Converting from Vista to Ubuntu
I have a good friend, a fellow math major here at Rocky. He's a smart guy, but never really "got into" computers- he uses them for school and is as good as anyone researching on Google, but he never really had the time to learn about what makes a computer work. Not to say he's not interested, or wanting to learn- he's just been involved in other things.
He'd had a Toshiba Satellite for about 1/2 a year when my story starts. It came with Windows Vista, and he'd bought himself a copy of Office 2007. He'd also dropped his laptop once- it was powered off, with no damage to the HDD or any internals, but it does have a nasty crack in the case and doesn't quite close properly. Even so, it's a screaming 2.4ghz dual-core with 2GB of RAM and a 160GB HDD. Thus begins the story.
A little over a month ago, Vista somehow deleted or corrupted several boot files. In a rush to get finals finished, he grabbed a friend's Vista boot disk- fired up, finished his projects, and passed all his classes. A month later, Vista starts grumbling. "Activation required" Vista says. "WTH?" he replies. Yes, indeed- the Toshiba shipped with Windows Vista Home Basic. His friend gave him a Windows Vista Home Premium disk. Without warning or notice, it upgraded itself to a trial edition- and the trial just ran out.
First, he calls Toshiba. Toshiba won't touch the computer itself, because of the aforementioned cosmetic damage. It's $25 to send him a recovery disk. Being a poor college kid, he calls Microsoft for help. Sorry, you've upgraded! The only solution is to spend $200 for a copy of Vista Home Premium. Looking at a choice between $25 and $200, neither of which he has, he calls me. "David, is there such a thing as a free operating system?"
Ding! "Why yes, of course. It's called Linux- 100% free, and generally more usable than Vista." Of course, that last one was stretching things a little, but I already knew he wasn't afraid of his computer, he just hadn't had time to learn it intimately. Well, we got together the next evening, and fired up the Ubuntu live disk. With a quick explanation of the difference between the Linux Kernel and the Ubuntu Distribution (8.04 Hardy Heron), he was piqued. Fired up Compiz- he was sold.
10 minutes of backing up his important files (~200 MB, he had already lost most of his music when Vista shat the bit), it was reformat time! Absolutely astounded that the entire OS installed in 15 minutes, he fired up the staples- FGLRX for the ATI card, Compiz and all its pretties, and OpenOffice. He was mostly impressed, until he made it to OpenOffice Spreadsheet. He is an Excel 2007 Power User, and OOo Spreadsheet simply lacks some features he uses regularly in Excel (Analysis packs, specifically).
Seeing as he had spent $149.99 on a copy of Office 2007, the least I could do is get it working. This took some effort- specifically, a default install of Wine, rebuild of rcprt4.dll.so from CrossOver Games source, and several Wine Tricks. Even so, it loaded and booted up just fine- until you try to either paste between applications (causes a crash pasting anything more than text) and the important clincher- the Analysis pack wouldn't work.
It was getting late and he decided to call it a night. I was out of town for the next couple days backpacking, but alas, all was not perfect when I returned. As it happens, the default Atheros drivers weren't working- he had spent the last two days without precious wireless internet. Moreover, another friend of his had rather definitively stated that it would never work- because Atheros had proprietary drivers, you could never use an Atheros card on Linux. The story is that this was after five hours of searching and trying things. Not sure what his problem was. lspci lists the card as an ar5007eg; the first Google search for ar5007eg is an article on using the drivers with ndiswrapper.
So, about 20 minutes after he came over depressed about not having wireless, I ran modprobe ndiswrapper and Network Manager popped up "7 wireless networks detected". He was ready to kiss me. Undaunted, we had only two tasks in front of us: first, VirtualBox OSE + XP for Office 2007 (he told me up front he was aggravated with Microsoft, and had already downloaded an XP iso from the torrents); second, Steam. Well, Steam is listed platinum in the wine app DB, and all the steam games are Platinum or Gold. Indeed, Steam is a platinum app- download the installer from the site, and everything runs perfectly.
With a bit of tweaking (it turns out you need virtualbox-ose-modules-386, not virtualbox-ose-modules-generic) VirtualBox was up and running. With 1ghz of 1 of the dual cores, 512 megs of RAM and a 5-gig dynamic volume, Office 2007 was running in under an hour. He was so happy he said he would kiss me. I said a pack of beer or Red Bull would suffice. He has yet to deliver... but he is happy with Ubuntu, Compiz, most of OpenOffice, VirtualBox... really, he hasn't found anything that doesn't work as good or better than Vista, in his opinion.
So, all it takes to convert to Ubuntu is:
1. Anger and Frustration with Vista.
2. Ubuntu + Compiz
3. ndiswrapper on persnickety wireless cards
4. Wine 1.1.0 for 80% of common Windows apps.
5. VirtualBox-OSE + XP for those 20% who you bought, but haven't made it in Wine.
Note- building CrossOver Games from source may help bring that 80% to 90%.