An alien in Penguinia

Ah, I almost feel like a child again.

That is, exhilarated, vaguely terrified, and even more clueless than usually.

Bought a laptop this past week (a Samsung R530), and decided to add Ubuntu to it. (That was a significant part of the buying impulse. I am not going to do major uphauls on my WinXP tabletop dinosaur, but I’ve been for a long, long time attracted by the faux feeling of esotericity and exclusivity around Unix and Linux and the like; and I gather there are real advantages, too. Other parts of the buying impulse were just normal shiny-want, and a perfect storm of mental derangement, momentary monetary potence, and absence from the soothing presence of the tabletop unit.)

A part of my terror is that everything’s named different over here in the land of the Penguin. For example, format c: is named sudo rm -rf /. (That’s a command whose local form you always want to know, because you don’t want to create another instance of the oldest computer legend of all.)

(Not as old, but more widespread, is the one of “Such crap! No space for a CD anywhere, but they find space for a retractable cupholder, of all possible things!”)

So, the experience so far: Ubuntu 10.04 installed to dual boot alongside Windows 7 without any problems; all programs I’ve installed so far (Gimp and TeX Live/Texmaker and the like) haven’t given me any trouble; even the built-in webcam works; and I even got a DVD to run. Even managed to capture a bit of audio off one; the title blare of Jacob Bronowski’s the Ascent of Man. Because a man has to have his startup sound, you know. Not that this ease of use is much of a surprise; but still, it’s nice. Now I can get to work building something like an Ubuntu Atheist Edition, maybe? Heh.

Actually, the most irritating aspect of all has been the slogan: “Ubuntu — Linux for human beings”. I don’t know what the alternatives to human might be, but I’d think I’d much rather use their Linux. Human beings are, as a general thing, dull and slow and not a group whose general overarching desires are something that I expect will align with mine. (“Does this Linux allow me to engage in xenophobia, neophobia and pareidolia?”)

Then there’s the word Ubuntu, which for some reason feels extremely unaesthetic to me; but personal aesthetic judgments are just that, personal whims, the result of accidents of birth and education. In my case even R’hllor would have sounded better. Or Slaanesh. That’d be nice. “Slaanesh — Linux for your pleasure”.

As for the “It Just Works” slogan, well, I’ve sworn an eternal war without quarter against deepity slogans of that kind, so I don’t have anything nice to say about it, especially as the slogan sounds like the moan of someone whose computer has been thrumming doing things unknown for the past seven hours. (Or then, “What? It just works? It doesn’t do anything else? No play? Nothing but work? Man suck!”)

Well, enough of that; won’t cast shadows over a pleasant experience because of the vaguerie of a few marketing drones of unknown and unclean origin.

One last thing, and the best one of all: Ubuntu has a terminal, and you can do actual useful stuff in it. I was born in 1982; I was six or so when my father got his first computer; I grew up next to a black screen with white text running on it. And, really, when the choice was Windows 3.0 or the underlying DOS, the latter was much easier on your eyes. I like terminals, prompts, or whatever you may call them. (“Like” does not directly translate to “use with any skill”, though.)

So far even the dual-booted Windows has behaved; but maybe you can tune in tomorrow for the next installment of this dual-bootin’, sudo-shootin’ chronicle of techno-terror: “Windows 7: It Ate My Ubuntu”, eh?

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