My Ubuntu Life 2/25/11

DH and I planned on using my old laptop as a Linux/Ubuntu machine once I got a new one.  I’ve been interested in learning about open source software from a user’s perspective for awhile now, but I wasn’t willing to make the leap and ditch Windows completely.  Getting a new laptop (which I sorely needed) for my regular internetting/gaming/productive needs would allow me to also learn about open source stuff on my old laptop.  Well, things happened as they often do.  Even though I got a new laptop we ran into problems installing Ubuntu on my old machine, so it sat unused in our second bedroom until now.

I’m off on Fridays and DH chose to work from home today.  Today I took care of mom so my sister could go to her follow-up appointment for her ankle.  When I came home I found my old laptop right next to my new one.  “Check it out!” DH said.  “I broke your laptop for you!”  I turned on my old laptop and found that he had “broken” it and turned it into an Ubuntu machine.  So here’s a question… do I call my old laptop my Ubuntu machine or my Linux machine?  I want to be mostly correct when I talk about these things, and I’m tired of writing old laptop.  I guess I’ll call it Ubuntu machine unless I hear differently from all of you internetters out there.

Why Explore Open Source?

As many of you know, I work in a public library.  As some of you may be aware, libraries don’t necessarily have a lot of money but we serve a population of hundreds of thousands (depending on the size of the system/region served).  We need computerized systems that allow us to create library accounts for patrons; circulate library materials; bill for lost, damaged or late materials; add and delete materials for the system; and provide an easily searched catalog of these materials for our patrons and staff.  The library term for these is an integrated library system (ILS).  There are a number of ILSes available in the wide wide world and they can be very expensive.  Once a library has signed on with a particular ILS it seems as though they’re partners for life.  There’s a running joke among some ILS customers that if your system wants a new feature for your ILS it’ll cost you $10,000.  Sad, but true.

We all know how difficult the current economy is and how huge the deficits are.  Unemployment rates are still sky high, and those who haven’t been laid off are living as though tomorrow will be the day they get a pink slip of their very own.  Historically speaking, library use rises while library funding is decreased during recessions.  This recession is no different.  If things continue as they are, I think it will become very difficult for libraries to pay such high fees for many of these ILSes.

So, why not look at open source?  There are a few open source ILSes out there.  Unfortunately I don’t know enough about open source anything to speak knowledgeably about deploying and using it in a community so slow to accept change as many library systems are.  (Please don’t get me wrong!  There are a lot of nimble, change oriented library systems out there, but there’s a reason libraries have the reputation for being stuffy, dusty and old fashioned.)  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to be able to be the person that knows about open source products and can speak from experience when guiding people towards or away from these products.

My First Impression

The desktop is very clean looking.  I like that there aren’t any icons cluttering it up but I’m also glad that DH installed the dock (that bar thingie with magic buttons).  I immediately gravitated towards that and started looking at all the stuff that popped up.  Big blank screens with nothing but a menu at the top are a bit intimidating for someone used to icons for everything even though I often use the menu in Windows.  The dock definitely made Ubuntu more welcoming for a first time user.

I also like how quickly everything loads.  I can remember how slowly this particular laptop moved and how painful it was to goof off on the internet.  Everything looks really weird though.  The fonts are different and they’re small.  I’ll play with the settings in a minute to see if I can figure out how to improve this part of the Ubuntu experience.  Also, I’m coming from a completely Windows user background, so I’m used to the way clicking/double-clicking works there.  Here it’s different, so I’ll have to learn this style of clicking.

OK, so I’m gonna go explore some more… try different things and see what I can learn without resorting to books, videos, and how-to guides.  I’ll report back as I learn!

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