Taking the plunge (Switching to Ubuntu)

Ever since Mac OS X was rolled out in the University of Michigan computer labs, I’ve considered myself a multi-platform computer user. I use different OS’s for different tasks – most of my development and work-related tasks are done on a Windows machine, while I use my Powerbook for casual browsing/e-mail and music-related tasks.

My work with Linux was typically limited to console-based use, though – I administer several Linux webservers, and can achieve all I want through the commandline over SSH. Recently, however, I’ve had a desire to broaden my use of Linux to “desktop use” – especially since it appears that I can get seamless virtualization of Windows apps inside Ubuntu with relative ease. I’ve been watching Ubuntu for a while, playing around with it inside the VMWare player, and decided that now was a good time to make the switch for real on my primary desktop computer.

Over the next few blog entries, I plan on documenting any pitfalls I’ve encountered, in case anyone else runs into the same.

The first thing I had to was convince my wife that switching to Ubuntu was right for us. She liked the logo, so that was a good start. What was even more helpful was the Installer/Live CD, though. I was able to show her Firefox, OpenOffice, and the general UI of Ubuntu without having to commit to anything. She wasn’t particularly wowed at this point in the time, but that’s sort of the point – the interface is something that just seems “right.” It’s not shocking, it just works how you would expect it to.

Next up, preparing my system for the switch. We’ve got loads of documents, including every paper from college, lots of programming projects, gigs and gigs of photos… all on NTFS partitions (split across one internal and two external drives). Using the LiveCD, I was able to see that Ubuntu read those partitions just fine. I decided to copy all of our data from the internal drive onto one of the external drives, format the internal drives using an open filesystem, and keep both the external drives as NTFS for now. While I did title this post “Taking the plunge,” I’m not ready to jump in headfirst – I’d like to be able to get out of the water relatively easily in case anything goes wrong.

Finally, I used an Ultimate Boot CD for Windows that I made a while ago to make a backup image of my primary Windows partition. I probably could have done this using some sort of free program without having to use the UBCD, but since I had it, it was easier to just go with it.

Next entry: the installation process!

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