12 luglio 2014
Lately I switched my home notebook from Windows XP to Linux Mint, as a dual boot setup but since that day I actually never booted to XP again ;). Here are my experience, and my findings. Follow the rest of this post to read the background of my choice, what I did, what I found and what will follow…
I’m used to gnu/linux servers for my work, replacing windows server as much as I can and it makes sense, and if you’ve read my blog in the past, you can bet they’re all virtualized on a Proxmox VE cluster. On this platform I’ve often tried also desktop (or gui, anyway) versions of various gnu/linux distributions, to try to make experience or – rarely – try tools available only as gui programs. And like everybody else, I’m also often using many gnu/linux livecd distributions to solve (virtual or physical) hardware issues, and recover troubled systems. And, having gone past the beginner’s troubles, I love how those systems work (I’m sticking with Debian based systems): they’re easy, light, open, versatile, and very well documented.
As for my home pc, however, I was sticking with the old Windows XP: my pc is a quite old notebook, and I don’t use it that much, because all my work happens at a desk managing my local Win 7 pc and from there many other remote systems (those you can read above), and I don’t wish to spend too much of my free/spare time doing work stuff. I always had in mind to convert (or dual boot) my home pc to a gnu/linux desktop, soon or later, but I always kept Windows XP because… well, because it was already there, working well enough for home needs, had so much software installed and configured, and the right moment has always been postponed. You know how it goes.
Lately, the end of all kind of support for Windows XP made me more motivated to invest some disk space and free time to try this long term wish. I freed some 15GB of the Lenovo Thinkpad R60 80GB disk, and installed gnu/inux Mint Maya (or version 13), the only stable LTS version at the time, as a dual boot for Windows XP. Well, just before that I tried gnu/inux Mint Maya in a virtual machine on Proxmox VE, just to feel comfortable with the procedure, and build enough experience with Cinnamon and at least the basic of the interface.
Now, it’s a couple of months, and… I never looked back. I never booted to Windows XP again 🙂 I never needed that. It went really smooth, and I learned how to get around and solve all those little problems whan you have to discover how to do the same things in the same or different way. Often you find that you can do a lot more, and a lot better than before, but sometimes you learn that you lost something that can’t be replaced (or you don’t know how.. yet.).
Of my hardware, I’ve been able to use, and find software to manage, nearly everything: apart specific Thinkpad internal hardware, also Silvercrest wireless mouse/keyboard with usb dongle, a cheap Hercules usb webcam and Canon MG6150 wireless print and scan (scan works – by Canon’s design – only in Gimp, sadly). One really positive thing is that now my Thinkpad audio speakers can now shout really loud! With Windows XP I could barely hear from them, and using headphone was nearly always needed… The Thinkpad boots from cold in less than 60 seconds, and can be suspended and hibernated (this last needed some little trick but works reliably, and fast), there are tools for its specific buttons, with OSD notifications.
The only exception is an Hauppauge USB TV tuner for which seems to be missing the linux driver – most other similar models from that brand are reported to work, but not his in particular, that seems to have a rarely used electronic for which nobody ever cared to write a driver (well, even with Windows XP my notebook was too slow to handle the video bitrate, anyway, I only used that tuner on another more powerful notebook).
I’m still faithful that also my very old Wacom Artpad II serial pen/tablet could one day work through an serial2usb dongle I bought, even if this setup never worked under Windows XP: I’ve found a page that somehow explains how to, but it’s a bit confused, and I prefer to delay all the burden of that setup, for the moment, also because now there’s a new Mint LTS, Qiana (or 17), so it could also be better to upgrade the OS first, and than try to make the Artpad II work.
On the software side, I’m quite satisfied, but I’m still trying to learn or adapt some workflow, but I’m not yet locked out of something that I was able to do before. And, thanks to Wine, I am using daily some Windows programs and utilities, just because I could find no (or better) equivalents.
Since my gnu/linux Mint switch, I’ve already found a number of workarounds or tricks that could help a former Windows user (or even some linux user) to get some small things to work, when they are not, out of the box. I’ll be publishing post to document my setup & findings, from time to time, so to let others know what (and how) I did, hopefully this will help them too, as I have been helped by many other web links and posts.
I’m hoping that, after you read this, you will be more confident about switching or at least trying gnu/linux on your desktop pc (I suggest Mint, but there are plenty alternatives out there): I made the switch and now I’m really happier than before 🙂