The open source experiment

My first computer was an Amstrad CPC 6128, my second an Amiga 500 and my third and Amiga 2000. Then and onward, every computer I owned belonged to the PC category operated through Microsoft products: DOS and later Windows.

I remember a friend from my old neighborhood, when we were kids: I had already started using a PC but he had an Apple, which for the Greek standards at that time was weird. I was thinking, is he serious? I didn’t know anyone with an Apple at the time. He was telling me of how much ahead Apple computers where and that he wouldn’t change it for anything else. I also, remember when I abandoned Amiga and went to use an early PC with only DOS running on it, I was feeling that instead of progress, I was going backwards. I was thinking, what the hell? Why don’t they continue brilliant computers like the home ones? I met that friend many years later and asked him if he still uses Apple computers. To my surprise he was!

Anyway, we are here now in 2008. I have been programming using languages and tools that run on Microsoft operating systems for more than 10 years. I am not really sure yet, but I get the feeling something is wrong with the commercial tools. First of all, if you don’t have this supercomputer you cannot really work with the various IDEs without having a nervous breakdown. Then, there are all these new libraries, frameworks and technology that appear almost every month and you are not sure what to learn, if you should learn and if someone decides after you have spent months learning that what you have learned doesn’t worth funding any more and goes to the trashcan.

I have been hearing things on the open source movement are better and different. My experience in life tells me of course that there isn’t a perfect solution to all the problems, but I also know that some solutions are a little better than others and maybe more compatible with one’s character. As a principle, though, I cannot recommend anything to anyone unless I have tried that myself and have been convinced that it is better than the alternatives. More so, when the alternative is mainstream.

For all this, and more, I have decided to start using open source software everyday in every chance I get. I thought of course that in order for this experiment to work, I should really do something extreme or else I couldn’t really reach a useful conclusion. As a result, I decided to start by switching the operating system of my computer at work from Windows to Ubuntu. If this is not extreme, then what is it? Remember, this is the computer I use everyday.

Why Ubuntu? I am in no way affiliated with Ubuntu. It is just the distribution that I liked the most, and it feels the least commercial compared to the majority. I also liked the UI better, and at least here in Europe it is quite popular.

Before doing this of course, I needed to know how to solve a show stopping problem: The fact that I mainly develop .NET applications using Visual Studio 2008 and C#. Enter VMware land! I have decided to download a trial version of VMware Workstation for Linux and installed it in my new Ubuntu installation. Show stopping problem solved.

Generally, considering the fact my Ubuntu is the only Linux computer in a LAN that is composed of several Windows computers, and that I program using tools that don’t run on Ubuntu, things are great. I love the OS and the tools bundled, it is fast, I have access to other computers in the LAN that I need to control through Terminal Service Client, I develop on a VMware Windows installation, I use OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office and the experiment continues.

In the next couple of posts I will try to write things about my experiment. Problems I had and how I solved them and generally cover the story. I hope this helps anyone that wants to make a similar experiment. The Ubuntu I am using is version 8.10 Desktop edition.

Has anyone else done something similar? What was your experience?

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