The Great Ubuntu Experiment … again?

Ubuntu: Social from the start

I’m doing it again, but with a little bit of a twist this time around.

I’ve toyed around with using Linux as a desktop operating system at different times over the past five years, and Ubuntu was the distro that allowed me to take the plunge at different points. I’ve been using Ubuntu since 5.10 and it has matured very quickly for its considerable youth. The latest release, 10.10 (see, five years there) is a very capable and quite good-looking operating system that (in my opinion) can fulfill the computing needs for a good portion of users. Two of my brothers would be great examples.

However, I have usually (for better or worse, depending on your perspective) gone back to using Apple’s Mac OS X as my operating system of choice. However, as my wife and I prepare to close on our first house (YAY!), money has once again reared its ugly head. Not in the sense that we have none, but in the sense of prioritizing where money needs to go. As such, I’m giving Ubuntu another test run as my main development platform. It allows me to purchase cheap hardware and use it effectively for my needs … hopefully.

If it works, I’ll be extremely happy. If it doesn’t to my satisfaction, then I’ll be saving up for another Apple portable for the future. I’m not pushing one way or the other and we will see where the chips fall.

Two “wrinkles” this time around:

First involved where I am starting this test: at work. My desktop was acting very strange using Windows 7 and I think I’ve nailed it down to faulty video drivers or video hardware. What I’m waiting for is to see if Ubuntu fails as well. Sadly, it has been rock-solid so far and I have had no issues at all. Using Ubuntu at work enables me to do some script testing at my desktop instead of needing either a VM or to log into a server environment. It also means not as many people use my machine when I’m not around. That’s nice.

The second is that I will still have a Mac Mini in the house that my wife will be using. It works so well for her that I’m not going to be getting rid of it. So, I’ll need to find a cheap laptop and scrounge together the parts for a beefier desktop soon after we move into the house. That’s less than two weeks away!

So, there you have it. Another experiment and we will see how it goes.

I should add that the procurement of a laptop and desktop is completely dependent on extra money coming in at the moment. With the Mac Mini and my work laptop I am more than capable of completing the work that I need to do. This is more a wishlist than anything else.

Life Without Laptop

A while ago, back in September 2010, I made the decision to try and go without a laptop for myself. The reasons behind the decision were many and valid, not least of which being the fact that my job at the time did not require me to do any programming work at all and if it did I would not have been able to use my own machine anyway.

Now, almost four months later, I am regretting the decision to not keep a laptop of my own. It is not because of some lack in the iPad for any reason, but more for what limits I have now that I do not have a personal laptop.

Two things limit me the most:

  • lack of a mobile development platform
  • lack of a machine that I can personalize to my own taste and experiment on

Currently I am able to use our Mac Mini for any programming work that I need to accomplish. However, the limit there is that the Mini is also used by my wife for our family’s computer needs, including pictures and documents. As such, I dare not do anything too crazy so that I might not lost any information that is important to us.

With my own development laptop, I was free to mess up the OS installation as much as needed in order to experiment with things. With both my Thinkpad X40 and my 13″ MacBook Pro, I had become quite adept and reinstalling the OS and getting the system up and running as quickly as possible. This meant keeping my changes to a minimum and using system defaults as often as possible (along with backing up configuration files I might need). Usually this meant that, at worst, I would be down a day before I was back up and running.

That’s not a possibility right now and it is limiting.

So, I’m hoping to get something to use as a development laptop within the next couple of moths. Just to be clear, a development laptop, for me, is something that runs either Mac OS X or some flavor of Linux. For what I want to do, I need a POSIX environment of some sort or I get crabby.

So, while I would not consider the experiment a failure (the iPad gets a lot more use than any other computer device in the house), I would consider my needs to have changed since I had originally thought through things. As such, a course correction is needed and will be taken.

Any advice on laptops I should be looking for are appreciated. Leave them in the comments!