February 06, 2007
Open Source Odysseys: Linux on the Laptop

Back in December, both the motherboard and the hard drive on my Thinkpad X41 Tablet died. Happily, Lenovo's warranty service was superior, getting the machine back to me fixed three days after I shipped it out broken. Due to the timing of the hard drive failure, however, I found myself with a blank hard drive and no USB CD-ROM drive from which to re-load Windows.

From problem springs opportunity: I'd wanted to install GNU/Linux on this machine, and now I didn't have to deal with re-partitioning! If I needed to move back to Windows later, I'd be no worse off. So I set up a network install from an Ubuntu disk I had around, and within the hour I was setting up applications and copying data back.

A month in, I haven't regretted the switch nor pined for Vista. With the help of ThinkWiki, the machine sleeps, wakes, and works better than ever, even rotating the screen automatically in tablet mode. Firefox looks the same on any platform; OpenOffice.org has been a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office, allowing seamless exchange with colleagues' .doc and .ppt files and making it easy to generate PDFs, as a bonus; Thunderbird handles and filters email almost as well as Eudora; Wine runs the odd but necessary Windows app; and the command line and development environment underneath it all offer customization possibilities much harder to achieve in Windows. Ubuntu's focus on combining power with ease of use has really paid off.

Posted by Wendy at 02:30 PM