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Blog: Switching (Maybe?) to Ubuntu

By Dave Morton

The other day, I was prompted by a post over at Datahopa to join the LHC@home project. Well, I read through the instructions, which included installing an app called VirtualBox, along with other apps. As luck would have it, once I get everything installed, I find (to my dismay) that the LHC@home project is not currently accepting new members. Bummer! :(

I was all for just uninstalling everything and quietly going off into a corner to sulk.

However, it occurred to me that, now that I had a good, working "Virtual Machine" installed on my laptop, I should try to get some use out of it. So I did some thinking, and decided on a plan.

You see, while I've been a Windows user since 3.11, I've never been all that happy with the way that Microsoft has been progressing with their Operating Systems. To me, each new OS that came out was afflicted with a horrible problem that just got worse and worse with each new incarnation: CODE BLOAT! Ever since Windows 98, each new version of Windows has taken up vastly more space on our hard drives than the one before. Sometimes this increase is as much as TEN TIMES more than previous. Sure, as these new Operating Systems have come out, our hardware has always been up to the task of handling this increase, but I've always felt that system resources are a precious thing, to be used, certainly, but not over-used. And Microsoft's answer to security risks in their software has ever been to "throw code at the problem", which of course leads to even more bloat, which takes up more resources, and causes the OS to run slower than it needs to. Now I'm not saying that we should all still be using Win98SE, but I can honestly say that if 98 were able to run with an NTFS file system, and had the ability to use multiple CPU cores, I probably would still be using it, because it had more features and capabilities for it's size than XP, or Vista, or even 7 ever will. And of all of the "improvements" that have been made, from XP on up, the vast majority of them are what I consider to be "Gee-Wiz" features that do nothing to help us to be more productive. So my desktop background changes automatically every 15 seconds now. So what? That's more of a distraction than anything, and takes up far more disk space, and memory, and CPU cycles than necessary.

Ok, ok. I'm done preaching for now. Onward we go, and back to my "plan". :)

I decided, as I had said before, to take advantage of having VirtualBox installed, and I went looking for a version of Linux that I could be happy with. My criteria were simple: It had to support my current hardware (a multi-core, 64 bit CPU, with 4GB of memory), it needed to do everything I can currently do with Windows, and it had to be smaller than Windows 7 (no real challenge there!). I went ahead and installed Ubuntu 11.04, and boy, was I amazed! I found that Ubuntu is taking up a mere 2.0GB of disk space, whereas just the Windows directory on my C drive is 20.1GB! That's less than 10%! Additionally, Windows is spread all over my drive, not just in the Windows directory. When I counted up the total for Ubuntu, I was including everything except the swap files; this means that that 2.0GB total also includes all of the "extra" apps and files that I've installed so far, including a couple of FPS games, and all the files needed to set up a web server. If I were to add those same types of files to my Windows count, the 20GB total would likely skyrocket! Of course, I know that, having been a Windows user for a great many years, and having literally hundreds of apps installed on my desktop, this would be an unfair comparison. But I'm talking about my laptop here, with NO FPS games installed, NO web server, and only a handful of other apps installed.

And just for comparison? My installation of Win98SE, after years of running that OS, was just over 3GB in size - not counting apps and the like. Ubuntu is even smaller than Win98? Awesome!

So at this point, I'm going to check out Ubuntu, and see if I can use it long-term, which means installing as many apps as I can find Linux versions for that I currently use in Windows, and testing out some Windows emulators, such as Wine, and PlayOnLinux. If I can "get by" with this setup while running on a Virtual Machine, then I'm quite certain that Dr. Torvald will have another convert, and I'll be switching first my desktop, and then my laptop, over to Ubuntu completely. :D