Ubuntu Linux

It’s always been my opinion that you can’t really be “good” at computers if all you know is Windows. So when a co-worker suggested that I try out a Linux distribution called “Ubuntu” I was a little intrigued.

I’ve never used Linux. I haven’t really used anything since OSX for personal use since getting my Powerbook. Sure, once in a while I’ll drag out my old computer and browse around on the XP installation, but that happens rarely. The last time I had it hooked up for more than a day was about a year ago so that I could play Silent Hill 3 on it.

Still, regardless of the ugly beige box, having it in the closet is like packing away computing potential. I KNOW that there’s something I could do with that system, but what? A media server? I could use it for games…but that’s why I have an Xbox. Plus, it was top notch for games 4 years ago. Nowadays, not so much. What can I do with a spare PC?

I was thinking of installing Ubuntu Linux on it this weekend. I went online to see what the latest versions are and noticed that they actually have PowerPC builds.

That’s right. You can run Linux on your Mac and you don’t even have to pay (unlike with Yellow Dog Linux).

The cool thing about Ubuntu is that there are “Live” CD images available for download. What this means is that if you want to audition Ubuntu you can simply boot from a CD. Granted, it’s not as fast as an install, but it should give you the gist of it.

First thing…it’s not nearly as pretty as XP or OSX, but I suppose that you don’t run Linux for its looks. I had a problem trying to get it to recognize my airport card, so I took my laptop over and hooked it directly to the router. After some more fiddling around, a reboot, and more fiddling around with network settings (DHCP wasn’t working), I was able to get online with it with Firefox and Gaim. The other thing…no ctrl clicking, so contextual menus were gone for me. I couldn’t figure out how to do the Linux equivalent.

Both programs are basically identical to their Windows counterparts, with the obvious exception of the OS aesthetics. However, what struck me more was the fact that a fresh install comes complete with USEFUL SOFTWARE. The Openoffice suite is there, a BitTorrent client is there, a bunch of card games are there, audio players (with FLAC and OGG support) is there (which apparently supports iPods too).

I get it now.

A good Linux install can be a great basic budget PC. Right off a fresh install you’ve got Firefox for you web browsing, Thunderbird for email, various drawing and graphic editing programs, Openoffice for all your documents…the list goes on. The only downside is that you can’t really give these budget systems to clueless people. They wouldn’t have a number for tech support, they’d have a messageboard. They’d have no recourse for software failures. If something breaks, you (or whoever installed it) will be the one they call to get things fixed. Sure, that’s how it is now, but fixing things may not be as easy as doing a simple “archive and install” from a CD.

Yet, the amount of free software is amazing. Just in music production there are drum machines, midi sequencers, live video programs…all open source and free.

Linux may not be as polished as Windows or the Mac OS, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in out of the box (or disk image) functionality.

Now…any suggestions on what to do with that spare PC (donating it is a LAST RESORT).