Find your comfort zone – an Ubuntu story

About six months ago I changed scene, job, country, (life?). In July – all of July as it turns out, since Dell Canada just isn’t the equivalent of Dell UK or Dell USA – I ordered and eventually received one of those lovely new Dell Inspiron laptops. Mine is red, so you know it’s got to be good 🙂 As well as being rather slow on delivery, Dell Canada is also behind the times on operating systems. It does not offer any machines with pre-installed Ubuntu. Instead it is Windows Vista for home machines, and Vista or XP for business machines. Thus, after many years using Ubuntu as my principal (and principled?) operating system for my work and much of my leisure, I found myself in possession of a brand new machine running Windows Vista.

And I’ve used it now for six months.

I’m actually not that fussy when it comes to software. (Readers of this blog may find that hard to believe.) If it works, and it meets my needs I’m generally satisfied. I find Vista to be about equal to XP, given my needs. Maybe it is better under the hood, but I don’t tend to get dirty with my operating system. If it runs OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, and Subversion, I’m pretty much sorted. The stealth tax licence fee for the operating system is just that, stealthy. If you don’t think about it too much, you barely notice it.

So why have I been so down in the mouth of late?

To be honest, I just miss Ubuntu. It was familiar, easy to understand, and, let’s be frank, fun! And hey, another Ubuntu version comes along every six months and it’s even more fun. There are some other reasons why I miss Ubuntu: I’m more comfortable working with subversion source code repositories in a Linux environment; there is lots of software that people recommend to me that does not run (easily) in Windows; I miss being visibly part of something good. And running Ubuntu in a VirtualMachine in Windows just doesn’t cut it.

When I’m out of sorts I tend to sit down and write lists. (Yes, I’m one of those guys!) Recently I was making a list of things that would make my life better, happier, right now, as we speak. And somewhat to my surprise switching back to Ubuntu was near the top. (There were other things, of course; computers are not my whole life after all 😉 ) And once I make a list, I find it immensely satisfying to start drawing lines through items completed. (I did say that I was one of those guys!) And thus, a day later, I am writing this post via an Ubuntu operating system.

Actually I now have a dual-boot laptop. It turns out this is now much easier to do than it was four years ago when I last had a dual-boot machine. Vista is remarkably sensible in recognizing that users may wish to have multiple operating systems. It supports shrinking of its own partition thus freeing up space for the alternate. Resizing a Windows partition used to be a real hassle, but this took all of 1 minute. In the 12 GB available I installed Ubuntu 7.10. And it all works 🙂 An added bonus is that this version appears to play nicely with my .odf documents residing on my NTFS partition: I can use them, edit them, and save to that partition, thus removing the need for a shared FAT partition (at least that’s my impression so far).

Using Ubuntu won’t really change my life. After all, I will still be using OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, and Subversion. There is probably even no way for you to tell what operating system I was in when I wrote this. But I know. And that’s enough. I’m back in my comfort zone and the future looks bright.

Posted in foss.


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