Its official, I’ve decided to drop Microsoft Windows completely at home, and use Linux instead. It started off as a little experiment, to see what Linux is like these days (it’s been a few years since I used it last), but after a few days of using it I love it!
If I’m honest I thought that running Linux day to day would be a bit of a drag, but it’s been great so far. I’ve managed to find open-source equivalents of everything I used to use on Windows, like:
- Browser – Firefox (same ol’ browser, with the same plugins)
- Instant messaging client – Kopete (includes MSN support)
- Music Player – Amarok (even includes built in Last.FM support)
- Image editing – Gimp (on a par with Adobe Photoshop)
- Open Office (Perfect replacement for Microsoft Office in 90% of cases)
- VLC & Xine (media and DVD player), Realplayer, Adobe Flash 9 plugin, and Last.FM player
Getting the software is easy too. From previous experience I was expecting to have to either a) compile everything from source code and track down if one program was dependent on another when something broke, or b) use RPM or another package manager to install software that someone else has configured for you, leaving little room for your own configuration. Thankfully Gentoo have Portage, which is a great package manager. You can search their repository online, or from the command line, and it downloads the latest copy of the application and then complies it for you. The best thing is you can easily set flags to control what options you want the program to compile with, and there’s no need to worry about dependencies, if it detects one then it installs whatever is required first.
One criticism I had, and somewhat still have of Linux, is that it doesn’t look quite as polished as Windows or OS X does, but I’m still learning what to tweak, and what fonts etc to install so I’ll get there. One excellent feature has to be Compiz Fusion, which provides some real eye-candy with window and desktop animations! I’d never really seen the point to having multiple ‘virtual’ desktops running at the same time for the same user, but Compiz really lets you make full use of those additional desktops. Think of it as having multiple monitors, but without having to give up the desk space.
I’m also using Avant as a dock(which you can see at the bottom of these screen shots), and gives you a nice 3D styled launcher, and task bar of running applications.
Here’s some screenshots of Compiz in action. The first shows a linear view of all four desktops with different applications running simultaneously (from left to right: Gimp, Firefox with news.bbc.co.uk, Xine playing Sean of the Dead, and Konsole).
The second shot is of the cube desktop view, showing the same four desktops with the same applications running, but you can manipulate the 3D cube, and move between desktops.
The desktop background I’m using at the moment is by 1600 Squirrels you can see the original at http://www.flickr.com/photos/acornsarebitter/2106652468/in/photostream/