Monday, February 20, 2006

Going Free

It's been awhile since I last posted, mostly because I had to give the Powerbook back for the contract I was on, at which point, my personal laptop then up and died right thereafter. I've been contemplating buying another Mac, specifically, the MacBook Pro, but they've now been pushed back another 4 weeks. This works well because I didn't really have it in my budget right now to plop down another $2000+ on a system.

In the meantime, I've had a friend lend me an older Dell laptop, which I've now installed Ubuntu Linux. I have to say, I'm finding Ubuntu to fit my needs quite well. The only program that I truly miss is Microsoft Visio, but I didn't really have that on the Mac, either. I've download DIA, and have the Draw program that comes with Open Office, and I intend to give each of them the full run through, perhaps create some wireframe stencils for whichever one I find I prefer. Still, if I'm only missing 1 application from the Windows World, I think I'm doing pretty good. If I were doing full-time I/A work, I might find it a bit more difficult to concede on Visio, but I'm not right now, and I find Ubuntu is great for development and simple productivity apps.

Things I enjoy about Ubuntu:

  • Apt-Get and the Synaptic Package Manager. I've always wanted a nice, user-friendly version of Linux based on the Debian distro, primarily because I knew Apt-Get was the friendliest package manager for linux, and installing new apps on Linux is one of the areas that I always have had problems.
  • It behaves almost exactly like a slightly degraded version of OS X. Infact, it seems the Ubuntu crew borrows liberally from the Apple folks. There's a couple of small things that need to be fixed, primarily a short-cut / Windows key combinations, but they're somewhat minor, and I can forgive them given that the software is completely free.
  • Regular updates. There's a new version of Ubuntu out, roughly speaking, every 6 months. Given that I'm new to the system, I don't know how significant these updates are, but the committment to activity means I'm more comfortable adopting it knowing that they're working on bugs.
  • Plug and play, easy install. Installing Ubuntu was one of the easiest OS's I've ever installed, and quick, too. The only snag I ran into was buying a Linksys 802.11G wireless card. It wouldn't work, and I had to go with Netgear, which worked out great.
  • Ruby, and Rails, were both dead simple to install, and I'm back up and working on some personal content management projects with some software I had started on before my laptop took a dive.

Also, while I don't particularly care for the 'look and feel' of Open Office Writer, the Spreadsheet app in Open Office is generally good. And I've recently started using Writely to do most of my word processing (fantastic app!). All in all, I'm very happy with Ubuntu, and it's getting to the point where paying $2000 for a MacBook seems a little insane now that I've got a decent GUI wrapped around a linux distro, and it's not costing me a dime.

Mmmmm... Check it out .