Shifting over to Linux

Since I don’t see my current slow and sluggish office PC will be upgraded any time soon. I’ve decided to do a full trial of using Linux, specifically Ubuntu Linux and see how it will compare against the Windows XP. Naturally, there will be lots of incompatibility, but I do need to boost some of my productivity and keep some sanity from a slow and sluggish computer.

Installing Ubuntu was pretty straight forward. I just needed to create a partition to dual boot the computer to Linux or Windows using the build-in GRUB loader. The only tedium was to backup and clean up the hard disk from archived data and stuffs which I hardly used but would still like to keep it around. It took me quite a lot time to sort through, perhaps the better part of one day. I also used the online AOL Xdrive to do some backup since my PC hard disk didn’t have enough space and also needed to make room for Linux too. Uploading to Xdrive was slow, but I speeded things up by using zip files instead of individual files. Anyway those files were for archiving, perhaps I will burn them onto a DVDR or CDR later.

In order to have the same mail messages, I wondered how best to access and store them. Since the company mail server is only POP3 based, I thought, “Why not use gmail?” It has IMAP which is in some ways better than POP3. That way, my messages will be synchronized not only across multiple O/S platform, but I will have access to the same messages irregardless of whether I was at home, at work, or any other PC. The only problem was the sender header will look rather odd because it will show the “ on behalf of”
and also risk ending up in the recipient junk mail because of suspecting mail header spoofing unless they whitelist my gmail address.

The idea was not too bad, but it was really tedious to shift the messages. There were several methods to migrate the message, but only one, though slow and tedious did the job marvelously. Took me another better part of one day to shift them over, especially with my slow PC.

So for email messages, I could now opt to use Linux Evolution which had IMAP ability or log on online to Gmail. So now I had many options after shifting those messages to Gmail. The only thing left to do was to import the contacts onto each mail platform.

Shifting completely to Linux was a real shock to the system because not only do I have to test and learn how to use all the myriad software, there were still quite a lot of things it could not do like synchronizing with my Windows based PDA, heck, it couldn’t even sync with my Palm Tungsten T3 too. Not only that, my U3 USB device will not work unless I remove the password protection, plus all the U3 software will also not work. So much for free O/S. You have to lose some ability to do some things.

Speed wise, Ubuntu Linux was not too bad, but some software kept crashing on me.

OpenOffice though good, but for some reason I could not change some of the settings without crashing it. It was also missing my favourite Verdana font. If I don’t mess with OpenOffice too much, I should think it would be quite reasonable to use it. The thing was, I like to customized an application to my liking. So hopefully the next upgrade version will solve some of the issues.

Next was browsers, this is the next core area of usability. Almost doing anything nowadays require an online connection. Ubuntu came with Firefox pre-installed. Sure, I’m already using Firefox big time in my Windows platform and it is popular supported by the Google and to some extend Yahoo especially the toolbars from these two search engines. However, Firefox seemed to have some incompatibility with both Google and most especially Yahoo.

Though I could install the Google toolbar onto Firefox, one of the features didn’t work – the bookmark feature – which I relied on heavily. As for Yahoo toolbar, it would install but without the ability to log in to Yahoo, I may as well uninstall it since I will not be able to access my customization. For some poor incompatibility reason, I just could not log on, the whole browser just freezes and worse, Linux decided to join in the hanging process. I had to shut off the main switch and reboot. Where is that ctrl-alt-del for Linux? In Windows it will bring up the Windows Task Manager box, which I could then kill a non-responding application. Different platform, different way of doing things.

In the end, I installed two other browsers. Opera and Epiphany Web Browser. They had no problem logging on to Yahoo, but I won’t have a nice toolbar to use. Sure, Opera got widgets, but those were programmed by 3rd parties and I didn’t like the interface anyway; didn’t find it that useful.

Local Area Networking was a problem. I couldn’t see the other computers in my office network. In case of file sharing, it will be a problem. Hah! Even with LAN in my office, my colleague still request for the file to be emailed over rather than take the trouble to locate the file on another’s PC shared folder. Though it would be nice if it worked first time, I may have to figure out how to get it to work later. Since this is not a main usage issue, I will just leave it for another day to solve for now.

One thing for sure, Linux is getting more and more polish, perhaps one day it might get a sizable share of Windows. For simple users who would like to save some money, it might just be the way to go. Though configuring Linux still requires a super geek to do it, if the user didn’t need to do too much of configuring, and just use it for simple purposes, it should be acceptable.

Let’s just see how it goes using Ubuntu Linux for the next few days.

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