As a result of my slow, but steady, progress organizing the basement, I wound up identifying a few extra computer parts, allowing me to fix up my Mom’s old desktop. I’ve been contemplating setting up a PC to connect to the TV. Who says you need Hulu Plus to watch Hulu on the TV?
Being, well, me, I was also keen to set this box up with Linux. Since my old laptop died, I’ve been Linux-less for quite a while now. After a bit of searching I opted for a distro I’ve heard good things about, Ubuntu. The install CD burned, I sat down for a good afternoon of bonding with the PC.
I was both pleasantly surprised and a little saddened.
Back in the dark ages when I was first exposed to Linux, it was a fantastic, powerful operating system with a plethora of tools for a young programmer like me–but installing it was a chore. This OS was not for the faint of heart, those used to putting in an install CD, choosing OK in the appropriate places and setting the time zone before walking away. Noooo, you had to know all manner of details about your hardware. There were obscure drivers to be obtained, hard drives to partition and kernels to be re-compiled. Our University ACM (Association of Computing Machines) chapter hosted Saturday “Install Parties” so that the more skilled could help indoctrinate the N00bs. It was its own form of bonding experience.
So, it was a bit of a shock when Ubuntu went on like butter. Seriously. It put the easiest Windows install to shame. I chose a few elements related to the keyboard and the time zone, it chugged a bit, and before I knew it, I was staring at a gorgeous desktop on my TV screen. Mozilla was installed and launched easily. Hulu fired right up. The network allowed me to access my server with no issues. I pulled over photos which showed up brilliantly on the photo viewer. Numerous programs and tools were already installed so I could click and begin working in a document, surfing, or pulling up MP3s immediately. No more booting to a simple command prompt and being forced to go in and tweek the system to boot to a GUI. No more fighting with the right drivers for my video card. It was so EASY. My Mom could have handled this install, and she normally has trouble when she’s prompted to update Adobe Acrobat.
On the one hand, this is great for getting the average user to dabble with Linux. The initial hurdle involved with getting it installed is no longer a barrier. You can install in a matter of a half hour and be on your merry, computing way. Honestly, if you have some old hardware and no access to a cheap copy of Window$, download Ubuntu.
On the other hand–the challenge and the fun are gone for a geek like me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of fun to be had whipping out the terminal window and tweaking things (I already tweaked get access to the advanced settings and install screen-savers), but there’s a twinge of sadness that I didn’t get that afternoon of frustration with the balm of triumph and self pride after finally getting it all up, running and just-so. Sure, there are other distros that still provide a geek challenge (I assume–if Slackware got this easy to install, I think it might be a sign of the apocalypse), but I’m pretty sure that many of them are more like this Ubuntu install, and that makes me just a little nostalgic.
Either way, it’s still an awesome, powerful OS. And I’m now in possession of both a media center for photos, music and video, AND my favorite C compiler and enough PERL packages to make your eyes bleed.