Sunday, 12 September 2010

More Time Than Sense

...or: A Week With Lucid Lynx.

If you watch this space regularly, you might have noticed that, almost exactly four weeks ago, I almost completely gave up on Windows (and Windows 7 Ultimate, too), and went almost the whole hog with Linux (Mint, 9, aka Isadora). I seem to have almost gone mad for "almost" in the process, but that's another story, for another day. Almost...

Having taken that step, I well and truly, never looked back. I think I booted into Windows only once in the period, and only because I was messing around with the boot loader and wanted to make sure I didn't break anything, and could still boot into Windows. If I wanted to. Which I didn't. Want. Or do. Which was "a good thing"™.

Then, this past Sunday morning, finding myself with time on my hands - and a request for silence while my SO was otherwise busy - I read about the early release of Ubuntu 10.10 (aka Maverick Meerkat - where do they come up with these?). Now, I don't normally run my main computers on beta versions - and I wasn't going to start now. But, looking at the Ubuntu website, I realised that 10.04 (the Lucid Lynx from the opening line) is a LTS release.

Long term support. I like the sound of that. Even if it's only three years.

Seeing as it was long overdue for me to give Gnome another go (I class myself as a KDE man, normally) I felt one of those geeky itches. The ones that are scratched by spending hours re-installing your operating system(s) from scratch. I hesitated a little. Do I really want to do this? Well, yes. I just needed one more little reason to tip me over to the dark... er, right side.

And then it came. I'll use this to get rid of that pesky Windows altogether! I hated having to keep several drives with several file systems anyway, and in Linux all of it can nicely map onto the same logical hierarchy. Better yet, I will wipe the slate clean and just have two partitions for the two physical drives I have, and these two will then be mapped together, and I won't have to think of it ever again.

The rest, as they say, is history. Which will now be written down for posterity. A week with Lucid Lynx, day by day, hour by hour, if need be (don't worry, it doesn't).

Sunday, early morning

Decision made, I spend a couple of hours backing up all my data. Onto two separate external hard drives. Yes, I am paranoid. I have been bitten. The backups show 10:24 as the time, so that must be when I started with the next step.

Sunday, slightly less early in the morning

Another half hour to download and burn the install CD. Leave it in the drive. Re-boot.

Just in case, boot into Live CD to check if wireless and sound work. They do. I knew they would, but one can never be too sure.

Sunday, probably around noon

Start the install process. Language, time zone, keyboard, user name, password... Then, the big question: where shall we put this Lucid Lynx? For the first time ever, in decades, I select "use the whole of first hard drive".

Off we go. No looking back.

Sunday, less than 20 minutes later

Please remove the CD and hit Enter. Thirty seconds pass, user name, password, wireless key. We're in. And not just that we were in, we were also done.

A small matter of copying back all the data from backup and I'm well and truly back in business.

Last time I was restoring Windows partition with pretty much the same data set, it took an inordinate, and inordinately annoyingly long time. With just a bit of trepidation, I plug in the external hard drive. I decide to start small, so I can gauge how long it'll take. I start with a measly 14GB. My! It flies!

So, just in case it turns sour later, I leave the other 100-ish GB to copy over while we go shopping. Which turned out to be totally unnecessary. By the time we were both ready, it was already almost two thirds through.

I decided not to wait it out. I was already destined to another few hours of enforced piece and quiet when we get back. SOmeone was again taking their work very, very, seriously (in case my employers are reading this: I do as well - just very rarely on a Sunday afternoon).

Sunday, late afternoon

Important data copied over long ago, I turn my attention to only slightly less important data: music. I have lots. And here, "lots" stands for more than 200GB. Honest. I almost decided not to bother, seeing it lives its own life on its own physical hard drive. Yes, it's NTFS formatted, but do I really want to go through formatting it all in ext4, only to then have to copy the lot back over?

Of course I do! And so I did. A few minutes to re-format and make sure the drive mounts where I want it, then plug in the external hard drive again and drag all the stuff over. A few seconds for file manager to calculate the sizes and the time estimate comes up: less than two and a half hours. When I did this last in Windows I had to leave it over night. And, being an early rises (sadly) I found it still at it when I woke up.

Still, two hours plus is a long time, and I spend it adding the few bits and pieces that do not come pre-installed: Google Chrome, Google Picasa, and Dropbox. I know they're not FOSS, but they're free, as in beer. And I like beer. They're also (almost) as good as beer.

Rest of the time I spend exploring the latest Gnome environment (not drinking beer, honest - that came a bit later). It's actually quite OK. I still think it should allow easier access to some nook and crannies of various settings, but for an ageing geek it is increasingly acceptable (especially the large fonts and buttons for the weary eyes).

Sunday, late evening

The system has been fully up and running for a while now. I can't tell exactly when it was fully ready and ship-shape because everything went smoothly, and I was able to comfortably do stuff while other stuff was copied over, installed, and set up.

One annoyance came from my decision to go all-Gnome, which meant converting my KMail mail database to Evolution. Amazingly, there is still no automated way to do it, and even though the manual way was simple and fool-proof enough it would still have been better to select a menu option, the directory to import from, and hit OK. Oh well, maybe next time...

So, Sunday gone, I had my new system all up and running. Seeing how long winded I've been, you may be tempted now to run for the hills when I present you with the rest of the week. Don't. Bear with me, and you'll learn why going to Linux the whole way makes me so light-headed. Heck, you may even decide to do it yourself...

Monday

Having left the laptop on overnight - for no particular reason; probably because I am traumatised by powering up Windows machines - I wake up to an update that requires rebooting. Yes, it is sometimes required in Linux, too. Sometimes - not every time. In this particular instance I reboot twice. Why? Because the first time around the process was so quick that I thought I didn't do it in the first place. Clicking OK on the "reboot now" button to full Internet connectivity in less than two minutes (I timed it later - power up, with logging in, takes around 70 second; power down is considerably quicker)? Match that Microsoft!

The rest of the day was boring. Stuff just worked.

Tuesday

Stuff still just works. I also seriously start contemplating not leaving the laptop on overnight.

Wednesday

Boring. It all works. I even re-boot once - just to enjoy how fast it does it.

Thursday

I replace Rhythmbox with Banshee. Now that it's on an ext4 partition, it scans my whole music library (think 45,000+ songs) in a jiffy (read: before I finish my second morning coffee).

The rest of the stuff still stubbornly works.

Friday

I feel an urge to liberate my Acer One netbook, too. I resist. For now. I think I will keep it as a drop-dead backup. It runs Windows XP, so it's not that much of a dog, anyway. But it will get a Linux facelift, and most of the hard drive will be in ext2 (so it can be easily read-written from WinXP).

Saturday

I realise I haven't even installed Wine yet. I will, when I have a minute. I still find Panorama Maker Pro to be the easiest panorama stitcher I've tried. If someone knows a good Hugin tutorial, though, I'm all ears!

Sunday, again

It's Sunday again, and it's time to rest. But I can't. I just got this urge to tell the world (+dog) all about my week with Lucid Lynx. And so I do. From Lucid Lynx. Did I ever use Windows? Why?

Now, I will switch off my laptop (cue polar bear choir singing "Hallelujah!"). And why not. It'll be up and running again in no time tomorrow. Too bad I'll have to power up my work Windows XP, too.

And that, my friends, will take the best part of half an hour - of my life.

Switch to Linux - regain your life!