I have been an employee at my new job for a little over a month now, and I am beginning to understand a tiny itty-bitty little piece of what they hired me to support. To support all the crazy numbers of servers, operating systems, applications, and happy hours, I have been given a Thinkpad T42 laptop. It's a really excellent, compact, attractive unit, but it does have one critical flaw: it doesn't have a windows key. None. Since 1998, I have been using keystrokes to open programs using Litestep. I was never a big fan of the win95-style start menu, with submenu after submenu. By the time I learned how to use it and customize it, I'd had my eyes opened to Litestep, and that was that.
But I need the damned windows key to use Litestep. That is, I need it for the keystrokes to which I have become accustomed for normal use of a windows computer. It was when this frustration was on my mind that a little bird told me that my employer allows us to run Linux on our work laptops, and can even run an official Linux version of our horrible, terrible, awful, slow email program. I have seen others using it on their own machines, and it's much snappier than the Windows version to which I've been subjected.
The weeks went on, and I got progressively more and more angry with the wrecked installation of Windows my laptop had. bootup was slow, rundll.exe errors abounded on Windows' startup, and the thing basically freaked out when there wasn't an apparent internet connection. This past Friday I decided once and for all. On the blog-form recommendation of another tortured soul in search of the perfect desktop, I downloaded an ISO from work and installed it when I got home. I made sure to completely wipe the windows instance off the drive prior to doing this, so there would be no turning back.
My initial reaction is that xubuntu is possibly the easiest, simplest install I have ever seen of an operating system. Besides time spent waiting for things like files copying and the drive being partitioned and formatted, I was busy inputting things like the date, my username and password, the name of the computer, and my favorite color for perhaps five minutes. The result on reboot is a very clean, fast, functional desktop operating system. It's certainly not quite there as usability is concerned, but I rather enjoy the command line, and fixing things with it. On the ain't-nothing-wrong-with-that front, the touchpad buttons actually work better in Linux than they did in the previous install of Windows.
A couple of things we do at work require Internet Explorer, and some things just plain require Windows. It's not often, but sometimes it's necessary, and "sometimes" is enough. Therefore, I installed my copy of Parallels Workstation on the system, and a virtual machine for Windows 98. After a bit of tweaking, I had a great linux laptop going. I'm looking forward to trying it out at the office. To help reinforce the machine's role as a powerful desktop, I purchased an extra gigabyte of memory for it today on Newegg to go along with its relatively bare 512 megabytes.
So far, I really enjoy xubuntu linux on a Thinkpad.