Friday, March 23, 2007

Taking the Linux plunge

So I've got a decade or so of Windows-based network administration experience. However, my formal computer science education was rooted in Unix back in the early 1990s. We used Sun workstations exclusively back then, and almost all programming was in C or Scheme. I even wrote a simple C compiler.

But my first job was at a Netware 3.X shop, which we transitioned to Windows NT 3.51, and I've been managing large, multi-site, but mostly-Windows networks ever since. (I've also done a lot of DBA and security work too). So I'm not a neophyte when it comes to IT, but I don't have much Linux experience, as none of the jobs or projects I've worked on used Linux.

I finally decided to install Linux and actually try to use the thing regularly. I've done "toy installs" of various Linux and BSD flavors over the years, mostly in in Virtual machines. But this was my first real go at using Linux regularly.

I picked Ubuntu 6.10 as my distribution, based mostly on reputation as the simplest Linux to get working.

But first, I had to partition my hard disk on my Dell 700m so I could dual-boot. No problem; I've used PartitionMagic before. But QTpartEd from the bootable Knoppix CD can also shrink and existing NTFS partition, so I used that, and it worked like a champ: 40 GB for my existing Windows XP Pro installation, and 20 GB of empty space for Linux.

Not exactly "my mom can do it" easy, but not the sort of thing that's necessary unless you want to dual-boot.

After downloading Ubuntu 6.10 installer and burning it to CD, I fired it up in my road-weary Dell. A nice GUI installer comes up, and asks a few sensible questions. Then it asks where I want to install. But the default option is to erase the entire disk and devote it to Ubuntu!

Now, not even Microsoft has the gall to default to "erase everything else" the Windows installer. But choosing the "use largest free space" option was easy enough. So I'll forgive this, and I'm sure there would have been lots of warnings to prevent me from killing my Windows partition if I had chosen the default option.

Now click through a few more sensible screens, wait 20 minutes or so for files to copy, and then a reboot. Ubuntu comes up in all its earthy (that is, very very brown) glory.

All in all, a simple install. Simpler than Windows XP, in fact, and about the same as Vista.

But now the real fun begins, as I try to use this thing regularly.

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