Friday, October 31, 2008

This Post Is Unique

This post also breaks completely new ground for me.

It is the first post to this blog I'm writing on an open-source operating system on a computer I own.

After several weeks of research inspired in no small part by my read through The Pirate's Dilemma earlier this year, I took the plunge, partitioned my laptop's hard drive and installed the new release of Ubuntu, a version of Linux.

Linux is a completely free piece of software, and what 'open source' means is that the code is freely available to distribute and alter, as long as you agree to distribute your altered code. So anyone can work to improve it and make it better. Think of it a little bit like Wikipedia: a whole lot of minds working on various parts of a project to try to improve it, and while not everything will be an improvement, it eventually gets there.

There are several reasons one would consider switching to Linux. Security: not really a problem, since my home wireless network is locked down tight and viruses are only a problem online like they are in real life - avoid the scuzzy back-alleys of the Internet and you're fine. Stability: also not really a problem for me. Computers crash, hardware goes out, it happens. Microsoft sucks: well, they're my client so I can't really claim that and I know it's really more of a bureaucratic institution than anything intentionally evil. I'd considered a Mac, but the only thing worse than closed source computer software (which OSX is), is closed hardware. You require me to buy my RAM only from your overpriced store? Go to hell.

But here's the crux of why I switched. Because open source, like Wikipedia, is an entirely different business model and one that I firmly believe is on the rise as more and more of us migrate to the cloud. Old business models are based on consumption, from the end user and from the corporation itself. A company must grow. Right? Maybe. What happens when it doesn't, or when it grows in a different manner? Can a company not only give away its product for free, but give away the secrets to how its product is made for free and let people make changes as they see fit?

Apparently it can be done.

To be perfectly honest, from a practical point of view, this is an experiment. I don't expect to use Linux all of the time, and I know I won't be able to play a lot of my games in Linux so I'll be back in Windows when necessary. But for most of my computing tasks - writing, surfing the Internet, listening to music - there's no reason not to at least try it out.

Oddly enough my tipping point came from a piece of software that can't even run on Linux yet: Google's Chrome browser. I'm a hardcore Firefox user and have been for ages, but I've been doing about 95% of my browsing in Chrome lately because I like the interface and its speed better, despite not being able to do some of the things I want it to do. And I realized that if I was willing to learn a new browser (which is where I spend most of my time on any given computer anyway), then there was no reason not to try something new on the operating system front.

I'm still learning my way around but I like it a lot so far. It's very fast and slick, and so far has done everything I need it to do with ease. I can easily dual-boot back to Windows if I need it. If I end up getting a new laptop this winter, one of the first things I'm going to do with it is put Ubuntu on it as well.

Bob and Angela - you guys ought to be proud.

1 comment:

Colin said...

Enjoy - I switched from Windows to linux 2 years ago and only positive things to say. i run XP in a Sun VM so can enjoy Chrome there.

Incidentally XP is fast in the VM.