Taking the Plunge: Part 4

In case you haven’t had enough of my epic dumping of Windows for Ubuntu odyssey, here’s another installment. This is likely to be the last one, but no promises.

This is my fist blog post from Ubuntu, not a huge deal, but still.

I’m probably 75-80% of the way done, with a few holes yet to fill, notably the dual monitors/docking station issue, which will probably require me to edit xorg.conf. If you have any insight, please share it in comments.

Today’s big hurdle was getting Cisco VPN client installed and connected to our VPN servers, a show-stopper for work. A quick search of Google tells you what a pain that is, and again, Rich warned me in advance.

I finally did get it working though, after a few hours, including a chunk of Rich’s time over IM (thanks pal), and a lot of blind command execution. Then I got Thunderbird up and running, including my archived Inbox of 30,000 odd messages and 20,000 sent messages. Like I said before, I’m a pack rat. I also imported my old Pidgin chat logs, so I’m feeling pretty good.

The big remaining pieces aside from monitors are a GUI for Cisco VPN and testing out OpenOffice as a Microsoft Office replacement. Even if it works, I’ll probably install MS Office in the XP VM I have, just in case.

So, time for impressions.

Ubuntu isn’t for the average user, even though it’s a huge advance over the Red Hat distros I initially tried to switch to over the past 10 years or so. This is probably just the way the community likes it too, and frankly, it works for me.

Things I like:

  • The fact that you can Google just about anything and get an answer or 20, i.e. the huge community supporting it.
  • The Synaptic Package Manager that allows me to install from a wide range of “universes”, rather than going to a bunch of disparate sites and downloading software.
  • The fact that it’s both a great desktop and a fully functional server.
  • It’s free as in freedom, and sometimes as in beer.
  • It’s rock solid. I did have my first crash, but it bounced back quickly without a reboot.
  • It’s fast, much faster than XP on the same hardware, even the XP VM seems to be faster than native XP was, but that’s probably because it’s new.

Things I don’t like:

  • The fact that I get 20 or so answers to every question, but I guess over time, I’ll figure out the authoritative sources.
  • The lack of an exact answer, due to the wide variety of kernel versions, modifcations and hardware.

That’s really all for now. I’m pretty impressed. Ubuntu really is a hacker/hobbist O/S, but with a new version coming out every few months, it’s only a matter of time before it’s on your desktop too, installed by IT.

Maybe it’s a function of newness, but right now, I’m preferring it to my Macbook. So far, making the move has been a big plus. We’ll see how it goes down the road.

What are your thoughts about open source, switching O/S, O/S comparisons (OS X vs. Linux distros vs. Windows), reimaging, etc. Sound off in comments.




  1. Very cool, will check it out tomorrow. I still have a bunch of stuff to do, but I think it's going pretty well, except for displays.

  2. Hi.

    I think there's an element of emperors new clothes about reinstalling a machine. When I switched from CentOS 5 to Ubuntu 8 on one of my boxes I lived on it for a few days. After that I realized no matter what OS I run I spend 99% of my time in Firefox and virtual machines, so the OS doesn't really matter for me. Now it's just another box I use, rather than my preferred box.

    Although I agree that Ubuntu has come a long way in terms of ease of use, I think one of the biggest things that's helped Linux on the desktop is the fact we do more stuff online these days. This frees us up from the constraints of the environment.



  3. Another solid point, although for me, having a Mac and now a Linux box means I can dabble more easily in development. Not that XP prevented that, but the tools we use are very Mac/Linux friendly.

    Frankly, for now it's a new toy, and even though I spend most of my time in a browser, I'm enjoying messing about with it.

  4. for next time, I've recently found the web vpn information at ORCL so if you have trouble with Cisco that can be a work around. Let me know if you don't have that already and are interested.

  5. Try, “sudo apt-get install vpnc”.

    That should install a GUI based VPN client that will connect to Cisco. Give it a shot. I used it because getting the Cisco-Linux VPN client to work was a major pain.

  6. Yeah, that's how I got to the instructions 🙂 Again, thanks to Rich for providing that a while back for emergencies.

  7. Thanks. I've seen that suggested a few places. There's someone internally who says he's got something in a GUI for Cisco; may be the same thing, but due to the Oracle-specific scripts, etc. I'm hesitant to jump in without checking out his solution first.

    CLI version isn't that bad.

  8. the gui for cisco VPN is gvpndialer. Google it. The bad part us you have to compile from source and from what I remember I had to symlink some libs in order to get it compiled.

    Vpvc doesn't work with oracle's VPN concentrators… I spent many hours trying to get vpnc working.

  9. btw — I use cli script that uses “expect” to automate the login. It also auto sets the proxy settings systemwide. Let me know if you're interested.

  10. Kudos for your persistence in getting Cisco VPN working… I didn't have the patience for that. Partly that was because I also had a mac at home, and there was a readily available client for the Mac… so I just couldn't make myself keep at it.

    I'm a big Ubuntu fan, though. If I wind up getting a new laptop that is not an Apple, that (or some other Linux distro, if I'm feeling adventurous) is what would wind up installed on it…

  11. Thanks. I had a hefty amount of Rich's help with the VPN stuff. I don't want my Macbook to be used too much for work though, but that line has blurred more in the past few years.

    One thing I do prefer so far is OpenOffice to MS Office on the Mac. I really dislike using MS Office on the Mac; it's too jarring for me. I find OpenOffice to be pretty seamless on Ubuntu.

    I'm still working out the kinks, but I do like it much better than XP.

    Oh yeah, how's the new gig?

  12. I agree on MS Office for the Mac… I do have NeoOffice (Mac port of OpenOffice) installed, but for most things I actually tend to use Google Apps, now.

    The new gig is going great, thanks! I'm working with a group with a lot of Rails experience; I really couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to get started digging deeper into Rails, so somehow I think I really lucked out here.

    I'll try to stay tuned to what's up with AppsLab; what you guys are doing is still (to me, at least) the most interesting stuff going on at Oracle. Good luck!

  13. Yeah, I use Google Docs for a lot now, but for all that legacy stuff we all keep around, just in case, I need an office suite.

    Glad to hear you're liking the new gig. I hear that Rails thing may catch on someday 🙂

    Thanks for staying with us after you left.

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