Saying goodbye to Macs? I think so.

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My son John tries out the new Linux laptop

I’ve been using my new Pangolin Performance laptop from System76 for a couple weeks now, and I’m impressed. It came with Ubuntu Linux installed, and all the hardware just works.

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It’s true that Ubuntu is slightly less “out of the box” ready than the average Mac or PC, but only slightly. I had it out of the box and was checking e-mail and Web sites within minutes, and I was watching a DVD within half an hour, after downloading a few things. Installing new software is a snap. And it’s all free and open source, which feels great.

I’ve been a Mac user since Macs came into being in 1984, and I was a little nervous about taking a step this big. For example, my PDA is an iPod Touch, and I’ve been using Apple’s MobileMe cloud service to sync my contacts and calendars between my home computer, my work PC and my iPod. As it turns out, the completely free NuevaSync service does the exact same thing, except it use Google Calendars as its platform. I already use Google Reader, Picasa and GMail (for some purposes), so it was a snap to decide to export my calendars from iCal and import them into Google Calendar. I set up a free NuevaSync account, which took about 25 seconds, and then posted on my Linux laptop using the Google Calendar program (which is Prism-based, whatever that means). All I know is that the event instantly appeared on my iPod. But would it work the other way? Yup. I posted an event on my iPod, refreshed the Google Calendar, and there it was, immediately.

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I’ve already been using the open source audio editor Audacity to produce The Jazz Session on my Mac, so I don’t even have to change software. Jen’s been using the new laptop, too, and she’s quite comfortable with it.

All in all, I think we’re ready to say goodbye to PCs or Macs and hello to the world of open source software. Wow.

UPDATE: A big “Huzzah!” goes out to my good friend Kevin Baird, who showed me the way to open source. It was Kevin who recommended Ubuntu, and he’s been slowly and steadily open-source-ifying me for years now, starting with Ogg Vorbis back in the day. Thanks,man!

Drinking the Ubuntu-Aid

I’ve been a Mac user since that was possible (in 1984) — first through school and then with every personal computer I’ve ever purchased. (Caveat: My parents purchased my first computer, my beloved Commodore64. The first computer I actually bought myself was a Mac.) Over the years, I’ve also used Windows in various jobs, although I’ve always tried to use Macs and even worked with our tech guys to convert Jazz90.1 to Macs when I was station manager there.

My good friend Kevin Baird, author of Ruby by Example: Concepts and Code, has long been an advocate of open source software and the Free Software movement. And while I’ve wanted to join him in that advocacy, I’ve never really been able to get my head around Linux.

Recently, though, Kevin recommended that I give Ubuntu a try. Ubuntu is a version of Linux that describes itself as “Linux for human beings.” Well, that sounded right to me, so I downloaded a CD version of Ubuntu that I could run on my work laptop without making any changes at all to the laptop. And you know what? It just works.

With that positive experience in hand, and needing to add a second computer to our home in advance of grad school and new jobs, I decided to order a Linux-based laptop. Of course, Linux (and Ubuntu) can run on whichever laptop you have, but I wanted a laptop that came right out of the box with Ubuntu installed. I Googled around and found System76, a company based in Denver, Colorado, that makes laptops, desktops and servers with Ubuntu installed. I decided on the Pangolin Performance model:

It should arrive sometime this week, so look for updates on my entry in the world of Linux.