Living free with Linux: 2 weeks without Windows

Can a dedicated Windows user make it for two weeks using only Linux? Preston Gralla tried it and lived to tell this tale.

As a long-suffering Windows user, I'm used to this kind of thing, so I tried the three-finger salute and pressed Ctrl-Alt-Del -- twice. Again, no go. Eventually, I had to unplug the machine's power cord, take out the battery, then put the battery and power cord back in. Then I restarted.

At first, things seemed to go according to plan. After the restart, a dual-boot screen appeared, asking whether I wanted to boot into XP or Ubuntu. I chose Ubuntu and figured I was on my way. Wrong. I booted into a screen that looked like this:

BusyBox v1.1.3 (Debian 1:1.1.3-3ubuntu3) Built-in shell (ash) Enter 'help' for a list of built in commands. (initramfs)

As a Windows user, I'm used to seeing incomprehensible screens. But this one put even Microsoft to shame. I rebooted again (this time it worked) and once again chose Ubuntu from the dual-boot screen. Once again the mysterious screen appeared. I typed "help" at the prompt to find the list of commands. The "help" was of absolutely no help. I got a listing of several dozen commands -- things like alias, break, continue, pwd, loadfont and so on -- but no information about what they did or how to use them.

I rebooted yet again. And this time, for reasons known only to the Linux Gods (perhaps they don't require goat sacrifices after all), I booted into a Ubuntu GUI that began configuring my system. Finally! Well ... not quite finally. After about 10 minutes, Ubuntu stopped functioning and the PC rebooted on its own.

After that reboot, though, all was right with the world. Ubuntu finally installed on the system as a dual-boot option and was absolutely rock-solid every time I booted into it. So solid, in fact, that it never failed to boot. So solid that I never experienced a single crash or Blue Screen of Death in all the weeks that I used it, either in the operating system itself or any of the applications I used -- something I certainly can't say about Windows XP.

Amazingly -- at least to a Linux novice like me -- Ubuntu recognized all the hardware on my T41, including the built-in wireless card, so I didn't have to fiddle around with drivers. If Microsoft had done this good a job with drivers on Vista, perhaps that operating system wouldn't be so troubled right now.

Networking nightmare

With Linux working like a charm on the T41, it was time to get the machine connected to my home network, which uses a Linksys WRT160N wireless router. Connecting to my home network itself, and then the Internet, was exceptionally easy -- there's a bar across the top of the Ubuntu desktop with a wireless icon. I clicked the icon, chose my home network and got in with ease.

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Preston Gralla

Computerworld
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