We’ve Come a Long Way


In a previous rant post I complained stated my discontent with Microsoft’s Live Account recovery system but it all stemmed from the fact that I did not own a laptop other that the one I use for work.

No need, really

After my really old Toshiba laptop died quite some years ago, my girlfriend relied on our 2010 iMac for doing her research work and our computing odds and ends (vide encoding, photo management,…). I have said it before, but I would say again: it is a very nice machine. Pricey. But still going strong enough.

The iMac is not portable, though; so when she has had the need for computing on the road she had to settle on the Post-PC experience.
Yes, I said settle. Because for her usage patterns (and most likely 90% of everyone else’s), Post-PC professional computing was (is) an exercise of compromises.

But, after the renewal of my working laptop I asked for a quote for my old one and we were able to get a pretty powerful machine for a very decent price (knowing the previous owner took very good care of it Winking smile).

It’s Not That Cold Out There

She needs to do Office (generic) work: spreadsheets, documents and presentations. And neither her nor me were in the mood to cough extra one thousand plus kroner or get into the subscription trap business that Microsoft Office costs for just convenience when I know that she will be able to use free, legal alternatives such as (the poorly named IMHO) LibreOffice.

Turning it One More Notch

Now that we are going down the free road, I felt the need to check the state of the Linux Desktop. Because…
I’ll confess a secret. I work day in and day out with Microsoft technology, but I have a thing for Linux. Since that very early Read Hat distro (waaaaay before Fedora) I managed to install in my Pentium I 100MHz I have always been trying to suggest Linux as an alternative to average Joes (and Janes) in the hope that its quality would win over the convenience of the known and the here-and-there rough edges.
But, there have been always that something: that driver that does not work, that program that lacks that vital feature, the “what do I need to do to update? does it have to be so difficult to install?” that prevented Linux to stick amongst the receivers of my advices.

Smooth as Silk

Even so, I went onto prove my girlfriend that she can do everything she needs without spending thousands of kroner and not being annoyed one bit. And I installed Ubuntu on my old working Lenovo laptop.

And I was blown away.

  • Everything absolutely works first time: the dual display, WiFi and LAN adapters, Bluetooth, integrated camera, even the keyboard and headlamp worked. I could even use the Fn extended key shortcuts!
  • Installation (with a plethora of software) takes a fraction of what it takes to install a barebones Windows. And the process can be as dumb as any other OS out there (and infinitely more complicated if one wants it to).
  • Booting time is as fast (or faster) than Windows 10.
  • There are tons of documentation online to setup everything that does not come out of the box, explained in such a way that someone detached for many years from the Linux-sphere could follow without too much fears (but maybe too scary for someone not in the business).
  • Everything is crazy snappy. Alright, it still is a powerful machine, but I have no doubt that as time passes, it will still perform beautifully.

All of those geeky bullet points would be desert preaching if its SAF (Spouse Acceptance Factor) score was low. But, to my joy, it is not.
She was productive from minute 2 (after the “where is my start menu/dock”, “my Office-oid” and “my browser”) and I have not heard swearing or blaming ever since. Great Success!

great success

…and I just can’t hide it

Linux desktop has come a long, long way to become usable for the casual user. If it works, it works. And it has worked for my machine. But I am afraid that if it hadn’t… I would have had to revert much more to command line mojo.
Like when I formatted a partition (from Windows) to NTFS (from FAT32) and prevented the computer to boot properly until I edited my fstab  in a recovery consoleEmbarrassed smile.

One has to give Windows some respect for supporting such a variety of devices and be less ecstatic when OS X brought UNIX stability to a mere handful of components.
But if you are in doubt to give Linux a shot in the desktop (or even if you are not) I have only one thing to say: Go For It!