget guy like City Administrator Frank Mendoza who doubles as acting budget officer of the Naga City government.

That left me with Ubuntu -- which claims to be “the Linux for humans -- as the other fallback. Which is not exactly a hard choice to make, as I happen to believe in the open-source paradigm.

Taking away the part which had me backing up my files into another hard drive, and clearing enough space to allow a dual-boot system on a my 40-GB hard disk, installing Ubuntu actually was quite seamless and painless. Well, I have to qualify that “painless” part: it was so with my laptop but not the office desktop which I used as guinea pig the first time around last Thursday.
The relatively old desktop, powered by a first-generation AMD Sempron processor, appeared to have hit a blank wall when the installation progress bar hit 84%. So I cancelled the entire thing, and ended messing it up -- and the Windows XP system already in place. So I had to reinstall XP, and Ubuntu after that, and a little patience eventually paid dividends because for one reason or another, it is able to read even the partitions containing the Windows system.

The version I had working right now is the so-called “Dapper Drake,” and its interface and stability certainly gives Windows XP -- and come to think of it, even Apple -- a run for its money. And it had everything the office needs mostly to get its job done: the OpenOffice suite that handles its Microsoft counterpart with aplomb, and more because of its capability to save documents in PDF format; as well as the Firefox browser, which is superior to the Apple Safari for Windows Beta that I have also been trying.

Unfortunately, Ubuntu remains hampered by Windows' tremendous edge in third-party support. For instance, the Konica Minolta laser printer I am using is unsupported. And so is the onboard Conexant-made modem of my laptop. (I will have to shell out $20 to download a fully functional driver file.) Which is why on my first day of using Ubuntu, I am writing this piece in OpenOffice Writer and will save it on my flash drive. But once done, I switch it off and go back to my good old virus-prone Windows XP so that I will be able to log on to the internet and email it to May France, who is already laying out this issue.

I guess this dual-boot scheme will be staying on with me for quite some time.

6 comments:

mschumey07 said...

You're the second blogger that have have praised this OS. I'll try this on the new PC I'm building.

jessie said...

Nice! You might want to try the latest release 'Gutsy Gibbon'. There's a lot of new cool features including a new printing service. Most printers can now be plugged in and Ubuntu will automatically set up the printer :)

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

May installer kan kang Gutsy, Master Jessie?:)

I've been checking and found out that Dell has released free driver files for its Linux laptops with Conexant modems. In fact, I installed it only to find out that it requires a newer kernel (Gutsy?).

But I have doubts about my Konica Minolta laser printer. It seems to be unsupported still.

Dominique said...

Cool! A convert!

Send me your mailing address via email and I'll send you a 7.10 CD. Printer support should be much better.

As of 7.04 (which I am using right now), Konica Minolta Magicolor 2490MF and 2530DL seem to be supported.

ThePurpleSeal said...

Hi there,

Just incase it is of any interest to you, a while back i came across a british labels company who sold me a batch of laser labels for a really low price. If you are at all interested then it may be worth taking a look at their website.

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