Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ubuntu Linux -vs- Windows Vista

I finally picked up my laptop computer yesterday from the Toshiba Authorized Service Provider. It was gone for two weeks. When I dropped it off they said it could take up to two weeks, but I never really believed it would take the full two weeks. It was a hard two weeks. Email, Twitter, two podcast episodes, everything I do on the computer on a regular basis, and I had to share my wife's computer for everything.
So I picked up my computer, with a new (blank) hard drive and a new system board installed. Like a fresh, clean start. And I thought, Hey, why not try to kick the Microsoft habit completely now and install Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows Vista? After all, I was starting with a clean hard drive. Even the Toshiba restore partition was wiped out (I could probably call Toshiba and get them to send me a restore disk, but what for -- so I could have loads of trial software on my computer?). So last night I was up past midnight installing Ubuntu Linux on my computer, getting the desktop to look just the way I wanted it, downloading the most recent version of Firefox, setting up some bookmarks -- pretty much just trying to make myself feel at home within Linux.
Today at work I tried to use the Linux media player RhythmBox to play some MP3 files. No luck. Seems that the MP3 codec is not included in the Ubuntu distribution. Must have something to do with the MP3 licensing requirements. I'm sure the coded is available somewhere online for download, but I never got to looking for it because I spent the entire evening tonight trying to get my Wireless card to work properly in Linux. I found several sites that had all of the necessary files and instructions to install and configure the drivers for my particular wireless card to work with Linux (it's an Intel card, and Intel actually supports Linux), but I couldn't find anyone that could tell me how to interpret what the directions were trying to say. There is no simple installer that you can double-click and just sit back while the system does the rest. Instead, you have download a .tar file (which, apparently, is a Linux archive file, similar to a .zip file), extract the files, then try to figure out where to put them. Then you have to key in several commands somewhere, blah, blah, blah -- if I knew what I was talking about, I wouldn't be talking about it because I would have been able to get it to work.
Instead, I'm typing this post once again on my wife's computer while Windows Vista reinstalls on mine. Yes, I'm a Linux failure. I admit it. I just don't have the time or the patience necessary to make Linux a viable alternative to Windows. I wanted so badly to make it work, because I really don't care much for Windows Vista. It's okay, but there are just so many little Microsoft-isms in it that make it not so user-friendly as I would like.
Unfortunately, with a new hard drive and a new system board, when my computer connects online to try to activate my copy of Windows Vista it will probably be rejected by Windows Genuine Advantage because it will appear to be a totally different computer with the same product key assigned to it. Hopefully, if that happens, a phone call to Microsoft will clear things up.
Sorry, Linus Torvald, and all you open-source developers out there. Ubuntu really looked cool, and sounded promising, but if you ever want to take it mainstream, you really have to come up with some simple way for users to install new applications without getting a PhD in technology first.

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