The Times They Are A-Changin’

February 24th, 2009 by

I've used a Mac since back when LC IIIs roamed the Earth. But I switched to Linux a few weeks ago. My laptop was starting to fall apart and the interface was starting to feel a bit slow, so I started thinking about upgrading to a newer computer. But paying roughly double for Apple hardware and having little choice in terms of laptop size and performance seemed a bit silly. And my hands could only take so much more of the sharp corners and burning heat that my previous iBooks and MacBook have come with. Then I tried the Ubuntu Live CD and felt the snappiness, so decided that it was worth some serious consideration. Pretty much every application that I use is open source, runs on Linux, or has a good equivalent, so I started looking into the hardware a bit more. I decided to seal the deal when I found the Asus X83VM-X1, which is essentially a MacBook Pro for $800 instead of $2250 (once you bring up the memory and hard drive to match the Asus). The downsides would be battery life (3 hours) and trackpad buttons that will make you grow muscles in your thumb where aren't even supposed to be muscles (although I've either gotten stronger or the buttons have loosened up). On a side note, I got my computer off of eBay for about $750 but you can also buy the X83VM-X2, which is essentially the same as the X1, for $800 new from Best Buy. If you're happy with integrated graphics and a non-Penryn processor then you can get a solid laptop in the $400-500 ballpark or about half that if you're into netbooks.

After about 3 weeks I'm still extremely happy with the setup. Installing Ubuntu 8.10 was simple and all of the drivers were magically installed (including the nVidia 9600). The only potential issue is the CD drive which has has some problems reported with it although there's a quick fix. I installed Ubuntu with a USB flash drive so didn't notice the CD problems until today and it just took a few minutes to change a BIOS setting (there are instructions online).

In fact, after reinstalling Windows XP on a computer at school the other day, I'd say that the Ubuntu installation process is way faster and easier, and includes all of the drivers known to man with it. I mean, Windows didn't even have the driver for the ethernet so I had to transfer everything via USB from another computer.

Change is good and I've started to love some of the new applications that I've found: Gnome Do really is crazy delicious, Banshee is my favorite music player so far and can sync with the G1, Picasa is solid for basic photo management but I'm not set on it yet, and org-mode rounds things out.

I'm going to try to share any interesting tidbits that I encounter and will probably crank out a few posts tonight. I recommend trying out the Live CD and giving it a shot if you have hardware that is starting to show its age or just want to give it a spin.