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XP to Ubuntu

Windows XP

I reduced the c:\ drive to 20Gb, and defragmented it. Visio and ms project are a part of life, so I'll need the windows partition for dual booting. Eventually I'll switch to a VMWare image, but a dual boot is the path of least resistance for now. I stripped the e:\ drive.

Backing up was as follows:

  • Anything in E:\home\dehora that is not already in subversion (I always keep my ~home in subversion)
  • E:\home\My Documents
  • Anything in E:\home\work that is not already in subversion
  • E:\home\thunderbird (anyone out there tried putting 6Gb of mail into Subversion yet?)
  • C:\Documents and Settings\dehora
  • ....

... and various scatted dot folders that have configurations and data (such as gaim and feeddemon). This is one the reasons I'm off windows. The filesystem is too unstructured and that has apps throwing data all over the place.

Reinstall Windows from the backup drive (this is an IBM TP, it has a partition dedicted to reinstallation). That works, and after about 5 reboots, windows is Really Fast again. And that's another reason to leave Windows, the longer you use it the slower it gets - reinstalling windows every 8 months isn't really on anymore.


I have traditionally liked KDE more than Gnome. And blue is a nice color. Install Kubuntu via the live CD.

I set things up like this:

  • hda2/ - 35 Gb
  • hda5/ 10Gb '/'
  • hda6/ 20Gb '/home'
  • hda7/ 2 Gb swap
  • hda8/ 3 GB fat32 '/media/osshare

It didn't like my partitions, it only saw hda5 as 35Gb ext3. Hda5 is actually 10Gb and is the first logical partition on hda2, an extended primary, which is 35Gb. Bizarre. After about a hour of thrashing about with the disk configurations, it turns out rebooting fixes all that, and Kubuntu can now allocate the partitions.

Installed. It Just Works (tm). Brilliant. Start installing some apps. don't bring over the data yet.

Oops. Adept, the Kubuntu package manager crashes hard. The Internet says Adept is crashy but tends to come back with some work. However, removing lock files, killing processes, reconfiguring, hand cleaning the database - none of that will get apt running again. After about 3 hours, and although I've broken 2 or 3 apt databases in last year, I'm wondering about a distribution that will so casually break apt, which is reputedly solid software. The solution I found was to burn the Ubuntu iso with k3b, give up on Kubuntu, and start over.


Out of curiosity I tried to confuse its partition manager as per Kubuntu, but it didn't bite. No problems during installation.

It Just Works (tm). Ubuntu is just like Kubuntu expect it's sepia, not blue, and doesn't have adept, but does have Gnome.

Over the course of the first week, I Installed a lot of packages, such as easyubuntu, subversion, meld, MyPasswordSafe, Thunderbird, Firefox ("I Can't Believe It's Not OSS"), Eclipse, IDEA, KMyMoney, Gaim, Skype, gFTP, gtkpod, mysql, and lots more. To install some things, means letting the package manager talk to server things called "verses" (universe, multiverse, geddit?).

Ubuntu in use

Ubuntu/Gnome/GTK/Linux is a fine environment, probably an ideal development environment. I didn't boot back into windows for two weeks (I had to work with some Visio files), which I think says something. The way Ubuntu lays out the screen, with a thin task bar at the top for shortcuts, menus and devices/status and a bottom context bar for opne apps, trashcan is a very good use of screen real estate. And it never slows down or degrades in performance over the course of a day, which is important for anyone's work, but especially so for developers.

The other that's great about being on a Linux is a very simple thing - symlinks. I haven't had a chance to look at Vista yet, I hear the monad shell is a huge improvement, but Windows really really needs to support symlinks. Clearly it can be done (witness Junction Link Magic).

The real upside however is that as desktop environment, Ubuntu is more or less complete. Lots of things in it and Linux just work - such as:

  • Printing.
  • Wireless (install the networking tools).
  • Dual monitor support (some config needed, but it's well-documented).
  • Automouting USB drives.
  • Samba and file sharing with windows.

My kids *love* the screensavers. My daughter asked "what's that" (Amarok), and wanted to know what games came with Ubuntu. It's easier to switch kids if they think Ubuntu is Cool, as opposed to Good.

Notable apps

The post-it notes are cool, and useful.


In the switchover, I'm surprised about one thing above all else. In a span of less than two weeks, Eclipse+PyDev became my preferred Python enviroment. I hadn't used Pydev for a while. It's now a very impressive IDE. Previously I had been using Wing, but I've never quite gotten used to its project and file management idioms. Part of the appeal of PyDev is actually in the Subclipse plugin, which has also come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years. Eclipse/SWT itself looks well on Linux (I'd heard otherwise), and seems to be very stable.


My colleagues rave incessently about Amarok. I can see why; it's sweet. It stores your prefs in a database, integrates really weill with the web. I mean *really* well - better than anything I've seem that isn't a browser or a feedreader. I love that it has wikipedia, last.fm and radio support built in; and who'd have thought musicbrainz could be so useful? Also it supports mutliple folders sources for your music, and behaves gracefully, as it should, when you are disconnected from your shares or USB drive. The only snafu I had was that you need a particular legacy version of libxine-main1 to play flac files with Amarok 1.4.3, and that takes some fiddling to setup. An awesome application; this is how rich client apps should be. And I hear there's .rb files in there.


It takes ages, but you can get an anti-aliased Emacs for Ubuntu. I've been using NTEmacs for years, and not having decent typeface support would have me crawling up the walls. Most of the extensions in my ~/emacs folder worked, except for some very weird behavior with jde (I think it included my .svn folder in its configured makefile or something). Removing the jde folders and reinstalling without .svn subfolders fixed that.


Some minor annoyances:

  • Cut and paste doesn't work properly. I don't know what level it's failing on, but I regularly lose the last few characters of my selection. Plus sometimes paste is right-click, sometimes it's middle-click, sometimes its Ctrl-V. I assume I'll get used to this eventually.
  • Cursor jumping. The cursor jumps up one or two columns now and then. I don't know why this is, maybe some focus follows mouse thing. Happens inside most apps, but not in Emacs.
  • Hibernate/suspend doesn't work with the Thinkpad. I now have to organise myself properly by saving my work state and turning my laptop off before going home. Others might now be impressed with my new-found professionalism and structured work methods, but it's annoying to to have to serialise my work state every day (I used to go up to a fortnight without rebooting Windows, not a good idea maybe). A combination of Postit notes and Emacs buffers are saving me each day.
  • I think, but am not sure, that my anti-aliased Emacs crashes intermittently. As in poof, utterly gone. I really want to be imagining this one.
  • Nautilus: doesn't handle large numbers of files too well (I have some folders of XML and data files with between 10,000 and 50,000 items; windows will just about function; Nautilus crashes. But it's an extreme need to browse 10,000 files. You get very used to have the folder view on the left hand side in Windows explorer; not all Nautilus modes have this and folder view seems to go away depending on what you're doing; Overall it seems to prefer a browser style model where you drill up and down and rely on breadcrumb bar for context. Not sure about that, I guess I'll get used to it.
  • Gedit occassionaly stops shutdown (similar to how a Windows apps can generally stop that OS booting down). More than once I thought I had shutdown, closed the lid, gotten home and found a very hot laptop in my bag. I've been told this isn't possible, but I managed to show it a colleague a few weeks ago.
  • Installers and icons: for a number of apps I installed, I had to manually create a .desktop file, put it in the right folder, and mockup a 16x16 image file for the icon. it's not a big deal to put one of these together, but as a developer I'm not sure I fit into Ubuntu's notion of a "human being". Human beings don't install software and expect to edit config files to see a desktop icon (imagine asking people to edit .ini files in windows). In fairness, this is probably more to do with the app developers than Ubuntu itself.


Most of this was written back in September. After about 6 weeks of heavy use, there's nothing that has me wanting to move off Ubuntu. It's remarkably solid and well-designed, and maybe no more than 2 years away from being something anyone could use. Definitely a keeper.

The only real downside are some applications I truly miss from Windows - these are Feeddemon, Copernic and TortoiseSVN which have been supplanted by Bloglines, Beagle and Subclipse for now. Beagle and Subclipse are fine, but not having a really good client side aggregator is a pain.

November 5, 2006 05:46 PM


(November 5, 2006 06:11 PM #)

Hey Bill,

glad to see you finally did your write up ;) I'm with you on the nautilus side of things - it does have certain annoyances. Something to bear in mind - seeing that you already have the kdelibs installed - is to give konqueror a go.
On few occasions, I had to skip using nautilus for some operations and use konqueror instead. For some uses anyway, konqueror is a more polished file browser.


Robert Sayre
(November 5, 2006 06:49 PM #)

Firefox ("I Can't Believe It's Not OSS")

Care to contrast Firefox with Debian? I don't see the difference.

Bill de hOra
(November 5, 2006 07:33 PM #)

"Care to contrast Firefox with Debian?"


Care to search for "I can't believe it's not butter" and see if you can figure out what's implied?

Robert Sayre
(November 5, 2006 09:22 PM #)

Yes, I understand the nature of the mud slinging. So, why would you write something like that? It doesn't seem very consistent to me.

Bill de hOra
(November 5, 2006 09:55 PM #)

"I understand the nature of the mud slinging"

Wow, I'm afraid you absolutely do not understand, if you think it's mud-slinging.

Robert Sayre
(November 5, 2006 10:00 PM #)

I think that's a pretty nasty thing to write without some substantiation. I want to understand why you wrote it, and I'm getting more flip garbage instead. *shrugs

(November 5, 2006 10:10 PM #)

Bill, I've got a thinkpad t42 and both suspend and hibernate work flawlessly for me. I put my real email - drop me a line if you want me to send you my ACPI trigger scripts. Also, since you don't really like nautilus or gnome, have you considered XUbuntu?

Bill de hOra
(November 5, 2006 10:25 PM #)

"I want to understand why you wrote it"

Hardly; you want to think it's a nasty thing to write. But if you think it's a nasty thing to to have written, you're absolutely don't understand it. On top of that you're making assumptions that aren't warranted, backing them up with accusations of mud-slinging, inconsistency and nastinesss and flip garbage. That's lame.

Before your next comment, understand there's absolutely no way I'm even going to try explain a joke in a blog comment, especially when you're so sensitive you won't even entertain the idea it's not an attack or whatever you think it is on Firefox. If you can't make sense of it, you'll have to try to call me .

Robert Sayre
(November 5, 2006 10:29 PM #)

Yes, I am sensitive about it. But I don't see why that should prevent an explanation. Maybe I won't like it. So?

Abhijit Nadgouda
(November 6, 2006 01:11 AM #)

If you still like KDE, try upgrading to Kubuntu Edgy, that might have get rid of the Adept problem. Then you can try replacing Visio with Kivio and MS Project with KPlato, and get rid of Windows partition :-) I am sure there will be choices in Gnome too, but the KDE ones seemed to have solved my problems when I moved. Somehow I always felt that dual boot spelled big trouble.

(November 6, 2006 03:30 AM #)

// yawn

Oh wow another stupid Ubuntu blog -sigh-

Keith Gaughan
(November 6, 2006 09:14 AM #)

Bill, have you tried ROX? Given a choice between that and Nautilus, I'll choose ROX every time with Konq coming close behind.

(November 6, 2006 01:31 PM #)

Do you use WPA encryption for your wireless network? I tried several flavors of Linux including Ubuntu, but could never get them to work with WPA encryption. Even with the wireless encryption turned off, the wireless connectivity wasn't good (spotty and weak signal compared with Windows XP on the same hardware).

Baishampayan Ghose
(November 6, 2006 01:45 PM #)

Bill, may be you can use my GNU Emacs packages with antialiased font support. Details are here http://g33k.wordpress.com/2006/11/06/gnu-emacs-with-xft-goodness/

Toronto Classifieds
(November 6, 2006 01:54 PM #)

I am ubuntu user since past 6 months and I must say it was an easy switch from Windows to Ubuntu. Based on my experience, Ubuntu is the most user friendly distro of Linux.


Go Vanilla Ubuntu Blogs!
(November 6, 2006 01:54 PM #)


(November 6, 2006 01:54 PM #)

Interesting that you got ACPI to work for you.. i use ubuntu on a toshiba and have to use acpi=off to even boot into ubuntu. From what i could gather on the forums, acpi is still buggy for ubuntu and has been for quite some time.

(November 6, 2006 01:58 PM #)

"Then you can try replacing Visio with Kivio and MS Project with KPlato"

I'm guessing you never actually compared Kivio to Visio. They're on a completely different level and I don't see any program matching Visio in functionality and usability any time soon... which really really sux because it's the only Windows program that I really need (games aside ^_^). (And do not say WINE is an option, I shouldn't have to use emulation to get an application I want, to work, especially one that hasn't been able to release a 1.0 version for the past 10 years)

(November 6, 2006 02:02 PM #)

Have you tried Liferea for rss feeds?

(November 6, 2006 02:18 PM #)

As far as wireless networking goes, install wpa_supplicant. It has a much better interface than just iwconfig or wlanconfig, and I have a solid connection to my wireless network without any spottiness or weak signal compared to a windows box. I use debian now, but I have set it up in dapper ubuntu with the same results.

(November 6, 2006 02:27 PM #)


I do agree with much of what you said, and I have been using Linux for 6 or 7 years. I'd like to note that you could try akregator as a client site rss feed reader. It is a very nice kde app, and will integrate into other kde stuff in kubuntu quite nicely. However, I don't use it. Lately I am preferring most of my apps to be web-based google apps mainly for setup/configuration reasons.


(November 6, 2006 02:53 PM #)

"(And do not say WINE is an option, I shouldn't have to use emulation to get an application I want, to work, especially one that hasn't been able to release a 1.0 version for the past 10 years)"

Wine Is Not an Emulator.

(November 6, 2006 03:08 PM #)

A man walks into a bar

"Ouch!" says the man.

Next week is the first in a ten week dissection of the above humor, starting with a chemical analysis of said bar and a postmortem of the man (he died).

By the end of the course you will have a full understanding of why this is funny.

Please sign up at www.ICant BelieveYou'reSoHumourless.com


Thanks for sharing your experience Bill

BTW, I really can't believe it's not Firefox :)

(November 6, 2006 03:12 PM #)

Prog: http://www.gnome.org/projects/dia/

Best regards,

(November 6, 2006 03:17 PM #)

for the RSS you can use thunderbird

(November 6, 2006 03:26 PM #)

"And do not say WINE is an option, I shouldn't have to use emulation to get an application I want"

Holy crap...

If it works in WINE, then what's your beef?

(November 6, 2006 03:27 PM #)

"If you still like KDE, try upgrading to Kubuntu Edgy, that might have get rid of the Adept problem. Then you can try replacing Visio with Kivio and MS Project with KPlato, and get rid of Windows partition :-)"

You can install KPlato and Kivio under GNOME too, no reason to switch to KDE just for those apps.

Dave Mac
(November 6, 2006 03:38 PM #)

Great write up Bill. Thanks. I too need to keep an XP installation hanging around for Visio and MSP. I've tried dia, ganttProject and plenty of others and none of them are good enough yet, especially when everyone you're working with is sending and expecting VSD and MPP attachments.

It is definitely worth making the switch to XP under VMWare. Whilst it does have limitations (USB2.0 the main one for me) it worked flawlessly for Visio and MS Project and it's great not having to regularly reboot.

Abhijit Nadgouda
(November 6, 2006 03:54 PM #)

I am sorry if my comment sounded like a flame against Gnome or Visio, it was not. I was just coming up with options against having a dual boot installation. Of course, whether Kivio can replace Visio will depend on what you use of it, and of course you can run all KDE apps on Gnome. But anything to try against dual boot :-)

(November 6, 2006 03:54 PM #)

I recently found a very interesting website:
There you can purchase ad space for your Blog etc.

(November 6, 2006 03:59 PM #)

Dave Mac already mentioned why I don't use dia nor kivio so I won't go into it

"Wine Is Not an Emulator."

and LAME ain't an mp3 encoder, your point? If you look up the definition of emulator on dictionary.com you'll see it is pretty much an emulator.

"If it works in WINE, then what's your beef?"

My "beef" is that the program is still beta at best and not all features of all programs work correctly and there is a delay (sometimes long) between the release of the program and support on WINE.

Simon Gray
(November 6, 2006 04:06 PM #)

"and LAME ain't an mp3 encoder, your point? If you look up the definition of emulator on dictionary.com you'll see it is pretty much an emulator."

No, WINE is an open source implementation of the Windows APIs and a compatibility layer for the low-level system calls. Everything is executed natively, there's no emulation. This is why some applications are faster in WINE than on Windows (some of the open source API portions are better code).

Read up on this stuff a little.

(November 6, 2006 05:52 PM #)

Since you are a Firefox user, you can try the Sage extension for your RSS reading pleasure. It loads up in the side-bar, making it seamless to read news and follow links.

(November 6, 2006 07:54 PM #)

Hey man, great article, very interesting.
About a year ago I myself posted a 4-part journal about moving from XP to Ubuntu as my main desktop OS.
Spoiler: In the end I went back to XP.. :-(

Check out So I’ve decided to switch to Linux

(November 6, 2006 08:02 PM #)

Thanks for the information Bill. Appreciate the effort.

(November 6, 2006 10:55 PM #)

I've also been trying to make the switch from XP to Ubuntu. Its so close... in some ways Ubuntu is far superior, but there are still a lot of obscure hardware related issues and some weird software quirks. I think version 7 of Ubuntu and MS's Vista greed will be the turning point for many people.

(November 7, 2006 12:50 AM #)

just a note, if you get glipper (or in KDE Klipper) clipboard will work better. there were a few X11 clipboard tweaks a while ago, but they just made things worse for me. switched to klipper (and eventually glipper for gnome) havent had a problem since!
i suggest you install from source tho, as i think the one in the repo is a tad outdated (could have been updated by now, i'm really not sure)

(November 7, 2006 05:40 AM #)

TopologiLinux -- more than meets the eye, and XP is still there when one really needs it.

(November 9, 2006 06:15 AM #)

Hi Bill,

Good post, I am thinking about doing the same thing on my T41p, except I have a masochistic draw toward Gentoo, we'll see which one I settle on.... But your lists of applications and such are helpful in my decision to do this, so thanks.

Anyway, I'm having the same problem that Robert Sayre had, I am curious about your joke but don't get it.

I know that "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" is a real product, and it is a butter substitute, it actually isn't butter but just tastes a lot like it. So based on that, it sounds like you are saying Firefox tastes like OSS but it isn't really OSS but instead a low calorie substitute. Personally I was under the impression that Firefox is in fact real OSS, and I think perhaps Robert agrees with me on that. :) So clearly I am missing something. Oh wait are you saying that most OSS is bloated but Firefox is un-bloated OSS? Hmm, probably not.

Actually it looks like most of the other commenters here understood the joke also, so if Bill doesn't have a moment to explain it, could someone else? Thanks!

Bill de hOra
(November 10, 2006 11:30 PM #)

"It sounds like you are saying Firefox tastes like OSS but it isn't really OSS but instead a low calorie substitute"

Ben, the point of the "I can't believe it's not butter" campaign, was that at the end of the day it didn't matter whether it was butter or not. What mattered was the taste.

"except I have a masochistic draw toward Gentoo,"

A colleague runs Gentoo on a Tp42p. I think he had to do some work for wireless at one point, but it's all good.

(November 16, 2006 08:17 AM #)

I used to spend my time in Windows just making it run, clearing temp files, updating and running virus progs, configuring and updating Spyware apps, reinstalling things, reconfiguring network settings, clicking yes i want to open that program (Vista) and so on and so on and so on........... and on and on and on and ... i'm sure you get it now.

I load Ubuntu and don't know what to do with myself.
My only gripe and see it becoming a problem if they want it to compete with Windows (some would argue not, but thats another discussion altogether), most everyday users are not going to want to type into a terminal. Surely they can make a lot of it gui. I realise the value of being able to alter program files and so on, but it would be very confusing for an everyday user.

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