The blog of Eric Lee - web design and internet consulting for the trade union movement.

Linux: The first 100 days

I haven't written much about Linux since early June when I made the switch over from Microsoft Windows, which I had been using since the early 1990s. But I thought that after 100 days, I'd write up a summary about how it feels and what I've learned.

First of all, there's not much new to report. Everthing just works. I have connected to my Toshiba Equium laptop (on which I installed Ubuntu Linux back in June) a number of hardware devices and every one of them works fine. These include:

* HP Photosmart 7550 printer
* Maxtor external hard disk drive
* Microsoft (!) wireless keyboard and mouse

The main software I run consists mostly of software which I was also running on Windows, so there hasn't been much of a learning curve. This includes:

* Mozilla Firefox
* Mozilla Thunderbird

At a certain stage I abandoned Evolution (the open source PIM) because I was having issues displaying some rich-text emails, and moved back to Thunderbird.

This compelled me to find solutions for my task list and calendar. I tried Mozilla Sunbird for both but didn't particularly like it, and much prefer to use gToDo as a task list. (Scrolling works much better in gToDo for some reason, the sorting by dates is superior to Sunbird's, and it's full screen, also allowing a display of notes for each task.)

I increasingly find that I can use gToDo as a calendar as well -- I mean, if we can use printed calendars and diaries as places to list tasks, why not use task list software to list upcoming diary events, appointments, and so on. Works for me.

I did try to use some web-based software for task lists and calendars (Google Calendar, Remember the Milk, TaDa, and others) but found that nothing works as fast and as reliably as software on one's own computer. In general, I am skeptical about webware, and hardly use anything that's web-based when I can do it on my own PC.

I was also using a web-based solution to track hours worked (as a freelancer this is important) and Harvest was quite good. But it did require me to be online and it's not free, so I eventually stumbled on KArm, a KDE-based time tracker tool, and it works very well.

I code raw Perl and HTML using Bluefish.

I've found Tomboy Notes to be very good for writing brief notes and keeping them visible.

I use gEdit for lots of plain text things, and initially used it, rather than Bluefish, for HTML editing.

The GIMP is my graphics editor, I use gFTP to do file transfers, and Grsync for backups. I should add that it's much easier to do FTP uploads and downloads in Linux when your server is a Linux server -- you don't have to worry (apparently) about ASCII and Binary downloads, and you can set the file permissions (chmod) on your own system first.

Linux terminal mode is great when I need to do SSH/Telnet connections to a web server (usually to work with the crontab file).

Skype works fine in Linux, though without videoconferencing -- yet.

Now let's compare this to the experience I was having with Windows --

I was paying for an FTP client, because the most popular one (CuteFTP) did eventually charge money. gFTP does exactly the same thing, bug-free, for nothing.

I had purchased Paint Shop Pro to do what the GIMP does for me now, for free.

I had a paid-for version of Coffee Cup HTML editor but now use the free Bluefish to do essentially the same thing.

I was using a paid-for backup system to work with my Maxtor external hard drive, but the free grsync does it just as well.

I've paid for PIMs (including Barca and the delightfully-named Time and Chaos), and for on-screen notes, and to track hours, and so on -- now all free.

And of course I was paying for anti-virus, anti-spam and firewall software. In Linux, this is either not necessary or free of charge.

My system is updated constantly, automatically, thanks to Ubuntu. I'm always running the latest version of all this software. (In Windows, at best you're getting the latest version of Windows -- but not all your other software.)

To sum up, this began nearly four months ago as an experiment, to see whether desktop Linux had advanced beyond where it was in 2002 the last time I tried it (and gave up).

It has.

I have seen the future, and it works.


Great news. Though I would always install anti-virus stuff - not least because if you filter your emails through clamav it squashes most phising emails before they even trouble spamassassin.

I agree.

I've used Ubuntu for almost a year now and haven't looked back. I even get excited by the almost daily updates, and the Linux music player Amarok is a real pleasure to work with - it finds lyrics and artist information while you listen, and integrates with

For me the difference is that Ubuntu treats me like an intelligent adult and lets me assume control of my machine, while Windows treats you like an idiot and always tries to think for you.

If you're an idiot, I'd say stick to Windows - otherwise, Ubuntu is great.