Total Noob Tackles Ubuntu

Isambard (roommate, fellow denizen of the Halfway House for Failed Intellectuals) turned on his computer last Saturday and was hailed by a message: “your Windows 10 upgrade will start in 58 hours.”  Isambard had not clicked on the “upgrade me” pop up.  This computer was one he just bought, has Windows 7 professional, and is being turned into a gaming computer.  He certainly does not want to go around changing itself without permission.  Thankfully there are things to do about it and once he figured out how to murder the “Get Windows 10” app, I followed suit on my own computer preemptively.  (Although some of the things I’ve read since make me suspect that even this is a temporary fix.)

When the support for XP ended, I dragged my heels and didn’t buy a new computer until certain programs started informing me that they couldn’t update on XP anymore.  (Hmph.)  My old computer was slow but it still worked and it annoyed me no end to have to get a new one especially when I had to pay a bit more to get a 7 rather than an 8.  Since the old computer worked, I wasn’t about to pitch it.  Windows has been getting progressively more irritating and the thought of jumping ship was in the back of my mind.

Years ago, I had a computer that ran Ubuntu.  I wasn’t the one that installed it, I have no idea what version it was, I thought it looked ugly, and I never did much with it besides use it as a word processor which was what I needed for school at the time.  But it did two things: get me addicted to keyboard shortcuts and introduce me to the world of Linux.  So for years I had the notion that one day I would give it another try and really use it this time.

The Get Windows 10 app provided a motivation.  If Windows is doing this now, they’re only going to get pushier in the future and I see no reason to put up with them.  So I started researching distros.

Linux is very scary for non-tech people.  I’m not one of those people who takes the computer class at the local community college and doesn’t know how to turn on the computer, but I am not very computer savvy.  I can help my mom with minor problems but that’s about it.  One problem with Linux is that there’s too many types of Linux.  I’d had Ubuntu before, but I didn’t know that much about it and so wasn’t going into this thinking “I want Ubuntu.”  Thankfully the Linux community is full of nice, patient people who have written reams of advice articles about choosing your first favor of Linux.

I was tempted by Mint but because of the hack issue decided to go with Ubuntu instead.  Because after all, if I don’t like it, I can try another one.  I wasn’t even intending to do anything about it that day but once I got started I just kept going.

I downloaded Ubuntu on the new computer while I set the old computer to clean itself up.  This ended up taking all day since I did disk clean up, defrag, checked C drive, changed the boot order, uninstalled a lot of programs, and deleted about 100 GB of files.  Defrag caused problems because it locked up and I didn’t notice because I went off to do something else and came back a hour and a half later to find it doing nothing.  On the other computer, Ubuntu got burned to a DVD.

The fact that you can boot off a DVD and just try it is really, really nice.  That eliminates the terror of installing something you know practically nothing about and hoping it’s going to be something you like.  I mean, that can be a problem with just about any program you might put on a computer but an operating system is different.  Not quite so easy to undo for one.

But I got brave and decided to install it after a little poking around.  The installer said, however, that it wanted an internet connection.  Rather than break into the Wizard’s office and fight the snake pit like mass of wires going into/around/through/behind (and whatever other prepositions are applicable) his desk in which the router is nested, I decided to see if the wifi would work.

Looking back on it, I’m somewhat surprised and annoyed by my complete lack of interest in the Ubuntu computer that I did have.  Well, this was like ten years ago and one major problem with the computer was that the wifi didn’t work so most of the time it had no internet access and I couldn’t download any programs unless I had an ethernet cable and was at school and the right places in the library weren’t already occupied.  The person who had installed Ubuntu on that computer claimed to have tried to get it to recognize the wifi card and failed.  So you might say I was a little concerned about the same thing happening again.

I wish back then I’d made the effort to look for the solution myself instead of thinking “he’s the computer guy; if he can’t figure it out, I sure can’t.”  Because I pretty quickly found lots of information about how to figure out what’s wrong.  (Maybe this information didn’t exist back then but I’ll never know because I never looked.)  And despite the fact that diagnosing it required using the awful, terrible, scary terminal (I’m joking; it’s purple so it must be cool) I found the fix very quickly.  All it took were some proprietary drivers and yay! Everything worked!  After all that I almost felt like I knew what I was doing.

So of course when Ubuntu was actually installed… the wireless stopped working.  And what I’d done before to make it work… no longer worked. But there was a quick fix for that and easily found.  It just took fighting my way to the router to get a wired internet connection as the drivers hadn’t installed correctly or something.

This poor, old, slow machine now boots up twice as fast as it once did.  Everything I have installed runs great.  In fact, it seems to be running faster and smoother than my Windows 7 machine.  I have rather nice advantage in that I switched over to using a lot of open source programs a long time ago so many of the programs I normally use work fine on Ubuntu.  I am not very impressed by the Software Center.  It didn’t want to work at first and it’s slightly clunky but it works now so I can’t complain too much.

I’ve got a lot to learn but so far it’s been fun.


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