My Ubuntu Story

I have been using a PC since I was in 4th grade. And for the past 9 years, I always used Windows. From the humble XP to Windows 8.1 I have used all versions to a great extent. I never really had a problem with Windows to begin with. My day to day computing needs were met very well by the operating system. Back then all I did with a PC was playing games or browse the internet. Starting 2nd semester, that is almost a year back, I got into development work, starting to build Android Apps, and since then I began facing certain issues with Windows.It would take ages for an app to compile on Windows, but the same app would compile in seconds on an Linux system, (Ubuntu in specific).

Speed being a concern for me, I wanted to try out Ubuntu not knowing about the other advantages of the Linux system. I wanted to try to dual-boot my college provided laptop with Windows 8.1 and Linux, but after hearing the not so succesful stories of people who tried, I really didn’t make an effort. Data loss was too much of a problem for me and I would weigh data over a few seconds of compile time saved. Even then somewhere within me there was this small desire to try Ubuntu. Hence I downloaded the iso file for Ubuntu 14.04, read up dual boot instructions, and realised I did not have a pen drive to create a Live USB. Ubuntu became another iso file in my hard disk, asleep to be woken up some day.

During my second semester I also came in touch with seniors at Linux Users’ Group (LUG) in my college and one thing I got fascinated by was the Linux Terminal and Shell. The power of shell was mind boggling. Automation using shell left me speechless. Programs which required hundreds of lines in a programing language like Java or C++ could be executed in a few lines using shell scripts. I began thinking about making a shift to Ubuntu.

Over my summer vacations I had the oppotunity to work with the app dev team for my college fest, and while making the app, the issues of compile time began bothering me again. I decided to shift to Ubuntu as soon as I got back to college, because trying something of that sort in front of my dad was too much of a risk, even if everything worked perfectly. Meanwhile, I dual-booted an old PC running Windows 7 using WUBI to test Ubuntu. However due to some issues with GRUB, I faced quite a few problems to get Ubuntu to run. When I looked up the problem online, I was asked to edit the GRUB file and replace a perticular line. Being a Windows user, tweaking a line is a system file seemed alien to me. Thinking of the number of patch files or dlls I would have to download on a Windows machine for a problem of similar proportions made me like Ubuntu even more.

Sometime after the summer break got over, weighing my chances of at max messing up my entire system, I decided to dual boot my laptop with windows 8.1. I made a bootable USB disk, live booted Ubuntu 14.04 and proceeded to install Ubuntu. The install procedure gave me a tempting option “Install Ubuntu alongside Windows 8.1.” Little did I know that was one thing I was not supposed to do. The installation took barely 5 minutes and a prompt to restart my system appeared. I, being naive, thought that it was a pretty simple task. I did not understand why so many people complained about this dual-boot issue until my laptop greeted me with a ‘No Boot Device Found, Please install an operating system to continue’. I was perplexed. And worried about my data. I made a quick calculation and estimated that apart from some music and a few pictures, I had a backup of every other thing. Left with no choice I live-booted again, and choose “Remove Windows and Install Ubuntu” this time around, which was again a wrong option. The actual way to do the installation is to create partitions manually, read “Something Else” on the install options. Ubuntu installed and my system was up and running. However the entire 500 GB hard-disk was now under root and I had no permissions to copy, paste, delete files, unless I opened nautilus (Unity File Explorer) with root privileges.

I went to a friend who had been using Ubuntu for quite a while and asked him to fix my issue. After a fresh install of Ubuntu with partitoning done the right way, I had a machine running Ubuntu 14.04. And I tell you this, not for a second have I missed Windows since. The first I did after installing Ubuntu was open Terminal, and trying the very few commands I knew. Internet helped me install a few necessities and I was all comfortable with the new environment. Among the first commands I typed in the Terminal was sudo apt-get update, and when I saw endless lines appearing on the terminal, I began feeling like a hacker of some sorts. No matter what I had to get done, it was always a google search on how to do it using terminal. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I have, at some point of time, used google-chrome to open Facebook on Chrome.

Linux being open source provides for free software. Hence almost all software available for Linux is free, downloaded and installed on Ubuntu/Debian based system by a simple sudo apt-get install command, unlike Windows, where finding a software is quite a task, not to forget the cracks or keys. The terminal does everything for you. Being open-sourced, Linux is also under constant development. Any loop holes are fixed as soon as possible and timely updates provided, hence there is no threats from virus, etc. atleast for an average user.

Another aspect of an Ubuntu system that really caught my attention was the customisability. You can customise literally everything. Themes, Shortcuts, System Shortcuts, everything. You can change your entire desktop environment. I am pretty sure no two systems running Ubuntu will be similar with respect to some functionality, unlike Windows where a maximum of 10% deviation is possible.

Compiling software from source is another of the Linux ‘things’ that really got me interested. Entering long chains of commands to download required libraries, source files and then using commands like cmake to build fascinate me like very few other things. (Don’t make guesses here. Please. Things here include chocolate and pizza.)

Development on a Linux/Unix platform is extremely blissful as there are no compatibility issues (except with Windows Development and iOS/OS X development) and the environment is built to suit a developer (Terminal to the rescue again). I remember having a separate git-bash on Windows, because command prompt did not support git, while in Ubuntu, it’s the same shell for Python, Git, Ruby, R, Perl, Java, you name it. (Ubuntu comes pre-installed with Perl and Python among other development tools). Many of these development functions are unsupported on Windows (I won’t list out the functions because of my lack of knowledge on this topic). Also making your own Ubuntu or Linux distro with added/removed features is also fairly simple, unlike Windows.

To look back, I am very glad to have made this change. It has among other things, made my computer personal again, something I missed after having to shift to Windows 8.1, which was a very poorly built OS. Unless you are a graphic designer or an avid gamer, you can try making the shift to Ubuntu/Linux. No licence issues for any software, no looking for cracks, no virus issues, no loss.

Avoid the Gates of hell. Use Linux. This is Anuraag Baishya, signing out.

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