And now for the true nerds...
It's been a while and I've been thinking about going back to Linux as a desktop (laptop, actually) OS. I tried Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) on a persistent flash drive install which was all quite easy. I will save you the trouble of reading the linked article:
- download an ISO,
- burn a CD,
- boot the CD,
- insert your USB stick,
- select a menu item,
- make a couple of choices in a dialog,
- click a button and wait a few minutes.
- Run Synaptic Package Manager (System/Administration menu) and type "ndis" in the Quick search search field.
- Install ndisgtk, which requires a couple of other packages.
- Run ndisgtk - called Windows Wireless Drivers on the System/Administration menu
- Mount the Windows partition and navigate to a directory with bcmwl6.inf. In my case that was /media/OS/Drivers/network/R189336/
- The step I stumbled onto is that you have to actually enable the driver via System/Administration and choosing Hardware Drivers.
Then the wireless network utility will let you scan for networks and all that good stuff.
I haven't tried booting this flash drive on another laptop, like my wife's, to see if it's even easier with a card for which there is a built-in Linux driver. When she's not looking I might give that a try. I did try it at work, and it "just worked" just fine with that hardware.
Once on the network, I opened Firefox (version 3.0.3) and went through my usual routine:
- Set the "activate new tabs" option
- Install AdBlockPlus
- Load up a saved bookmarks file and start surfing
I was very impressed with how easy it is to get and install software. Lots of pages of course nowadays require plugins and they all just worked - Flash, Java. Normally you can't get me away from the command line, but these installs were embarrassingly easy. Not necessarily one-click, but the extra clicks didn't require any real thought ("do you accept this license", "do you want to install non-free software")
I tried playing a DVD - an instruction manual for a baby carrier - with a little less luck. The built-in Totem player needed some non-free and probably illegal drivers (yes, I want that) but I wasn't able to get it to "just act like a DVD player" with menus and stuff or to just play in sequence, like a movie. I installed my old favorite, mplayer, but I had no more luck with that. It could be that the DVD wasn't set up all that well - I'm going to try again with an actual movie. Once I got all the mplayer parts installed and unmounted the DVD, mplayer played The Matrix very nicely.
I ran into some grief at first installing mplayer because my little flash drive ran out of space. I did some manual file removal and finally sudo apt-get clean to free up enough space. Later I removed OpenOffice for the same reason.
Full-screen YouTube videos were choppy; possibly because I'm using the default X.org driver. I'm going to try the NVIDIA one (non-free) after saving my work of course. Yes, that did the trick.
Another piece of painless software was installing the Citrix client so I could connect to work.