Growing Pains at Yankeewombat

Yankeewombat is moving to a new server – Media Temple – and my son Julian of Exceler8ion has asked me to post this both at the old server and at the new one. At first it will come from the old server and then when he gets everything working properly it will come from the new one. Readers wont be able to see much difference if all goes well. He says response times should improve and that’s about all the regular reader should notice.

The other move I’ve made is to switch my blog related activities to a computer running Ubuntu Linux. You may have already noticed a change resulting from that move – it messed up the usual fonts and my last post -on Jamil Hussein – wouldn’t work on Internet Explorer. It seems that the Linux computer being used to create the post must have the fonts used by the blog’s template for them to appear when you view a page. I’ve fixed the body text which uses Verdana – a sans serif face I really like. The headlines are set in Lucida Grande which I haven’t install yet. So far, this is the worst problem I’ve had to deal with and thanks to the book Ubuntu Hacks I’m well on my way to solving it.

Why am I making the change after using MS products going back to DOS 1.1? The short answer is that Ubuntu Linux is ready for everyday computer use and although I think XP is a good, serviceable operating system the prospect of Vista offers me very little at great expense. Eventually when I can get genuinely improved 64 bit versions of programs I have invested 20 years in learning – like Corel Draw – I’ll consider Vista. But for ordinary applications like office programs the Linux alternatives are just fine. The two programs I actually use the most are my browser and my e-mail program – Firefox and Thuinderbird – and they are available on both platforms so I don’t even have to get used to new programs.

But there is one huge difference between Ubuntu and Microsoft that everyone should be aware of and it is not that Ubuntu is free. It is the automatic upgrading process for not just the operating system but for the installed software on your computer. It works like Microsoft update – you just click on an icon – but not only does the operating system get updated – all the software you have installed does too. So the the office suite and the browser and the e-mail program get done at the same time the operating system is updated. Linux and all its programs have been free all along but managing them and keeping them up to date was harder, at least initially, than with Windows. Now its easier. I should state this caveat – not all Linux programs are automatically updated – not commercial ones for obvious reasons – but everything in a very generous list of programs maintained by Unbuntu and I believe a further list maintained by the Ubuntu community all get upgraded automatically. Otherwise you have to install the newer version of an unsupported program individually as you do with XP or the Mac.

On the down side, there are the teething problems like I had with my fonts above. And I have yet to get my industrial strength Laser printer – a Lexmark T520 – working on the network. That’s not Linux’s fault – I am no good at networking and get just as tangled up connecting up a network printer with a Microsoft computer. But there are special problem is making the switch to Linux and fortunately there is a book that really has eased the transition so far. Ubuntu Hacks by Johnathan Oxer, Kyle Rankin and Bill Childers published by O’Reilly. I wouldn’t convert to Ubuntu without it – it’s that good. All the information in it is probably out there in the various official support tools and community help forums, but you are way ahead with this book because it gets you up to speed with the common problems encountered in making the switch quickly. If, like me, you are less than enthusiastic about the Microsoft experience download the Ubuntu live CD and check it out. If you are seriously interested, I’d recommend getting Ubuntu Hacks before proceeding because it will give you a much better idea of what is really involved in converting down to details of how to move your e-mails and contact lists.

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