I am, as you are well aware, a geek. One of my favorite things to geek out about is open-source software. I first got a whiff of it when I switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox all those years ago. Not long afterwards, I started using an open-source alternative to the then-ubiquitous AOL Instant Messenger to avoid the same things I’d been plagued by with IE: viruses and ads. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been following the games that are reviewed by guys at bytejacker, many of which find their way onto my hard drive and get played quite a bit. Not all of those games are free, but they’re usually developed in the same spirit of most GNU-licensed software. And then, of course, there’s NP1′s switch to WordPress this past winter.
One of the major purveyors of the free software movement is Linux. Please don’t ask me to explain it in depth, but Linux is essentially an alternative type of operating system. Instead of running Windows or Mac OS, you can run any number of perfectly functional and stable systems that are based on the Linux kernel, and in turn, there’s plenty of free, community-developed software to go with it. You don’t have to pay for it. How much did you pay to upgrade to Windows 7 or Snow Leopard? Sure, they’re good operating systems, but think about it… you’re not really using the OS, you’re using the programs. After trying to reformat my Dell Laptop for the second time in its lifespan, and somehow failing to get it into its previous operational condition, I decided to install Ubuntu, a very popular Linux OS. Now I’m starting to wonder if there’s any real need for a closed-source OS ever again.
Okay, that’s a stretch. There are a few programs here and there (especially video editors and games) that I’ll need a Windows partition to use, but for regular computer use, Ubuntu is a very nifty package. For one, you can try it before you actually install it by booting an Ubuntu environment from a CD or a USB flash drive. From there you can test stuff out and see if it’s right for you. The basic desktop distribution is great, and I’m currently running the “netbook remix” on the laptop. I can’t for the life of me get the netbook to actually boot from the USB, though, and I’m desperately trying to find a work-around. And before you comment on this post, yes, I know how to change the boot order in the BIOS. Not working.
My favorite stuff about using this OS so far: It boots and shuts down fast. It runs very smoothly. Not much need for looking for drivers; most devices just work under Ubuntu. I did, however, have to plug directly into the router to get wireless drivers. Also, there’s plenty of open-source solutions to mainstream programs, such as OpenOffice and the Rhythmbox player, which runs all of my music (even the ones with that weird iTunes codec, except iTunes Store tracks).
Not so favorite stuff: Not much in the way of great video editing software, or games, although I’m sure there’s Windows emulators for that sort of thing. And, um… that’s about it.
I suggest giving Ubuntu a try. Just try the Live CD out and see what you think. You might not become a believer immediately, but if your computer crashes on you or something, you might do yourself a huge favor by just making the switch.
Note: I’m using Google Chrome to browse the web these days, as Firefox tends to slow down the more you use it. I’m quite looking forward to the Chrome OS, whenever that comes out, whether Google wants to charge to use it or not.