Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

Drinking the Ubuntu Kool-Aid

For quite a while, I had considered nuking Windows from my laptop and starting fresh. A few weeks ago, I finally took the plunge. I started with a full backup (two, actually — a file-by-file backup, and a partition image). I toyed with the idea of dual-booting, but finally decided that I’d try to go completely non-Windows, and see how well I could get by.

After hearing one of my co-workers rave about how impressed he was with Fedora Core, I was going to give that a try. But the DVD he burned for me wouldn’t install for some reason. So I decided to go with Ubuntu. This was probably just as well, as we use a lot of Debian Linux stuff at work, and Ubuntu is Debian-based.

I won’t bore you with details of the install (which went smoothly), or with detailed lists of what I’ve done to customize my system. But I do want to point out some good links and highlights for the curious. Especially what I did about those pesky “can’t-live-without” Windows applications.

I knew that the main Windows application that I would miss was Photoshop. Yes, I know about the Gimp, and I’m sure it’s quite capable of doing 99% of the things that I do in Photoshop. But I’ve been using PS for about 10 years now, and I know my around that application. I’ve tried using the Gimp a few times, but I just can’t make myself use it enough to get used to that interface. I also know about Gimpshop, but I already own the real thing, and I’d prefer to use it.

Enter Wine. Wine is an implementation of the Windows API under Unix. And it really works. I just mounted my Photoshop CD, and ran wine Setup.exe, and Photoshop was installed into the default wine environment under my account. I did run into some glitches trying to run it at first, however. But after a bit of searching, I discovered that the solution was to remove some unneeded definitions for a Wacom graphics tablet from my xorg.conf file.

The other main Windows app that I thought I’d miss was iTunes. However, rather than running that under Wine, I decided to check out the native Linux offerings. I tried XMMS, but it was too much like WinAmp, and I didn’t like the interface. I also tried Rhythmbox, and it was okay, but just didn’t seem like I could tweak it enough. Then I found Amarok 1.4.2, which is what I’m running now.

Amarok has an interface and feature-set very similar to iTunes. It’s also very easy to hook into it and write your own scripts to interface with the player. I was able to whip up a perl script to send “now playing” song information to my web server very quickly. I just wish that there was a universally accepted way to transport song ratings from one system to another. I lost all my iTunes ratings, play counts, and such. It’s probably possible to extract that from the iTunes data files, but I don’t have enough spare time to mess with that. In any case, I’m pretty happy with Amarok.

And finally, I also found some simple instructions for running Internet Explorer under Ubuntu. This is great for web development, as I’ll be able to test pages with IE 5.0, 5.5, and 6.0. This procedure installs each version of IE into its own Wine environment, so you can run them all simultaneously without side-effects. I’m keeping my eye out for IE 7.0, but it might be a while, because it apparently depends on some bits of Windows XP that aren’t yet handled by Wine.

In any case, I’m still getting along just fine with Ubuntu. The main problem I’ve had so far is that some of my Firefox and Thunderbird extensions don’t want to work correctly (ForecastFox, for example). But I’m sure that the wrinkles will get smoothed out over time. If you are thinking of installing Ubuntu, or if you already have, and need some pointers on what you can do to tweak your sytem, try the following useful links:

Sometime in the future, I might post more specific details on other utilities I’ve installed or configuration options I’ve tweaked to get my system set up the way I want. If you’d be interested in that, let me know!

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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7 Responses to Drinking the Ubuntu Kool-Aid

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