14 May 2012


About a week ago, I switched from Windows XP to a Linux distribution, Ubuntu.  I promise: this will be the only post I make on the subject.  People who drone on about their operating system are a public health hazard.

My little netbook was cheap, because I only wanted a minimal system that could do some basic things.  I don't run any resource-heavy programs or games, so why spend more money than necessary?  Unfortunately, there was one serious flaw I'd overlooked: because it didn't have an optical drive, it didn't come with a copy of Windows.  That meant that I couldn't ever re-install Windows.  And because even the stable and certain Windows XP eventually accumulates little errors and orphaned .dll files and whatnot, that meant that my computer's performance was doomed to a steady downward arc.  Careful maintenance - defragmenting and cleaning up - could delay the problem, but some problems can only be solved by a fresh install.  True techies can slow this decay, but I am just a humanities major.  Doom was approaching.

I depend on my computer.  I need it to write my thesis, access PDFs of articles, communicate, and assign grades to students.  So while I was very hesitant to make any major changes (what if everything goes wrong?!), neither could I just sit back and wait until the moment when a fatal error took down my graphics card and bricked the damn thing.

Last week, I got fed up waiting for the grindingly slow CPU, bogged down with two years' worth of detritus.  I decided the time had come to make a change.  I was going to move to Linux.

Linux is a free, open-source operating system that is widely popular among the technically-inclined thanks to its small footprint, low demands on resources, and famous stability.  Particularly over the last few years, several distributions (versions of Linux) had become popular for their ease-of-use.  The most formidable hurdle to any possible consumer of the system has always been the technical expertise required to manage Linux.  Because it's so customizable and modular, you have to be able to do a lot of the footwork necessary to get the programs and results you require.  Generally speaking, a grandmother could not sit down and get to work on Linux, as she might be able to do with Windows or Mac.

But times have changed, and one distribution in particular, Ubuntu, was widely reputed to be easy for novices to manage.  So one evening I backed up all of my documents, books, videos, and music onto an external hard drive, downloaded Ubuntu onto a thumb drive, and made the leap.

I was in unfamiliar territory.  Things were installing and widgets were popping up and all kinds of things were blinking.  The update manager was spinning and downloading and my accounts were syncing and basically stuff got out of control.  It wasn't until three hours later that my computer was updated and settled, with all my files migrated and everything working.

Since then, however, I've been very pleased.  Learning to use the terminal, the powerful command-line interface, has been the biggest challenge of all.  Most everything else has been fairly simple.  The programs I use (Skype, Calibre, VLC, and Chrome) all have Linux equivalents that work better than their Windows versions.  And my computer no longer grinds to a halt when I have more than one application working.  I have even learned a handful of new coding phrases to customize my new desktop.

All in all, it's been a smart move.  If you're in the same predicament, you should consider making the switch to Ubuntu or another distribution today.  Linux is ready for prime-time.


  1. Hey can you send me a screenshot of the "Blue Screen of Death."

  2. Which BSoD do you want? There are many. Take your pick from here: