Second Sight

Almost two months ago I wrote a pretentious post titled First Light. I bought a Dell scratch-and-dent with Windows 10, and I decided I’d give Windows a try again. I tried to sugarcoat it with some flowery language and a telescope analogy.

Well, that didn’t last long.

Windows 10 is extremely frustrating. I couldn’t bring myself to use it every day. But, keep in mind, I still use a clacky keyboard. I don’t mean I use a “gamer mechanical keyboard”. I mean I have a box full of original IBM model M keyboards in the shed and I’ve been using these things since 1981. Windows 10 wasn’t going to work.

I’ve been a member of the “Linux is good for servers and niche machines, and Apple is the best desktop” tribe for about 10 years now. I love my Linux servers. I love my Linux home theater system. But I also loved my iMac desktop. When it finally died, I looked around and decided I really didn’t like the new Apple hardware. So I bought a Dell Optiplex 7050 loaded with Windows 10. 36 hours later I pulled the hard drive out of it, wrapped it in an anti-static bag, and put it on the shelf. Bleh.

I had a 420 GB SSD laying around, so I installed Ubuntu 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”. Guess what? It’s crazy fast and does everything I need. (How can you not love an operating system called Bionic Beaver?) I’m cheap, so I was already using a ton of open-source and cross-platform tools on the Mac. My most common stuff:

  • Google Chrome
  • GIMP
  • Inkscape
  • Brackets
  • VirtualBox
  • Slack
  • Beyond Compare
  • Signal
  • Libreoffice
  • SSH
  • VLC
  • Digikam
  • Spideroak

Well, every bit of that also runs on Ubuntu Linux. Plus, it’s faster. I finally ran out of RAM while editing some video in Kdenlive, so I bumped up the RAM and bought a second SSD. I added a 4K monitor, and that brought my total expense up to around $1200 for a freaking rocket-ship of a PC. I timed it last week, 32 seconds from power-on to functional desktop. Wow.

Next, I had a couple things that really did need Windows 10. I have a modeling guitar amplifier that needs Windows to run the configuration software. I have an old flatbed scanner that works fine in Windows but doesn’t have Linux drivers. No sweat, I installed Virtualbox, then installed Windows 10 inside it and activated with an old Windows 7 license key I had from an old machine. Free second PC, no sweat.

How many times have I booted up the Windows 10 Virtualbox in the past 2 months? Probably 5 or 6 times. Once I load my guitar amp presets, I don’t even need that software until next time I want to change guitar sounds. I don’t scan that often, and I bet most people don’t either. For everything else, I’m good to go on Linux. if I bought a modern scanner I could skip that, and I’m really more interested in a tube guitar amp. I may never use Windows again if I make those adjustments.

Ubuntu 18.04 is the most mature Linux release I’ve used yet. I upgraded my server last week, and the upgrade from version 16 to version 18 was flawless. As a desktop, I love it. This is actually a joy to use.

That’s my report. I’m happy now, Windows is banished to a virtual machine I boot up rarely, and life is good.