Half way through our holiday in NZ my laptop started puking out blue screens of death. It's never done this before... but it started in earnest until the machine became pretty much unusable (over a period of 48 hours). So I spent some time in thought, regarding the fate of my 6 month old laptop that I love. After some diagnosis, and gentle coaxing, I was able to ascertain that my hard drive has bad sectors and they're spreading like the plague. I don't quite understand how that physical happens, but it's related to a likely disk impact and scratching due to that. I travel this bad boy fairly heavily, so it's not entirely surprising. So my drive's going bust and it's a matter of time until it's totally unusable. If I boot up the laptop and do absolutely nothing, it's OK... I was able to run a full backup thankfully, so data's fine. It's when I tried to write anything that it would go all messed. To my great chagrin, that leaves me having to use Maija's Macbook for the rest of my holiday. Conclusion: Mac's are still useless for work. ;)
Anyway, we're home in Finland now and I'm supposed to work later today, and I really don't feel like using Maija's computer anymore. Besides, she needs it for school. Enter Ubuntu Linux on a LiveCD. I'm a big fan of Linux, especially Ubuntu, but I felt I really had to take some time here to sing it's praises.
Linux is a very customizable operating system. It can be re-arranged, rebuilt, and put together however you need it. These packages are called distributions, and Ubuntu is one of the most popular. I'm currently running Ubuntu 7.10, the Gutsy Gibbon. The beauty of a LiveCD is that the entire OS is packaged ready for use on a single CD-ROM. How does this help me? My hard drive is dead remember. I'm now running pretty much everything I need off a CD-ROM, and can continue working. Yes!
The Gutsy Gibbon is superb. Everything works out of the box: networking, wireless, sound, video, battery information, all my Dell keyboard buttons, etc. It comes with Firefox, Open Office, and Evolution. A good terminal server client, and various other media apps. Evolution is really quite a good mail client, and has support for Exchange. I still feel that Outlook is the best client out there, but Evolution is only getting better, while Outlook is only adding glut. Graphically, the Gutsy Gibbon is lovely, possessing some of Vista's Aero-Glass style effects. I've had a couple of problems with GParted (for partition disks), but aside from that's it's totally stable. Remember I'm running off a CD-ROM here, with everything cached into RAM, so it's nowhere near an ideal setup. And even now it's fast, it's responsive.
I'm totally impressed. I've been using Linux for a few years, mostly server sided stuff, but this is the nicest thing I've seen on the desktop side yet. The only things I've run into that are lacking right now, are: - good compatibility for Reason. It does run under Wine... but not so great - multiple Exchange connections, in Evolution. In Outlook and Entourage you can open multiple inboxes, Evolution has yet to catch up.
You'll notice those two things aren't even Ubuntu core. Honestly, I think the time has come for Linux on the desktop. I encourage you to head over to ubuntu.com and grab a copy for yourself. Remember, it's free.
(For the record, I've got a new hard drive on the way. I'm honestly torn as to whether to install Windows or stick with Linux. I don't know what I want more. I'll almost surely dual boot the system, as I need to use Reason and play old school videogames care of Home of the Underdogs... but beyond that? Don't know.)