This past weekend my uncle had computer problems again, yes the one that was ripped off by the geek squad before. He knew I was in town just for a party and going back. He did not want to tell me that his computer was messed up again but I knew it after looking at his face. I said I would stop by and fix it. I only had a couple of hours to spare and was expecting the usual virus or spy-ware to be slowing it down but when I got there it was a lot worse than that. His wife, who is the primary user of the computer, loves to download (caunta porqueria se encuentra). I had to say it in Spanish because it has more meaning, but it loosely translates to every little dirty thing that she can find on the net. From every disc cleaner to the almighty registry sweeper, she had downloaded things I had never even seen before.
Looking at the situation, I weighted my options. I could take the computer, clean it, and have it back to them on my next trip. I could also talk my uncle into just buying one of the very well priced computers they have at all retailers now. For about 350 bucks, he got himself double the performance and Windows Vista. My experiences with the OS have been less than satisfactory so I knew that setting it up would be a pain... but it would be about a couple of hours which I was willing to spend. Even though the original set up of it did not take too long, getting it functional was very painful with the constant "are you sure you want to do this, are you sure you want to do that?" However, I had an overall good experience this time.
Before I left my uncle said, go ahead and take the old box I have no use for it. We had dinner, talked, and I totally forgot about the computer. We were about to take off, already in the car when my uncle came calling and said don't forget to take the box. I went back in and got machine full of viruses and God knows what else.
I have always loved Linux since back in College. Even though my experience with it on my actual hands is limited and even though the web-server my site runs on is also Unix based running Apache, I have really never used the OS itself, I have always done things either via applications like Cpanel, PhpMyAdmin, and a command prompt here and there but nothing really on the actual OS level. I've had a Red Hat 9 disc for years and a couple of machines that I was ready to put it on, but I never pulled the trigger out of lack of time (read: lazy).
Fabian Rodriguez is a Colombian Tech Blogger that lives in Montreal. Coincidently he and my wife are good friends but have not spoken in some years. Fabian and I know each other just via our blogs and I really did not know much about my wife's friendship with him until her and I met in real life. She told me she had actually been to Fabian and his wife's house and actually had a friendship outside of the Internet world. She mentioned in passing that Fabian had installed Ubuntu on her machine, but she forgot the password and never used it.
My first thought when I got a hold of that box that is only about 3 years old and could use a completely new set of system files, was to put a Linux distribution on it. Then after Fabian and my wife connected again via Facebook, Ubuntu came back to mind and I downloaded the ISO.
You have to remember that I am a corporate programmer that works on client server applications and have always worked with Windows-based software except for a couple of minor projects. I can move around Linux and can actually compile an application from the command prompt, but I have gotten Windows fat and lazy. I can click around like no one else remembering where settings are even without having labels... (I had to troubleshoot both of my wife's machines at one time or another and everything is in French... my French is like grammar school level and Windows settings go right over my head... demarrer, demarrer).
I was mentally prepared to have to read up a manual bigger than the bible to learn how to do beautiful things with Ubuntu, I seriously thought that to get it to display level I would have to install a million plug-ins... But then I gave Ubuntu a try...
OMG I'm L337!!! Yes just like a noob getting the first head shot from skill and not luck my face lit up. The Live CD did its thing in minutes and I was on the net faster than plugging the network cable to the PC. Zero setup headache, Zero trouble... The computer that minutes ago was almost a Windows brick, was now running an OS that in my honest opinion (and that of others) can rival Vista in many ways. I cannot believe I waited this long to switch especially since I have not been hardcore gaming on the PC in a while (and I am sure I probably will be able to game in Ubuntu too).
The beauty of it is that you do not have to install it if you don't want to, or it can co-exist with your current operating system if you chose to. There is no reason not to give it a try. Download the ISO, put it on your disk tray, and restart that windows machine... Chances are you are going to just LOVE what you see and experience. Try it out at Ubuntu.com.
John Guzman is a computer programmer and a long-time editorial contributor to Phoronix. You can read more of his work at his personal website.