It was about three months ago that i made the leap into linux on a almost full time basis. I had been using linux on my laptop with dual boot occasionally and had been using fedora at university (along with mac osx and windows 2000) but decided it was time to make the final leap and make it a full time thing.
Ubuntu was my flavour of choice, as i had heard from a few people that it was very supportive of most hardware and for most people it would just work out of the box. I had just recently purchased a new computer, and had vista running on it, mainly as a educational experience for myself so i knew how to help people who would inevitably buy a new pc that shipped with it, and it uses an amd 64 bit cpu. So to me it seemed like an idea to see what all the fuss was about and install the 64bit version of ubuntu gutsy.
I seem to have taken the road less travelled in this approach, but fortunately i wasn’t the only one, and found heaps of help on the ubuntu forums of how to get most programs working, and there seemed to be a very comprehensive 64bit repository available that got most of my programs working. The hardest thing was to get 64bit firefox working with flash, which was only available in a 32bit flavour at the time, (i think a 64bit might not be far away, but that could just be wishfull thinking) but i found many people who had managed to get it working, and after a few weeks of playing around i did too. It was another story to get sound working in flash, but after installing and uninstalling various audio drivers (oss, alsa and pulsaudio) eventually that worked too.
The others snag that i probably benefited from having to do, was that alot of programs didn’t come in a 64bit ubuntu version, and i had to manually compile and install from their ‘make’ packages. And for the most part, this was very successful, and I learned a lot about dependencies and ‘make’. Despite all the ‘learning’ I was doing, this became very tedious having to search the internet every time I wanted to install a new program. But at least everything i wanted to run worked eventually. (Though I think this is one of the key pros of a unix based OS)
Just recently i bought a GeForce 8800gts graphics card and installed that into my computer. More compiling and more searching the web, this also worked, but my screen would go black whenever I booted until the log in screen appeared. This was never really a bit problem, until it came across a boot error and halted, I would wait half an hour or more with the screen blank and not being able to do anything about it, except cut the power, or try and operate it blind. This lead me to the point where i decided to just reinstall ubuntu.
So for my second install I decided to stick with 32bit, I didn’t want to have to muck around with the reinstall. So on went 32bit gutsy, Server edition. I had wanted to make the process of installing samba, lamp and a few other sevices really easy, and from a bit more reading, came across the idea that you can install ubuntu-server, and then by using ‘apt-get install ubuntu-desktop’, have the desktop installed as well. This all appealed to me, and so i went ahead with it. And for the most part it did work really well and my computer was up and running in no time.
The problem came when I went to install the restricted packages, to get the nvidia drivers for my graphics card. I seems that there is no restricted packages for the server kernel. So I had to go and manually install the generic kernel as well, and with that installed and booted, the restricted packages were easily installed. Just a word of warning though, make sure you install the ubuntu generic kernel from it’s meta package, or else you will run into a whole screed of problems, in my case it couldn’t find my sound card. a quick kernel reinstall fixed that right up and now I’m all sorted with a fresh gutsy install.
I should point out here for those who are really against the idea of having to do some work to get their computer working, and taking my large list of problems as further evidence of this, I just have this to say. If you go with the tried and true, pick the appropriate stable release of the latest version of ubuntu, then it will all just work, almost guaranteed. Every one of my problems arose because i chose to ignore this and installed the more unstable, more experimental of programs, and do things against the normal way. I have installed gutsy on my laptop, and it has been running flawlessly for me for about 2 years now, without having to reset it at all.
So if you have been putting off installing linux and giving it a try, ubuntu is definately the way to go for the do-it-yourselfer with a bit of computer knowledge behind them, have used linux before, and are willing and able to learn something new.