My current PC is 5 years old and while it was an okay system back then, it has now become quite painful to work on it as a software developer. I had found the PC I wanted and was quite excited about my new i7 with 16GB of RAM and a SSD drive as the primary harddrive. It would rock for my needs of as home development. I had just made peace with the pricetag of around $1,600 when I remembered that I don’t have any spare version of Windows lying around and a professional version of Windows 8 would add $200 to the price. All of a sudden that $200 became too much and instead I had decided to get rid of Windows completely… So, I spent $205 on a 128GB Samsung 840 PRO SSD drive and am writing this from my “new” Ubuntu setup.
And guess what? It rocks on this 5 year old AMD 2Ghz machine with only 2GB of RAM For $200 I feel like I’ve got a new toy because everything is new as this is my first time working on Linux and my locally hosted website that I develop against flies!! I mean I’m not sure I’d notice anything being faster if I had spent the $18000 on a new Windows setup.
I scored some points with the wife as well. As she puts it, I’m quite talented at spending money:) But this time she was convinced I was going to spend the $1800 on a new PC so she’s impressed that I’ve gone with this cheap alternative.
I decided to install Ubuntu as my desktop OS, so I’ll use Ubuntu and Linux interchangeably in this post, even though they’re not the same thing – right.
But… It was not that easy getting to where I am now, which is working on a system that I think I can be happy with. I decided on Thursday morning that I would give Linux a go, bought the SSD on Thursday afternoon and finally by this morning, Sunday did I get things going the way I want them. Big learning curve for someone who’s been working on Windows for as long as it’s been around to move over to Linux.
Firstly I don’t have a CD or DVD drive in my PC and I don’t have a flash drive lying around, so I had a bit of a struggle getting the ISO for Ubuntu working. I wanted to install Ubuntu on the new SSD drive, but also wanted to mount the ISO on there for the initial install. Got the ISO to be bootable from the SSD using Universal USB Installer .
Next problem was that my old motherboard had support for AHCI, but not quite… Don’t remember the details, but in short I could start Ubuntu from the bootable ISO, but when it got to installing it permanently, it would not list the SSD drive as an option. After a lot of messing around with my BIOS and reading a number of people having the same problem, I figured out that I had to install the 32-bit version of Ubuntu. I think I could have gotten it to work with the 64bit version, but not while dual booting with Windows 7 on an old IDE drive… not on this board. So, I changed to 32bit version of the latest release of Ubuntu.
Turns out that was a mistake as well… The system kept crashing and would force me to shut it down with the hard button, which is a pain as I have to get and and walk to the back of my desk to reach the PC box. Then I read that the latest version of Ubuntu is effectively built from nightly runs and is not recommended for the faint-hearted or Linux newbies. So… download the 32bit version (which takes a while with my son’s gaming demands on the network) and there we go again.
In the meantime I’d read a little more about partitions and this time I set up 3 partitions, 1 for root, 1 for home and 1 for swap. Not that I know how, but supposedly that means that if I want to make that kind of change again (changing versions of Ubuntu) I may be able to backup home and may be able to save some time… Not sure about that, but anyhow.
Came very close to giving up when the PC again froze up after a while. Less frequent, but it still seemed to happen often enough when I clicked on the “Dash home” button, which I need often to find stuff in Ubuntu. That turned out to be my graphics card and since I installed the recommended update from NVidia, the system hasn’t crashed yet. Yay!! Now Linux is known for being super stable and never crashing, so I was quite disappointed by this, but seems like we have it under control now.
The other painful thing with Linux is that you do a hell of a lot in the command line. Even though Ubuntu’s GUI is quite appealing (probably just because it’s new to me), you do have to do quite a bit in Terminal. Supposedly that’s all a good thing because of security and whatnot, but I don’t know… I do like just clicking on something and the OS knowing what to do.
Anyhow, all good to go… With the SSD the OS loads up almost instantaneously and starting up Netbeans (which took a good few second in WIndows on this machine) is pretty close to instantaneous. And my local website is super fast, so I’m pretty happy!!
What about Joe Average?
While I’m all for the geeky stuff, I’m not sure Ubuntu is meant for the average user… Or at least it’s not there yet. It’s difficult to say, my needs are somewhat more technical than the average Joe, so if you just want Internet access and an office product, well Ubuntu comes with LibreOffice already installed and getting connected to our wireless was less trouble on Ubuntu than on Windows. MUCH less… With Windows I had to install the D-Link software for this external wireless thingy whereas Ubuntu picked it up immediately and just asked me for my wifi key and I was connected.
Now… can I convince my wife to let me spend the remaining $1,600 on my fishing kayak?