Sunday, January 01, 2006

Dr. UbuntuLove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the... Gnome?

Alright, I think I've postponed this one quite a long time.
In a previous post, I've announced the changes I was planning for the computer, mainly, installing Windows on a much smaller partition(s), and "switching" to GNU/Linux. I've also mentioned that the Distro of choice will be one Kubuntu, or the KDE flavor of Ubuntu. This, apparently was not to happen.

To start at the very beginning, I've spent most of last Friday (I think) installing Windows 98 on my laptop. A fun experience, and most recommended to everyone. It started by not recognising the screen drivers and the PCI cards, which forced a stupid 640X480 resolution (a problem it didn't have with ubuntu, mind you). Once I downloaded the IBM drivers, the screen turned into a much more pleasing 1024x764 resolution. That was also the point where the OS lost the CD drive.
I kid you not.
Oh, and not only did it refuse to acknowledge that there was a living, breathing (if somewhat slow) CD-rom drive in the machine, but to reinstall it, demanded that I'll insert a CD with the correct drivers. To those who keep claiming Win98 was a stable, good OS: You're not fooling anyone.

Eventually, I resolved that interesting problem, and got home to get to the main event. I've been moving everything on the hard drives to backup folders, and a good 60GB were left waiting to be formatted and installed on. I've started with the WinXP install, as the Windows boot manager doesn't support dual-OS, but shortened the partition to 20GB, leaving 40GB free. The installation went quite smoothly, with the token silliness of not installing the network card. Now this got me a bit worried. I haven't installed Windows on that computer since the first installment, and any GNU/Linux installation made recognised the card, so I never actually knew whether I have any driver for that card. Fortunately, I always keep those 2-3 Cd's that come with the computer, and an Ethernet card driver was indeed found. Half an hour later and the Windows part of the machine was configured and running. I inserted the Kubuntu CD and rebooted.

I think this was the 6th or 7th time I installed an Ubuntu Distro on a computer (actually much more than that, counting all the false starts on the Laptop - a couple of those "false starts" actually got almost to the end) so I was very much comfortable with the install screen, I've partitioned about 500+ MB for swap, and the rest under "/", with the original 6GB partition formatted as "backup" (current plan is to install FreeBSD on that one). The installation was as usual, quite breezy (no pun intended) and once I got it up and running, I configured the Nvidia drivers, ran the updates (again, no Ethernet card issues here) and went to sleep.

I woke up the next day, excited to start working with the "new" system. I'm no stranger to KDE, as my first "serious" Distro was Mandrake/Mandriva, which was KDE based. So I knew what to expect. What I didn't know, is that about an hour later, I'd start feeling... uncomfortable. I wasn't enjoying myself at all. It's probably due to the fact that I've been very familiar with the Gnome desktop environment used with Ubuntu, but it might just be that whatever KDE is selling, I'm not really buying. For example, KDE is using Konqueror as the browser/file manager unit. I hated it. I didn't like working with it as a browser, and much less as a file manager. The other file manager options in KDE didn't appeal to me either. One of the best things I remembered about KDE was the excellent Text Editor and IDE it offered: Kate and Kdevelop. In the past year, I stopped using any Text Editor except Vim, and I've been using many different Development Environments, such as Eclipse and Anjuta. I really liked Amarok at the time, but the XMMS/VLC combination is a very good substitute. In short, I started regretting the decision to choose KDE over Gnome, and eventually re-installed Ubuntu, this time, using the Gnome CD.

(As a side note, I'm more than aware that all KDE applications can be run in Gnome and vice versa, however, any such attempt tended, more often than not, to end in crashes and lockups. Kdevelop wouldn't even run, while Amarok crashed constantly).

Once installed, it was a whole different experience. For starters, I was quite amazed how easy it was to configure everything. In face, the only thing I needed, at the preliminary stage, to access the command line for was the configuration, to change the driver to the Nvidia one. It's not that I have any problems editing conf files and suchlike, but I didn't really recall configuring the preferences to be so intuitive and simple. I've decided to give Firefox a try, this time (still in the 1.0.7 state, though). I'm an avid Opera user, so it took a bit of tweaking to get Firefox to a stage I'm comfortable with, albeit there are several features I'm still missing (fast forwarding mostly (flash demo), but also multiline tabs. Is it that hard to implement? I honestly don't think so). I'll give it another week or so, and then see whether I can live without Opera.

Other than that, everything's hunky dory. Working on several application puts little to no stress on the resources, once I moved it to the faster hard drive, so I'm relatively enjoying a fast, responsive, and overall fun system. Even Open "Your RAM is my Bitch" Office doesn't ruin the overall experience, although I'll probably roll back to 1.1.5 soon-ish. I didn't think "fun" would be a term one puts on his desktop OS, but there you have it. Ubuntu GNU/Linux, brings back the fun.


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