The Great Experiment Is Over


As you may or may not know, I am not a fan of Microsoft or its products. Because o that, I have been using a Linux distribution – Ubuntu – since late May on my computer as part of a double-boot system with Windows. The main reason for having the Windows OS – Bista – was to run my games, which cannot run in Linux.

Prior to a few months ago when we ended up having to buy me a new computer, I had been using Ubuntu plus Windows XP/ I hated XP and Ubuntu 8.04 was a definite improvement. All the good things I had to say here about Ubuntu was base on that comparison.

My new monster HP came with Vista [re-installed and I added Ubuntu 8.04. Then, in November, Ubuntu released 8.10, a major upgrade and which was supposed to be far superior to Vista. Well, I was disappointed. For  the two months I used it, it has been one problem after another. After it crashed about a month ago and needed to be re-installed, I decided to hold off and try Vista for awhile.

I was quite pleasantly surprised. It most definitely is not XP. In fact, it reminds me a great deal of Ubuntu, without the hardware integration issues that make Ubuntu so difficult for the average computer user to install. You see, most computer hardware manufacturers have proprietary drivers designed for Windows and they do not make those drivers available to the Linux community. That means configuring Linux to work optimally with your hardware requires a great deal of technical expertise that most average computer users do not have, me included.With the increasing sophistication of computer hardware, that has become a real issue for Linux users.

but I was happy enough with my double-boot system to leave it as it was, and to slowly learn how to tweak Ubuntu to work better with my hardware. But then we had a hardware disaster.

My mow twelve-year old son Michael, who is a serious gamer, had been using a Compaq laptop we bought him last Christmas. He keeps buying himself bigger and better games, games that require more and more powerful hardware – like my monster HP.

Over the last month or so, his laptop was becoming more and more problematic. His older brother, who is autistic, pulled off about a dozen of the keys, so we got him an external keyboard to use. Then the dog chewed up the end of the cord for the keyboard. Then a couple of weeks ago, the computer crashed and we had to re-install everything. This time I insisted he use the Norton Internet Security suite trial to protect the computer, figuring the problem may have been malware from all the downloads Michael finds online. Everything seemed fine.

However, right after Christmas the laptop quit working, so we took it in to the Staples office supply where we bought it. The manager contacted HP and they agreed to fix it under the manufacturer’s warranty, which had just expired. Thank you, JP!

In the meantime, I decided to give Michael the monster HP and I could use the little HP Pavilion slinline that we had bought two years ago, with only Ubuntu installed on it. This had been my wife’s computer, with XP, for the last few months. Since my wife does not use a computer all that much, we felt she could use Michael’s if she had to do something on a computer until we got the laptop back from HP, at which point I would either keep using the Pavilion or I would take the laptop as my production computer. What little game playing I would have time for, I would do on the monster , if I could convince Michael to get off of it. Michael is passionate about his gaming, and since he wants to be a game designer when he grows up, I don’t have a real problem with that.

We got the laptop back yesterday, and with help from my daughter, who has become pretty familiar with Vista and laptops, since she has a better HP laptop than the one we just had repaired, I was able to configure that laptop so that I can use it even with my vision issues. Doing this was easier in Vista than in either XP or Ubuntu, so I am going to keep this laptop as a Vista-only machine.

So, I’ve gone mobile, which actually makes a lot of sense for me, I spend a great deal of time on the computer, which has meant, up to now, being  confined pretty much to the bedroom where my desk is. With the laptop, I will be able to move to other parts of the house, be closer to my wife and kids and stop being such a hermit. In the summer, I will be able to take my laptop out on the deck and keep an eye on the boys while they play in the pool. I might even get a tan this summer.

I can take my computer with me to Scout meetings, doctor’s visits, or any other place where I might end up sitting around bored because I have nothing to do. More productivity is always good.

In 2010, my daughter will graduate from high school. She wants to go to the Academy of Art in San Francisco and major in Art, probably with a heavy emphasis on computer art and animation. The best computers for that are Apples. Apple is the preferred computer for art and animation professionals. So, as her graduation present, we hope to buy here an Apple laptop. If that happens, I will use her big HP laptop, my wife will get this one, and my son Ian, the autistic one, will get the little Pavilion to use. If he beats it up, as he does with most of his electronics, so what?If it brings him pleasure, that’s fine with me, and heck, he might even learn to do more than play DVDs and audio CDs on it. He might even improve his language skills we can teach him to use it properly. That is the challenge that we will work on between now and then.


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