Sunday, 9 November 2008

My Experiments with Linux

People find it hard to believe that Windows wasn't the first Operating system with complete graphical user interface. But I do, because I'd seen one before Windows existed. My vague memory says it had an X shaped mouse pointer.

Why bother typing in a terminal when the same can be done with a mouse click? This is the question encountered by the crowd when they are up against any linux distribution. Mark my word, the current distros can do more than 'the same' by the click of a mouse. The customisations possible in linux is limitless. You'll just have to search for the right software. There's the difference - you can either choose to be spoon fed or search for a better alternative.

The above paragraph may sound like me being an open source fan. I do not deny to be one, but still use XP and do agree that I find it easier to use than linux. Then why support open software? Because I believe linux is the way forward. It's past time that we ditch the policy of stringent software licensing except in the case of custom made commercial/business softwares. I feel PC users should have the freedom to utilise their computer in the best possible way.

My experiences in past few days had been kind of a revelation. I had installed Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) in dual-boot with XP. Few months ago, I reinstalled XP and grub (bootloader) was lost. I din't give much thought to recovering Ubuntu and had been using XP only since. Recently I started following the progress of next version of Ubuntu - 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex). I had to have it. Then I remembered that I still had not formatted the linux drives. Was there any way to recover it? I searched the net and voila - the fix was simple. Just three terminal commands later, the grub was back up and running. That's when I realised the power of terminal and wish there was something similar in Windows (Windows command prompt is nowhere close). I bet most of us would have had to reinstall the OS if it was Windows. I've done it more than once and lost all files in C:\.

All was going well right until I got the Xubuntu-8.10 CD in my hands. I tried upgrading directly, but i guess direct upgrading from Ubuntu 8.04 to Xubuntu 8.10 is not supported. I cudn't give up and started installing the OS part by part from CD (another thing I dont think Windows installer can do). Slowly my desktop changed from Gnome (Ubuntu's Desktop Environment) to the lightweight XfCe (Xubuntu's Desktop Environment). To the untrained eye this might look like changing Operating Systems but actually it's just something on the outside, the kernel remains Linux. But finally I went one step too much. I'm not sure what happened and I ended up fixing what wasn't broken - with GUI not loading. Tried out a few solutions I got from net, but nothing worked. So..

I did a clean installation of Xubuntu this time around. You expect a happy ending? Sorry my system's still broken.:-) But I know the solution's out there somewhere and the knowledge that I can do it myself without being a pirate gives me the inspiration to try again. The real joy in using linux comes from the fact that you actually get a feeling of being closer to YOUR PC.

Update (13-11-08): I've managed to successfully break and make (using linux live CD) the system for the past 4 days. I've virtually become an expert in system recovery without data loss..

Suggested softwares for system recovery:
In Linux OS:
1. testdisk - very powerful, i was able to backup everything before fixing the boot sector, the mbr and checking the disk for errors.
2. ms-sys: this software can be used to fix problems with XP (and many other OS) boot sector (mbr) and even write a new one.
In Windows:
there is a repair option in install CD.
try fixmbr and chkdsk

Never lose hope and re-install the system if you have important data without giving a try at system recovery. There are numerous options out there..