Last year as I began my new job with UMass Medical School, I knew I would need to learn Linux better, much better. To do anything requires a commitment and a lot of practice and patience. So, I decided I would not use a Mac or Windows machine for my job. I also decided to see if I could use only Open Source software to complete my work. This is important given that my ‘clients’ as it were are the people in Liberia, Africa where seemingly every workstation and laptop I encountered has an unlicensed copy of MS Windows and MS Office and is also infected with every kind of virus and malware.
Well, it will be a year on July 7th and so I think a little review of what has worked, what hasn’t, and how I see moving forward. I am going to go over my experience with each piece of the puzzle (i.e. operating system, software packages, and even hardware) over the next few postings. I’ll try not to get too techie, but I am an IT guy after all!
OK – let’s start with the basics. There are all kinds of ‘flavors’ of Linux. Linux is the operating system. It is like MS Windows 8,9,10 etc. or MAC’s OSX. It is what turns the lifeless piece of hardware that is your laptop into a usable computer. There are a lot fo ‘flavors’ of Linux and like Mac vs. Windows, people have their favorite. For me, I just wanted something that was well supported, looked good, supported a lot of hardware and had a lot of Open Source software I could run on it. So I chose Ubuntu Desktop for my little laptop computer. ( Ubuntu webpage ).
Take a look at this screenshot of a typical Ubuntu Desktop. It has a sort of familiar feel to MACs and to Windows as well. I have found that it is not too foreign and that both Windows and MAC users can get comfortable with most of it pretty quickly.
I am still running version 14.04 although a new version is now available. 14.04 seems to be pretty stable. Early last year I had one or two occasions where the laptop just froze. Not sure why. I even had a terrible time when it froze, I rebooted and my desktop disappeared. That brings me to my first overall observation.
Ubuntu is pretty good but it still requires some investment in learning. I was panicked when I lost the desktop all the icons were gone). I managed to recover after a lot of Internet searches but it was still one of those “when did I do my last backup?” moments (answer is daily, plug in the USB drive and it runs the backup without me doing anything).
I’ve since tried several other ‘flavors’ of Linux including some really tiny ones for running on really old laptops and I still prefer Ubuntu.
There are also some interesting discoveries about Ubuntu that I am still learning. Take the example of remote access from another workstation or making it work in a Windows network with shared drives. A lot of times I had to drop into ‘terminal mode’ to really make things work better. That’s a window that only has text interfaces, no graphical information at all. Interesting to not both Windows and MAC have these modes as well.
SO, my summary – I like Ubuntu. It keeps getting better and better. It is easy enough even for a novice who want a simple experience but as always, investing a little time educating yourself is worthwhile.