I have been a windows user from the start and I have fond memories of 3.1 and then 3.11 progressing through each new release until I find myself lumbered with Vista on my desktop PC. My laptop gave up once XP was released, and therefore had been consigned to a space in the cupboard, and had sat gathering dust, until by chance I read an article in The Times about a £100 laptop which had been developed for school children by Elonex called The One. This laptop had solid state hard drives 512mb Ram, an unheard of Celeron processor to run a Linux operating system. To be honest I had never really bothered to read much about Linux, I remember once seeing a unix system around 15 years ago, and remember the feeling of horror as I saw the command line interface. I blame this traumatic event for the reason that I had not found out more about Linux sooner.
I started, where so many fact finding missions begin, in Google, Google IS my friend, and started reading some of the results. I was amazed to discover that Linux was not as resource hungry as Windows and in some instances could be booted and run from a CD or memory stick with no requirement to install. I discovered that Linux came in as many flavours (called Distros) than you could shake a stick at, and best of all these distros pretty much came with all of the software that you might reasonably be considered to need, for nothing, gratis, free. Imaging that, an operating system and applications all for nothing. Like most people I like a freebie, especially a freebie that processes that it may be able to breathe life back into an old laptop.
Where to start? With so many distros on offer which should I choose, I found a site called distrowatch which lists the most popular downloads of distros over given periods, looked at the top 5, Which at the time was OpenSuse, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Mandriva and Mint and downloaded them all. I then burned them to a cd as an image, and gingerly put the first disk into my newly reformatted laptop and loaded OpenSuse which installed without issue. So began an intensive period of Distro Hopping, which is the name give to the process of installing one distro, then changing it in favour of another. I am not sure why, certainly the top 5 that I downloaded all worked and did what I needed them to do, however there are hundreds of distros, and I was concerened that one that I hadn’t yet looked at might be better? How would I live with myself. I must have downloaded close to 50 distros by the end of my distro hopping phase and burnt as many CD’s. Some just didn’t work, because they didn’t like my hardware, some because I am assuming they had not been compiled properly, some did not have the functionality that I perceived that I needed, others just were not flashy enough! Eventually I found my distro stopper, PCLinuxOS, one of the original distros that I had downloaded in the first instance. It loaded onto my archaic laptop relatively quickly, it does what I need, it is a doddle to download additional software packages, it looks good and is easily customised.
I have been using Linux for the best part of two months as a dual boot with Windows. I would dearly love to say goodbye to Windows but much of the software that I rely on is Windows only, and whilst I could possibly use WINE to run these programs in a Linux shell, I am not yet fully in the Linux comfort zone, to enable me to make this complete transition. However I have made many concessions to the Linux world, I run Linux on my laptop, and use it out of preference to XP. I have since purchased an Asus EEE (more about that later) which is currently running a Linux distro, and my two boys who will be aged 8 and 7 respectively in a few months have two shiny Elonex One laptops waiting for them which again run a Linux distro.
In the future I predict that Linux will be King, long live the King.