Living With Linux – Making the switch

Just over a week ago, I took the plunge, and installed Ubuntu Linux on my main home computer.  It’s not the kind of decision I take lightly, and I’ve probably been building up to this for some 10 years or so.  But a few recent events have told me that the time is now right for me to make the switch from Windows.

As an IT Engineer, I work with Microsoft products all day every day, and I used every version of Microsoft Windows since 3.11.  Some with more success than others, but, as my Twitter followers will testify, I have not got on well with Windows 8.  I had a pretty sweet set up with Windows 7, and thought I’d take advantage of the cheap £25 upgrade to Windows 8.  That was probably the biggest mistake I’ve made!  It broke software.  It was slow.  My hardware, despite being compatible  didn’t always work as planned.  I struggled to find my way around.  I was no longer in control of my own PC – Windows 8 was controlling me!  It was driving me up the wall and it was time to change.

About 8 years ago I read In The Beginning Was The Command Line by Neal Stephenson.  This book looks at the Mac vs PC debate, and talks about Linux and BeOS as viable alternatives and inspired me to switch to a Linux operating system.  To be honest, it didn’t really work out.  I didn’t know what I was doing, and not all my hardware was supported.  It was slow, ugly, and harder to use than Windows that I was used to, and I didn’t know anyone that could offer help or advice.  So it didn’t last long.  These days, however, I am aware of a lot more people running Linux as their OS of choice.  Just over a week ago I rediscovered Neal Stephensons book can be easily found on line via Google, so I read it again.  Sure, it’s now 14 years old, so some bits are outdated (BeOS hasn’t quite taken off as predicted!), but in so many ways it seems like it could have just been written yesterday.  So, 2 days later, I installed Linux!

Now, I’m not a total noob when it comes to Linux, but there’s no way I could be mistaken for a long bearded sandal wearing command line guru.  I have a couple of Raspberry Pi boards, and these, to me, are for learning on, and discovering how stuff works. What I wanted, though was a replacement for Microsoft Windows.  Something that installs easily, gives a nice desktop environment, and just works.  I mainly use this PC for surfing the web, watching (and occasionally editing) videos, listening to music and a bit of Arduino programming.  Nothing too technical really.  So, I headed off to and grabbed a 64 bit copy of 13.04 Desktop (latest one at time of writing this).  With a little download from I quickly had a bootable USB stick that I could run Linux from (thus checking my hardware is detected properly), and use it to install the OS to the hard drive.

Whilst I know that both Windows and Linux can quite happily coexist on the same hard drive, and you can boot in to whichever one you want, I used this as an excuse to treat myself to a new hard drive.  I am always happier with a clean fresh install, and particularly for a switch like this, I figured it would be the best way to go.  I unplugged the two other hard drives in my machine and set the BIOS to boot from my new 750gb hybrid drive.  I can, in an emergency, now change the BIOS boot order to boot back to my Windows 8 desktop – but it’s sufficiently troublesome to do that I’m unlikely to want to do that.

The install process is very easy.  Only a few simple questions, where the default is probably the best answer, and it just works.  After installation I logged on to the desktop and checked things behaved as I expected them to do, then shut down and plugged the old hard drives back in.  When I restarted, the drives showed up, and I was able to navigate my way around to find all my old files.  Stage 1 complete!