You Want to Ubuntu

So, I will lose most of you within the first ten seconds of this post. Bear with me. Hopefully I will make it all make sense and even interesting for those who don’t get this stuff.

A long time ago (about 7 years) I needed a new computer. My old one died a slow death. It was a Windows 98 machine that I had upgraded from Windows 95 and had an extra hard drive that was once Windows 3.1. I had the blue screen of death once a day, at least. I had to reinstall completely every other week. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Then one evening it did. IT gave up the ghost and no amount of reformatting or reinstallation could save it.

We did some research and found that we could not afford a new machine with the then new Windows XP. I needed a new machine NOW. Up until then my machines were my husband’s old ones as he upgraded for work. We were a long way from time for a work upgrade. So, after some research and some calls to my husband’s best friend who worked for Red Hat Linux we bought a cheap computer sans OS (no Windows or any other operating system installed) and downloaded Red Hat Linux. After jumping through a lot of hoops I got it working and started searching for programs that would work with it. The open source community was pretty big at the time and there were a lot of programs out there but they were for all sorts of different flavors and it was tricky to figure out what would work with mine.

Open Source was also littered with super geeks who couldn’t be bothered to translate geek speak into plain old English. I had a basic working knowledge of computers (more than the average female but not super geek material). These guys (yes, mostly guys) had a habit of either talking only of the simple stuff I got or of talking way over my head. (And you know with dyslexia working on the command line –think MS DOS –the black screen with the C> and the little blinking cursor, things got really hairy.)

After a year of constantly fighting to install useful programs (and being successful for the most part, not to mention not having a single crash!!) I gave up and bought Windows XP which was finally more in my price range and which was known by then for hardly crashing at all. I did this mostly for the kids’ sake. I had everything I wanted to be able to use but they couldn’t use their games. I was very happy with XP and recommended it to others, installing it on many machines that I had been called upon to fix over and over again.

Now Microsoft has launched an attack on computers again. After the recent updates I had noticed that suddenly Firefox started to crash as did my other non-Microsoft programs. I use MOSTLY non-Microsoft programs because I am anti-monopoly and Microsoft is pro-monopoly. After having it get worse each update and knowing that Microsoft has used automatic updates to take down competitors software before I turned off automatic updates and began looking at my options.

I have been keeping a sharp eye on the open source community since way back when I was part of it and use mostly open-source programs--if you need info on free programs to make your computer happy let me know, I have a slew from anti-virus to games, from ftp programs to email and RSS readers. I used to be one of the few females who read and commented on /. though I gave up that habit when things got nasty–I should note that there are many more females in the field now who know much more than I do about all this.

Recently I have had my eye on Ubuntu–a Linux-based open source, completely free OS (the thing that RUNS your computer and makes everything play nice together.) As I type I am downloading Ubuntu to install on one of the kids’ machines. The machine I will install it on is the one they use to get online using Mozilla software so they will not be losing any functionality and should actually gain quite a bit. I plan to make this a kid friendly operation, and am also testing it out for myself as it is likely that when I get a new computer I will NOT be getting Vista and if all goes well will be moving to Linux completely.

From an educational viewpoint this has wonderful implications. My kids already know quite a bit about computers. They have helped build them and have installed all sorts of programs. They know about Microsoft and open source. This will be taking it to the next level. If Ubuntu lives up to the reviews it should be a good learning experience for all and I plan to keep you all updated.