I have been dual booting between Windows and Ubuntu (9.10 Karmic Linux) for a month now. Well, on Friday of last week I decided that I had managed to get all of the features that I use on a daily basis in Windows to work on Ubuntu. And, I took the plunge in to a 100% Windows Free Environment!
Now, a little bit of background first. I come from a very rich Microsoft background. I've worked with Microsoft in the past on several projects and with many teams on the Redmond campus. I love the operating system; past and present. In fact we have Vista, XP & 7 installed on 4 other boxes here in the office. So, please don't misinterpret this as a MS-Bashing, Gates hating blog post. I choose to reserve that type of verbal attack for Apple products!
So, on Friday morning I popped the Ubuntu ISO DVD in to the drive and waited for the partitioning screen to appear. It was my last chance to back out as my finger hovered over "Use Entire Disk" option. Click! And, 15 minutes later I'm staring at a fresh, newly installed Ubuntu desktop.
Making Linux Productive For Me
Installing the applications I normally use was not an issue as I had taken note of any problems I faced installing them while I was still dual booting between the operating systems. Xchat IRC client, Evolution (Email), Firefox (Web Browser), RSS Feed, Open Office (MS Office Alternative), TweetDeck (Twitter/Facebook) are just a few of the applications that I use every day. A couple of the applications I listed are pre-installed with most flavors of Linux. The only application that gave me a little trouble was TweetDeck which required that Kwallet Manager be installed and configured. Thanks to a very helpful Ubuntu Linux community, TweetDeck was up and running quickly.
The next challenge.. Games.
Games, Cedega And Wine! Oh My!
There are very few big name games ported out to the Linux platform. This is understandable. The user base is more comparative to the number of Apple users out there these days. So, the cost to develop a game for Linux, or Mac OSX for that matter, is not really cost effective for a game producer.
Second Life has a beta Linux viewer for its game. It installed seamlessly. The only issues I ran in to were known problems. It is still in Beta after all. These include: Force Quit in order to shut down the game & various sound oddities. Otherwise, the game runs smoother on my Ubuntu system than it did in Windows 7 64 bit.
I absolutely love PokerStars! And, I feared that the game probably wouldn't run well or at all on my new baby Linux system. The solution? Cedega. Cedega is a Windows emulator designed to run native Windows games and applications in a Linux environment. There is a small fee to use this service however. But, at only $25 for a 6 month subscription it is well worth the money spent. Now, for those familiar with Linux; this is not a replacement for Wine. There are some games that will only run in Wine and others that run better or exclusively in Cedega. I crossed my fingers started the PokerStars installation. Voila! I don't think that the PokerStars client had any clue that it was running in a Linux environment! It certainly didn't behave like it! Smooth as ice on this years' Florida orange crops!
Free Realms was quite a challenge! In fact, it required that I dust off some long forgotten Linux finesse to finally get it working. For those interested in running Free Realms in Linux there is a fabulous walk through over at WineHQ. Click Here to see the article.
Free Realms is a browser based game only supported by the Internet Explorer and FireFox browsers but only in Windows. So, the trick is to get the Windows FireFox client installed in Wine and update a few lines in the Registry. It is also heavily dependent on the Adobe Flash add-on. But, there are guides for getting Flash installed all over the Internet.
EverQuest II And Star Wars Galaxies
Although my subscription for EverQuest II and Star Wars Galaxies expire at the end of this month, I was still curious if I could get these games installed.
The result was failure. Epic failure in fact. I tried installing in Wine, Cedega, from the CD/DVD disks. I searched the good old InterWebs for an answer but, none of the dozens of solutions seemed to work for me. After, about two hours of beating my head against the desk and approximately seven beers, I gave up hope. Obiwan will be displeased with me.
Eve Online seemed to almost install itself in Cedega. So, there was no need to attempt to install it in Wine.
Guild Wars was a nightmare to install in Wine. So, I tried it in Cedega and it installed fine. However, I'm still battling with an issue with it hijacking my desktop after it launches. I've seen several solutions for this problem out there, but have only attempted a couple of them so far. I was running short on time as my master plan was to be up and running at 100% productivity inside of 24 hours. So, I've decided to postpone my efforts to get Guild Wars running for another time.
The Natives Are A Peaceful Bunch!
The native Linux games work as designed. And, I was surprised at the number high quality games that are available today for the Linux platform. Literally thousands of games of all genres. FPS, RPG, Classic and Racing just to name a few. This is quite a change compared to the last time I visited the Land of Linux back in 1997 when we had our choice of a few good XWindows games and a handful of ascii based RPGs. Impressive! But, that's to be expected from an Open Source community made of up of millions of enthusiastic developers whose only motivation is to improve the platform.
Me, Windows, Linux And The Future
Can I say that I will continue to use Ubuntu for the rest of my living breathing days? No. But, at this point in time, I have no reason to rush back to Windows as others have done when experimenting with the Linux environment.
Linux is not for novice or casual computer user. Especially if you are also a gamer or rely heavily on Microsoft products for your work. Open Office is a great solution, however expect some inconsistencies with document compatibility, primarily formatting.
Linux is also not for the impatient or those with no desire to do a little research and learn new things. A basic knowledge of the Linux file structure and many of the command line lingo is mandatory. You can slide by for a while by just copying and pasting commands from other websites and forums. But, if you don't have even a vague idea of what you're telling your operating system to do when you hit Enter on your keyboard, you are really asking for trouble. Backing out of a change to your Linux OS is not as simple as hitting "Last Known Good Configuration" after you reboot your computer. In fact, there are many occasions that you will find it easier to reinstall the OS from scratch rather than figure out how to back out of the bears' cave you just crawled in to.
Adopt A Linux Buddy
I have a friend who I worked with back in the 90s who introduced me to Unix/Linux and I still keep in touch with him via Facebook. He has been, and always will be, my Linux Guardian Angel. I am comfortable in an exclusive Linux environment knowing that he's just a chat window or private message/email away no matter how much trouble I get myself in to.
You should get a Linux Buddy too! Exploring Linux for the first time without a helping hand is as dangerous as taking tap dance lessons in an Iraqi mine field. Sure, there are millions of faceless, nameless folks out there on the Internet who are eager to help you at your darkest Linux moment. But, these people also aren't accountable for what they tell you to do to your computer. And, just like all Internet communities, Windows, Apple or otherwise, there are also people out there who find entertainment in instructing clueless people to do stupid things to their computers.
Linux Gaming Down The Road
As I had mentioned earlier, Linux has evolved at an unbelievable rate since I last dabbled with it. That includes Gaming. With the introduction of Cedega and the constantly improving Wine windows emulators, gaming on a Linux system is no longer a disappointing experience.
With the right resources and a lot of patience, there are very few games that you can not run in Linux. And, for those games which are currently unplayable on Linux, there are many people out there working daily to overcome those obstacles. I have faith that one day in the very near future, there will be no application for windows that can't be run on any flavor of Linux.
If you are happy with Widows or Mac OSX operating systems, then there is no reason to consider Linux besides perhaps curiosity.
I will never abandon Windows completely in my office or household. For the time being though, I am completely content with Ubuntu Linux on my primary computer. I have lost nothing in the transition that I can't live/work without.
Should I ever find myself in a situation in which I absolutely can not complete a task without a Windows computer, I have several computers within arms reach of my desk.
So, until next time.. from my Linux Terminal Console I bid you farewell!
spyderbite@STFU:~$ shutdown -h now