The Year of Linux on the Desktop (yeah, yeah, I know)

Posted on Mon 20 September 2010 in General

Every now and then I decide I want to try running Linux full-time on my primary computer (currently a Dell Studio 15 laptop). I've made efforts before, and I usually can't stick with it. The reasons usually being some combination of:

  • Other family members have to use the computer and revolt at the change
  • Some critical piece of hardware doesn't work
  • Some necessary software isn't available

Since I now develop software on a Mac at work, I've had a great opportunity to re-familiarize myself with Bash and all of the awesomeness it provides, and found switching back to Windows on my laptop to be kind of a drag with it's single desktop workspace, no built-in SSH support, anemic command-line (yeah, I know about PowerShell, I don't care)

So, I decided to make the switch again a couple of weeks ago and so far it's been a relatively smooth transition. I no longer share my computer with other family members (we each have our own now), hardware support in Linux, particularly Ubuntu is pretty solid, and I can use [STRIKEOUT:Sun's] Oracle's Virtual Box to host a guest Windows OS for the odd piece of software that doesn't have a decent Linux alternative (*cough* iTunes *cough*).

I'm not a "compile-your-own-kernel" type of guy as I would rather have my computer serve my needs than vice-versa, so I went with Ubuntu 10.04 for easy setup. I was happy that everything worked pretty much right off the hop, even the non-standard Dell keys for volume/brightness/wifi/etc worked as-advertised.

I had a bit of trouble with sleep & hibernate. It would just hang instead of going to sleep and required a hard reboot to come back to life. A bit of Googling narrowed it down to the fact that I keep an SD card in the laptop's SD slot, and that causes some problems with the power management (unless the card's filesystem is unmounted first). That was easily solved with a shell script that automatically unmounts and remounts the card before and after sleep, and it's been working like a champ ever since.

I'd also like to give a shout-out to the developers of RedCar who've done a reasonably decent job of replicating the TextMate editor in a cross-platformy way. It's got a ways to go yet, but it's off to a good start.

Lastly, I'm just telling you what works for me. I don't care what you use. Do not read this as proselytizing, it ain't.