Life on the bleeding edge

I love new things.

I still get that thrill when I buy a new piece of hardware or download a new piece of software.

I still run the latest version of Ubuntu on my laptop and my netbook, and generally upgrade to the next release whilst it is still in beta.

The only drawback with this is that I occasionally run into the sort of bugs that new software is well known for. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a show-stopper, but there have been occasions where running bleeding edge software has hampered my productivity somewhat.

I’ve also recently come to the revelation that whilst I love new software, I’m also very keen on making my desktop look and feel the same no matter what operating system I’m using. Which is why it’s often very difficult to tell what version of Linux I’m running, as I tend to have a very minimalistic looking desktop that is probably quite close to how it looked in 2005 (and also quite close to how Debian 6 looks today). I also tend to use the same wallpaper on all my computers (regardless of OS) which can also muddy the water a bit.

What I seem to be moving towards now is running the latest released software at home, and dual booting between something stable and something experimental at work (where I do need to keep up with the bleeding edge of whatever I’m working on, which at time of writing is Mac OS X and Ubuntu). This ensures that I have a stable platform to use for email, writing documents etc, but that I also have the latest builds of Ubuntu and Mac OS X running on real hardware so I can iron out any potential support issues early on. I also have at least 10 virtual machines that I use regularly, and I wonder how I ever got by without Virtualbox (actually the computer graveyard in our spare room offers some clues).

What kicked of this train of thought was Ubuntu 11.04, which ships with a new default desktop called Unity. I’ve had a play with it, and don’t hate it as much as I thought I would, although I’m glad I can still make a fresh install look exactly like my existing desktop in under 5 minutes. It does seem like a further step towards the UI of Mac OS X, but as someone who has always preferred that to Windows then I don’t mind that at all. I’m still not sold on dark themes, but as I’ve said many times, these things can be changed easily.

So yes, another version of Ubuntu that I can work with and will upgrade to on my home machine. I might also spend some more time with Unity to see if it’s something that I can one day grow to love. Of course, I also wouldn’t say no to a new Mac once Lion is out, but I do get to use quite powerful Macs at work at present, which does scratch the OS X itch for now.

New ways of doing old things

This weekend I decided to try and use different tools to perform my usual computer-based tasks.

Yesterday, I tried to do everything in Mac OS X (Leopard), and also tested out Thunderbird 3. I reckon I could live with a Mac as my only computer, and the only thing that bugged me was the speed (my Mac is somewhat ancient now). I especially liked iCal, and how it integrates perfectly with the Google calendars that map out my whole life, and I love the way OS X renders fonts and colours. Thunderbird 3 was a nice surprise, and I love the way it integrates with Gmail. Maybe I’ll consider switching back to Thunderbird the next time Evolution does something to annoy me.

Today I’ve been using the daily build of Chromium on my netbook. It’s seriously faster than Firefox, and I’m finding that I can do pretty much everything I need to do without a plethora of extensions. This might be one to keep I think.

I’m also having monitor envy. Or possibly screen resolution envy. I think I may be nearly ready to consider spending my day looking at something larger than a laptop screen.

A few words on Operating Systems

To me, Windows 7 doesn’t seem much of an improvement on Vista. What is does do is return to making me think that the look and feel was modelled on a child’s toy. With XP it was Fisher Price, with Vista it was some flashy Japanese toy that looked good but no-one played with. And with 7 it is Lego. Just look at the dock and tell me I’m not right.

What with Snow Leopard being underwhelming, and Windows 7 not exactly making me want to switch back, I think Ubuntu 9.10 has me totally sold in the Autumn 2009 OS wars.

But there again, I’m ever so slightly biased.