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Coming Around on Linux

By TNT@support ·
I've played with a lot of operating systems over the years, from the ancient MS/DR DOS and Win 3.11, OS2 and the original Mac OS to more modern flavors of Windows, OS X and even Linux. Linux has always appealed to me in theory, but it never lived up to what I expected. Until now.

Like many geeks, I picked up a cheap netbook to play around with. It came with Windows XP, which was fine for a while but it's showing its age and I wanted something modern. I threw on a copy of Windows 7 Starter edition, but it felt flat. I love Win7 Pro on my desktop, but Starter was too limited. So I turned an eye back over to Linux and decided it was time to sample some of the editions made for netbooks.

First was Moblin 2.1. It recognized all the technology in my netbook and, once installed, everything worked as expected. That was surprise number one. In the past I've always struggled to get wireless networking going, and it seemed there was always some part of my system that there was no hope for, whether it be a webcam or some other device. I was truly excited, but after a day with Moblin I felt there were just too many clicks to get around the OS, and getting OpenOffice installed and easily accessible took time.

After reading about Ubuntu 9.10 on TechRepublic I looked up their website. Sure enough, they had a netbook "remix" and an hour later I had it downloaded and installed. Like Moblin everything worked immediately. Surprisingly, even my wireless Belkin mouse worked without having to install special drivers or recompiling the kernel. This was certainly a cut above the Linux of yesteryear.

But unlike Moblin, the more time I spent with Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) the more I liked it. The interface was clean, easy to access and made sense. And while the Ubuntu Software Center doesn't work until after you install the first round of updates, it works extraordinarily well once the updates are in place.

I browsed the software center and easily compared titles and installed a few of them, including WINE. I was hoping WINE would allow me to run SManager, a program I use to tune my car (the software is free from www.hondata.com but the computer that piggy-backs onto your car's ECU and permits the tuning is $600). I was able to install the software, but when I try to launch it nothing happens. This is the first, and only, problem I've encountered so far. In every respect this distro has exceeded my expectation.

I still can't move to Linux completely, I'm too tied down to Adobe applications, but on a second machine or netbook, or someone whose computing demands are minimal (like my parents), I can honestly recommend it. And I'm amazed I just typed that last sentence.

I've played with Ubuntu 8 last year and I didn't get that finished, polished feel that I was looking for. Today I'm pleased to say that I think Linux has finally "arrived". I'm finally a believer, and it feels pretty good.

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