Thank you, Ubuntu!

Wow, I’m just in awe.

Besides barely vegging through 2 days of migraine, which turned uninterruptedly in2 9 days (and counting) of the strangest head cold with big time nausea and headaches and now on it’s way out with no delay in2 my period (rrr we done?), I installed this operating system on 2 of our computers and can not get over how really hip and understated it is and how effectively and fast it drives both of our shells out of the box after updates – the experience couldn’t be more mac-like, on which, malgrais tout, I am writing this piece, but that brings me 2 one of the number 1 user friendly feature of mac: backlit keyboard, so nice on the eyes, but ubuntu comes without the price tag – and, can use your old pc!

I have been trying out linux operating systems since 2006 now, and have tuned and sped up about 10-12 different home pcs and laptops with various versions of ubuntu and its derivates. My over all experience: Everything was faster and working better after installing open source operating systems, all formats are compatible, some stuff, however, didn’t work at all and required research on the web which resulted in me trying 2 find the sound card fix – if your existing Windows still works and is just slow, dual boot might be the solution.

That is 1 very cool experience, that somebody is out there, who has already solved the problem and posted it 4 all 2 see and share the solution – in ubuntu you are never alone, and if you are, well it’s like the Ottawa weather – just wait 5 minutes, it’ll change – the next release with the regular fixes is never more than a year away. The current version, 10.04, came out in April 2010, LTS stands 4 “Long Term Support”, even naturally blond people can understand all that.

“Open source” code is open to modifications, that is, improvements by the community of its users – free software built by users for users, therein lays the African origin of the word ubuntu, “humanity towards others” – access 2 info and education no longer depends on funds to finance the equipment, that is the philosophy behind it …

I could imagine that this might be a really inexpensive shell solution 4 a lot of creative people, therefore I would like 2 share this here. I hope it unlocks your potential just the way it’s supposed 2! Oh, and I hear, only about under 1 percent of all viruses are directed against Ubuntu, which also is the least visible terminal 4 venturing in2 the info-jungle called internet. Firewall and virus defence are built in, so you can forget about all that for a change.

As many times b4, I downloaded Ubuntu as ISO, burnt a bootable cd from that download with infraRecorder or whatever cd program you are using – didn’t even checksum the download 4 integrity (something we should have our politicians go through way more), popped it into the cd drive and booted my computer – within 3 minutes and 3 set-up questions ubuntu was driving my bits. And that, by the way is also a super cool, very safe way of using public or otherwise shared computers when ON THE ROAD with no own computer – boot from cd, go online, check your email, even do a perfectly anonymous bank transfer without any changes done on the hard drive – at the end of your session you boot down, grab your cd and go – no traces left behind.

First, try it out, make sure, you do the system tests (at least audio and video), to see how the components of your box communicate under open source. After you defragmented your hard drive in Windows about 10 times, cleaned up and got rid of all temp files (big latte required here), you are ready to install on your hard drive – the graphical translation of the hard drive partitioner is THE BEST I have ever seen – it leaves it all 2 you: either erase the entire hard drive and reinstall (if no use 4 Windows anymore), re-organise your hard drive into a ubuntu-part neighbouring your existing Windows (only if your Windows runs on FAT 32-formatted hard drives), or erase only 1 partition of an already sub-divided hard drive – it still is a good idea 2 run your operating system on 10 – 20 GB partitions (my ubuntu occupies about 5 GB, Windows around 10 GB) and have data somewhere else – in case of a virus you need a reinstall, but your data is still there, uninfected, on the other partition – that also really makes regular fresh re-installs easier, upgrading, I’d like to slip in here, has it’s known issues. If you erase a partition in this process, you will have to create a new 1 which is done easily with a few mouse clicks – when you are there, make sure 2 choose ” / ” as mount point – that way your partition has the right attributes 2 host your new operating system perfectly. Whenever you boot, the grub boot loader will let you choose 2 boot in2 Ubuntu or Windows.

Now let’s look at the details:

On our Acer Aspire 1690 even the onboard microphone was routed perfectly out of the box, with no modifications required – that, a glamorous first time in my ubuntu-experience, can turn any old laptop or netbook into the perfectly handy skype-internet-telephone – long distance and international call savings are yours in the hundreds. I also recorded via that in-built mic in Audacity (a free multi-track studio with a gazillion filters and effects, now with all the common audio formats built in, even exporting in mp3 did not require any library-updates anymore, fabulous), and noticed only a slight crackle – up 2 now, there were never any useful results at all though… on my newer Medion Akoya 2220 I had no results with internal mic, with an external sony stereo mic plugged in I received acceptable results as well. Skype worked well in the same manner. If u depend on getting rid of noises and crackling, just plug a mini recording device into your line in, and the mic in that mini-recorder while it is on recording pause – that makes cristal clear recordings detouring the microphone issue all2gether.

The Onboard-Soundrecorder, most amazingly, records what comes out of your speakers OUT OF THE BOX – should you desire 2 interview anybody and can’t meet them, just call them over skype (which can easily and in-expensively reach real phone numbers, 2) and record it with the ubuntu sound recorder. Editing in audacity or with on-board editor, easy as pie. Mind you, I am referencing to the technical side of it – certain and regulated codes of the trade apply!!!

If you cannot play your music files, make sure to install all the codecs via applications – ubuntu software center. ALso run all the updates after install. Again, we are talking THOUSANDS of fab apps FOR FREE – the possibilities 4 teachers, researchers and artists are incredible. I love the 3-D-universe and planet simulations! But for administrators, ubuntu is absolutely database capable and also offers a server edition… something 4 every need, nothing new, only now it all works!

Another breath -taking “aha-Erlebnis” we saw with plugging in the big hdmi-screen as second monitor, here while the desktop was already displayed on the laptop screen. The graphic drivers automatically assigned the new monitor a second work space, and within moments, I was moving the mouse pointer out the right of the laptop-screen and watched it reappear on the left side of the big screen, could drag and drop any window between screens, watch youtube or hockey highlights on the big screen while still overseeing my email on the laptop screen – computing how it is supposed to be. No reboot, no tweaking – Plug And Play, the way it was originally conceived. Resolution was way clearer than under Windows, needless 2 say, and just such a relieve for my old eyes.


Only 1 other feature I’d like 2 point out 2 you:
2-finger scrolling with the on-board Synaptics touchpad, horizontally as well as vertically, can be enabled with Ubuntu and I tried that, coz after a little over a year on a macbook pro, you really find any other modus operandi just clunky or resort 2 external mouse – with 2-finger-scrolling on, you start 2, finally, easily and intuitively, turn pages, move your browser pages up and down or left and right without having to spend 2 minutes 2 try 2 move your mouse pointer exactly over the window bars – so much more user friendly, from now on, any research will be done on the fly. A hint of iPad, even. Well worth all these years of trying….

The same feature wasn’t available on my Medion, but I am positive, it will be coming soon. Also, the standard configuration does enable page scrolling at the right and bottom edge of any touchpad, which already represents a good enough compromise given the no budget situation.

A look at the Acer peripharals: next I plugged in a Samsung ML 1740 laser printer and a HP scanjet 2200c scanner, which all worked JUST LIKE THAT. You need 2 send the scan? Can be done just clicking “send” (or was it called “email”?) within the on-board scan program, which then opens up the on-board email program evolution – I did not get 2 try it out, but it worked fine on earlier installations. Also here, address books, as many as you want 2 create, calendar with daily, weekly or monthly display, that really competes on 1 level with Outlook now, especially as import/export of your data as V-cards or with the backup/restore function is a breeze, really useful 4 any person trying 2 organize something. Printing single pages out is possible but might need some tweaking. Integration with iCal is possible, if not in Evolution, then in some other application, ubuntu offers over its online-repositories.

I could go on and on, how absolutely brilliantly it is thought out, and how reliably and swiftly it executes all your commands, but lemme just say this: Put it on your old one. Put the next one on your new computer.

This lists a collection of compatible laptops. Happy creating!

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