I finally got around to fixing up my old Linux box which has been sitting disused due to a bad hard drive, slapping in a SATA drive and a brand new copy of Ubuntu Linux. I had to do some futzing around to get the latest NVIDIA drivers to work right – apparently the over-the-hill GeForce 4MX 440 card I use isn’t supported by the bleeding edge drivers. However, once that was achieved I managed to get Beryl installed and running.
Translated into plain English, my Linux desktop has all the bells and whistles that Windows Vista has, but without costing me an arm and a leg. Transparent window decorations and 3D desktop effects? Check. Desktop searching? Check. Handy little widgets/gadgets/whatevers? Check. The only difference is that I don’t have to worry about obnoxious “digital rights management” trying to control access to my data.
I still use my Macs for most stuff. Sorry, but the (unfortunately named) GIMP is no substitute for Photoshop, and iTunes’ DRM isn’t nearly as restrictive as what Microsoft has planned. One thing is for sure, I won’t be buying another Windows machine. Vista’s draconian content protections are intolerable, and I’m someone who generally supports strong protections for intellectual property. (As a more interesting aside, Glenn Reynolds wonders why the GOP didn’t make IP reform an issue. The people who benefit from things like DRM schemes tend to be Hollywood moguls and IP lawyers, neither of whom are particularly associated with Republican politics. It’s probably too esoteric to be a major campaign issue, but it would help give the GOP some badly-needed geek cred.)
Linux is still not quite ready for the desktop. Things still don’t just work as they do in the Apple world (and to a lesser extent Windows). Getting a soundcard to work right is like pulling teeth, and getting my video drivers to work wasn’t easy. Granted, a machine with Linux preinstalled would alleviate those concerns, but Linux just doesn’t have the polish that Apple does. I still don’t understand why Linux applications couldn’t be packaged in application bundles the way Mac OS X does — NeXT was doing it years ago. Still, I have to admit that once you get Linux working, it’s a joy to behold. Ubuntu looks good, performs well, and does nearly everything I need. The fact that it’s free and the fact that it respects my freedom is just icing on the cake.