UPDATED 06 Mar 2013: Since late May 2009 I have been a Linux fanboy. My initial motivation for taking the plunge was learning that I would soon be euphemized from the research arm of a major computer corporation and would be on my own later that year. I was also interested in migrating toward a more researcher-friendly environment; many of the reference implementations for radical new directions in Web technology, including and especially Linked Data, were easier to get working on either a Linux derivative or MacOS, and I was increasingly frustrated by Windoze, the official corporate platform.
I first dipped my toe in the Linux pond ten years earlier, having set up Red Hat on a test machine to break (mostly) server-side code, but was not comfortable with it or Linux generally for “primetime” use. All that changed with my first evaluation of Ubuntu, Jaunty Jackalope (ca. April 2009). I found the shell to be more than usable; the selection of open source code was amazing, literally every application I needed; the performance on my tired machine was a radical improvement over Windoze; and certain essential tasks that had been extremely difficult under Red Hat (esp. VPN) were now clean and easy. I “sandblasted” my main work machine and haven’t gone back. For my remaining months with Giganticorp, if I needed to execute some stodgy Windoze-only crapware I fired up Windoze on VirtualBox, ever-amazed that it actually worked.
I became something of an Ubuntu evangelist amongst my friends. Since the Linux kernel is so much more efficient than Windoze, I showed anyone who would listen how they could prolong the life and generally decrapulate their computing experience by sandblasting their machine, regardless of age, and install the most recent release of Ubuntu. I’ve won over several converts, to my utter amazement! My ultimate “feat-of-strength” is probably sandblasting a ca. 1991 iMac G3 “Blueberry” and successfully installing Ubuntu, thus (in theory) prolonging its life.
Sadly, good things are negatively effected by entropy. With Natty Narwhal the geniuses in charge started messing around with the shell (previously Gnome), introducing an abomination called “Unity” with 11.04, ultimately committing to it with Oneiric Ocelot. This is when Linux Mint sauntered by my office window; I was soon out of my chair and chasing it down the street!
I usually describe Mint as “a more careful release of Ubuntu, without the crap and knee-jerk changes.” It is self-described as being “conservative” with updates and being sensitive to its users, especially from the developer community. The key is that it uses Ubuntu’s code repositories seamlessly, so the user is not sacrificing anything by choosing Mint over Ubuntu. Currently all my machines are running Linux Mint 13 (Maya) using the MATE shell.
John’s Linux Mint customizations: Immediately after installing a new distribution of Mint I install the following “essential” applications, using either the command line or Synaptic Package Manager:
|Google Chrome||My preferred web browser||HOWTO|
|Docky||A cool MacOS-like application dock||HOWTO|
|Skype||Skype needs no introduction||HOWTO|
|Shutter||A great screen shot manager||HOWTO|
|VirtualBox||Virtual machine host||HOWTO|
|vpnc||Command line VPN client||HOWTO|
|svn (subversion)||Version control client||HOWTO|
|Audacity||Insanely great audio editor||HOWTO|
|Gedit:||My preferred text editor||HOWTO|
|texlive:||LaTeX for Ubuntu et.al.||HOWTO|
|LibreOffice|| I periodically re-install
to ensure I have the latest version.
Note: This list used to be longer, but applications like Pidgin are now installed by default and I only need to go looking. Also, it is no longer necessary to wave the “chicken feet” to get multimedia features to work, a common ritual for Linux users!