With a new venture, comes a new set-up. I’m going to be working with a new start-up company, a small outfit that will require some working from home, some working on site, plenty of time spent in odd Wi-Fi spots around London presumably — all amounting to a good enough excuse to purchase a brand new laptop and establish a new development environment.
For some time I’ve been keen to try working with Linux full-time, particularly Ubuntu, the most popular flavour of Linux. So with a brand new system I have an opportunity to try it.
I usually work with Unix-like systems for Web development, but on the server-side and using a virtualisation such as VMware, but infrequently at author time or on the desktop. I figured this is going to be a development machine, prone to be tarnished by experiment (or more likely ignorance), perhaps in need of frequent reset, so why not give it a roll.
Rather than go solo with only an installation of Ubuntu, I decided to dual-boot with Windows 7. I already own a genuine copy of Windows 7 and a few other PC-based applications, particularly Creative Suite for Web, plus this meant I could save some cash on buying a laptop without a pre-installed operating system. The dual-boot also gifts me with a fallback option if I really can’t get on with Linux.
So far as installation goes, there’s really not much to report. Installing Windows came first, a set-up as normal, straightforward but tiresome probably hitting double figures in the number of reboots required to get going. Around seventy updates recommended therein.
Ubuntu was downloaded and burned as a Live CD, running a super-simple installer with a couldn’t-be-easier draggable horizontal slider to determine the partition size.
There are many ways to partition drives, recommended schemes such as those on the Ubuntu docs, but I figured a halfway split would be fine. I can always readdress the partitioning if Linux doesn’t work out or if I end up never touching Windows and need the extra space.
After a few days to playing with Ubuntu, so far so good. Needless to say, now at version 10.10 it’s been a fully realised operating system for some time.
The two flavours, for desktop and netbook, are both fully featured, true alternatives to Windows and Mac OS. No longer only options for developers and the computer-savvy.
They both come with a number of applications pre-installed — browsers, mail and chat clients, image editors, a range of software you’d expect. Anything else you need can be found in the Ubuntu Software Centre, an App Store-like directory of open-source and proprietary software from Ubuntu and trusted third-parties and partners.
Firefox and Thunderbird are amongst the familiar names that come packaged with the basic install and a huge number of common day-to-day applications are widely supported — Chrome, Opera, the Flash player, Skype, all AIR-based apps (such as TweetDeck).
There’s support for iPhone and Android devices and cameras. OpenOffice provides your alternative to Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
I’m currently getting to grips with Evolution Mail (email apps are always fun) and Empathy IM, a chat client that integrates Google Chat, MSN, Jabber — all the usual suspects — akin to Pidgin or Adium.
And the icing on the cake — Spotify have a Linux preview. With that installed, it feels like home. Now I just need to get used to a whole new set of shortcuts and hotkeys.