Ubuntu 9.10 – On the slippery slope to hardcore geekdom

I’ll admit that years of working with Oracle on a variety of platforms has left me with something of a soft spot for Unix.

More than any other OS, it’s a programmer’s environment. If you’ve ever had to write scripts coping with the verbosity of VMS, or had to come up with something inventive using only the DOS/Windows For Loop construct, I’m sure you’ll agree.

After taking the plunge and converting my desktop to Ubuntu 8.10 about a year ago, I’ve finally gone and dual-booted my laptop in a desperate attempt to escape the clutches of Vista.

On reflection, as Vista is so slow and cumbersome, I should have realised sooner that escaping it’s clutches wouldn’t be that difficult.

Sly dig at Microsoft there. All I need to do now is make some joke about how crap 9i AS was and then talk earnestly about the brilliance of…whatever the latest incarnation of Oracle Application Server is called this week and I can go and get a job with the Oracle Middleware Sales team.

Anyway, enough of this software parochialism, this post is about Linux.

Having a social life ( albeit a not entirely hectic one), I was enough of a wuss to wait to be prompted by the arrival of the latest Ubuntu version on a cover disk, before taking my laptop’s life in my hands and dual booting it.

At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning exactly what I used the laptop for before it got a proper operating system.

Well, not much out of the ordinary is the short answer

  • surfing the web; downloading e-mail; making use of the iPlayer
  • watching the occasional DVD
  • listening to music
  • uploading/downloading music and picture to/from my phone
  • downloading pictures from my camera
  • occasionally uploading maps to my Sat Nav

In terms of development tools, I have Oracle XE and SQL Developer running, together with Apache and PHP. And that’s it.

Before the installation, the main areas of trepidation were :-

  • will Ubuntu work with the wireless card ?
  • Will the DVD player work at all ?
  • What about iPlayer ?

From unhappy experiments with my desktop, I already knew that the Garmin software was a non-starter – even with Wine ( a Windows emulator for Linux) installed.

Fortunately, almost all of these fears proved unfounded.

In not much more than an hour, I was up and running in Ubuntu, connected wirelessly to the broadband router.

The DVD player works fine after doing a quick search on the forums and finding out the relevant packages to install (ubuntu-restricted-extras is the main one).

The BBC now lists Ubuntu as one of the platforms it supports for iPlayer and this works without a hitch.

Transferring files between the camera /phone and the laptop is relatively simple provided you can live without the niceties provided by the software suites that come with them. I must admit that I don’t tend to use these and just treat the devices as I would any other USB storage device. That’s handy really as Ubuntu tends to do the same.

And guess what ? The machine…

  • boots faster in Ubuntu ( 30 secs as opposed to over two minutes)
  • recognises the wireless card and connects to the router immediately ( as opposed to the aeons that Vista takes to even find out what wireless networks are available)
  • shuts down faster than Vista ( Windows has always been the last party guest that just takes ages to leave when all you want to do is shut the door and get in from the cold)

Not only that, but I’ve got my preferred browser and office suite configured and ready to go out of the box.

The bog-standard Gedit text editor recognises file types such as PHP and has syntax highlighting for them built in – more of a Textpad equivalent than Notepad.

Best of all, I can write proper shell scripts again. Hello top row of the keyboard, how I’ve missed you !

I know that Oracle XE runs on Ubuntu 8.10 ( although I need to drop into terminal to start and stop it), and SQLDeveloper should be fairly straightforward.

Some brief experimentation means that I’ve got samba shares on my desktop for my photos and music library that are accessible to the laptop. That was one of those happy occasions where what I feared would be a daunting multi-hour slog through the command line and various help pages turned out to be a 5-minute point-and-click exercise.

Whilst I’m not smitten enough to start referring various Ubuntu versions as “Fluffy Bunny” or whatever annoyingly twee sorbriquet it was given on release, I am now seriously considering a server installation on my other – currently unused and unloved desktop – as a prelude to sticking Oracle 11g on it…to sit alongside a LAMP installation.

Now, that would be some playground.

It’s happening already…by the time “Rampant Rhino” sees the light of day I’ll be wearing socks with my sandals and recounting amusing anecdotes about punch-cards.

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