Maybe It’s Time?

So, yesterday was Tuesday.  That means that I reboot this computer so that it runs Windows.  It’s the day I let things run to see if there are any updates that need to be applied for security reasons.  I also take the opportunity to let the computer run for a while and do a defrag of the hard drive, a virus scan, and a malware scan.  If I’m ready, I’ll also use Live Writer to at least start a blog post.  Mostly though, I’ll sit and wait for the computer to be responsive to my clicks and taps.  Like every Windows computer I’ve ever owned, it initially works reasonably well until I uninstall the promotional software that comes with it and start to install the things that I actually want to use.  Then, it seems that I’m on a treadmill to find the combination that brings back that new computer performance.

I still remember my first experience with Ubuntu.  It was on the exhibit floor at the ISTE Conference in San Diego.  There was this gentleman who looked like George Carlin and he had a demo setup but no audience.  Ever the sucker for the lonely, I went over to chat and he gave me my first demonstration of Ubuntu.  It was so quick!   Then, generously, I got a demo/install CD-ROM to take home with me.  It actually made its way back to the hotel and I booted my laptop from the CD-ROM and ran it.  An operating system from a CD-ROM?  That was unheard of.  Even running from the CD-ROM, it was faster than what I was using.  All the functionality of things that I wanted was there.  There was a browser, an office suite, programming languages, and even some games.

Since that experience, every PC computer I’ve ever owned has had a version of Ubuntu on it available through dual boot.  It’s where I spend most of my time.  Since I live in a browser, it seems, it’s a no-brainer.  I seldom turn the computer off, opting instead to let it sleep at night so that it’s ready to do my bidding in the morning.

It’s also a week until Christmas.  Like many pathetic men, I took some time last night to drive into the city to walk the mall looking for some sort of divine inspiration for Christmas gifts.  In my travels, I was strangely drawn to the POS (Point of Sale) terminals that were in use.  There were some proprietary software solutions but many of the kiosks that pop up during the holiday season were running a Windows application attached to a printer to handle sales..  It was there that I was focussed.  So many of them were running Microsoft Windows XP.  At the same time, many of the students who were running the show were checking Facebook and doing other web things between sales.  (To the exclusion of their task at time … some folks were having problems getting their attention)

With the announcement of Microsoft dropping support for XP next year, I wondered how different things will be next year at this time.  Certainly, if the computer doesn’t fail, it should still run the software the same way that it does now.  If it does fail, or there’s an upgrade that excludes XP, where does the vendor turn?  Will the next move be to Windows 8?  Or, Windows 7?

Or, if you’re going to have to learn a new operating system anyway, is it time to give Ubuntu or some other Linux a serious look?

Maybe?  Maybe not?  I found this article interesting this morning.  “Linux laptops: should you avoid buying Windows?

Now, the article is from a British resource so many of the concepts are foreign to our current thinking.  Use your computer to convert the currency to Canadian (or US) dollars and then look for the computers at your favourite technology stores for a fair comparison.  The one thing that we don’t have, at present, is the ability to buy a laptop  computer without an operating system like the Novatech in the article.  At least around here, you need to accept either the Windows or Macintosh OS.  The ability to buy without an operating system really intrigues me.  Imagine a new computer without all of the demo software that comes with it!  Or, more importantly, the total choice to put your operating system of choice right from the beginning.  Install just what you need; not every bit of software that some engineer decided people might possibly ever use.  Or maybe even only the language of your choice?

I’m not naive enough to think that the computer world will change that quickly.  After all, Linux has been around for a long, long time and it hasn’t conquered things yet.  

However, I do remember the words of my Ubuntu introducer when I commented on how slickly it worked.  “It’s a shame that more people don’t at least give it a try.  We all think we know how a computer works.  But, do we know what else it could be?”

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4 Comments

  1. I installed Ubuntu again a few days ago on an unused laptop because of our conversations, Doug. That’s what I’m using to type this, listen to music, and keep up with TweetDeck. My work laptop isn’t burdened with any of that stuff right now, and that makes it much happier. I also like how my Wacom CTH460 works properly. :)
    I should also mention that the installation was quite painless, for those who are interested, and the software feels blessed familiar – no need to learn a wildly new interface!

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  2. Congratulations, Brandon. You should do a timed boot between machines and see how you fare. What interface are you using? Unity? Gnome? Or something else? I’ve found that there’s less and less reason for me to boot into Windows other than installing updates which seems like a pointless task but it does keep me off the streets.

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  3. I believe it’s Unity (the stock interface?). I’m not dual-booting; I did a single OS install. The machine is about 6 years old, so I don’t think it would be a fair comparison :)
    I do use other software for work that is Windows-only, and having two computers running lets me have a silly number of screens active. I tried running off USB first but probably needed a faster flash drive for it to be effective. I would like to get that happening, though, so that I can have a customized environment to work from when I’m elsewhere. I’m interested in Chromebooks as well, so we’ll see where that goes too.

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  4. Pingback: Thinking about technology investments | doug --- off the record

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