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As a software developer I was able to work on projects remotely with just the odd visit to England once every two months. However sometimes you need to get the latest source code from the company's servers to update it. Now in the year 2000 we did not have Broadband. To be honest we barely had 56k modems. The upshot of this was that to update all the files on a branch it could take an hour or so to run.
So what does a geek do when his work's laptop is out of commission because it is downloading source code? He reads. He reads a lot. One of the things I read about was LINUX and how it was going to be the beating of Microsoft.
Now personally at the time I didn't realise that I had a problem with Microsoft but because I had a lot of time on my hands waiting for updates I thought hey, why not give it a go.
At the time downloading a distribution was not an option, largely because my internet connection was busy copying source files or because somebody would telephone the house and the download would stop. There were programs at the time that would enable downloads to restart when you connected again but unless you wanted to spend days
downloading software you would have to find a better way. If only buylinuxcds.co.uk was available at the time!!!
So one afternoon I was in my newsagent and there was a LINUX magazine with a copy of Mandrake linux on the front. I bought the magazine and rushed home to try it out. Now trying it out actually meant going through a fairly difficult installation and because I wanted to protect my Windows 98 (oh the irony) I went for a dual boot which wasn't without its own set of difficulties.
My first foray into LINUX was therefore Mandrake LINUX. It actually went quite well in the sense it booted up and was usable. At this period in time I have to admit to having a number of peripherals such as a modem, printer and scanner and even an early Hauppauge TV Card. The first thing to do was to connect to the internet because even in the year 2000 there was a good community to help resolve things. Unfortunately I couldn't get online and none of the peripherals worked.
Moving forward in time a few years and Broadband arrived in Aberdeenshire but despite the obvious advantages such as being able to download my source code quickly from work there were new problems. First of all Windows was now Windows XP and this thing wants to update itself all the time. Anti virus software was also more important as it is a lot easier to catch a virus over a broadband link than over a 56k modem (purely because you download more frequently). You now also needed a firewall.
So between Windows XP taking 5 minutes to boot, then a further amount of time downloading updates and then the antivirus software downloading updates and the firewall software downloading updates, Java required updates, Flash joined the scene and required updates, QuickTime required updates, Adobe required updates. Actually at this point you are probably getting my point that to just read the weather foreacst you could be sat waiting for your PC to boot for 20 minutes. On top of this fact simply reading the weather could leave you with 50 popups on the screen.
In the mid 2000s eBay was still new and incredibly popular and it was whilst browsing eBay that I found someone selling 20 disks with different versions of LINUX on them. It had been a while since I had tried LINUX and the total price of these 20 CDs was just £3. What a
bargain. Oh the 20 disks for £3 was a bargain but the fact that this lead me to the place I am now where I am completely Windowless at home has made this one of my best purchases ever.
When the disks arrived there were a number of distributions that I had read up about but that I had never actually tried. Amongst others there was Debian, OpenSuse, Mandriva, Gentoo and Slackware.
Having read that Mandriva had spawned from Mandrake I figured that this would be the best disk to start with. Unlike my previous attempt I had a dedicated machine to try this out on and the installation was smooth. In addition to this my printer worked straight away as did my scanner and I was able to connect to the internet. Total boot time just 5 minutes and this was on a very old machine I had been given by my father in law.
Knowing that Mandriva had worked so well and could always be relied upon I tried all the other distributions in turn and I ended up settling with OpenSuse. It was the one that looked the best and probably the KDE desktop looked more Windowsy and so made me feel more
I kept OpenSuse for quite a while until I heard of a distribution called Ubuntu. We are now in the late noughties and Ubuntu 8.04 was released. I downloaded a copy and burned it to disk and gave it a go. My internet was now wireless. I was now using a laptop rather than a
desktop and even my printer was wireless.
Say what you like about Ubuntu but for people that just want to use their computer and not fiddle it really does work.
Nowadays I try different distributions every few months. Currently I am running MINT 12 on one laptop, Ubuntu 10.04 on another and on my netbook I am running Bodhi.
So what does this have to do with Zorin LINUX you might ask? Well recently I have been distro hopping especially on my netbook. I tried Fedora 16 for a month and I have to admit to liking Gnome Shell 3 but I had issues with Yum.
With a much faster internet connection (7.5mb) I can now download distributions easily and I do, all the time. In the latest batch of downloads I created USB disks using uNetbootin for Bodhi, Zorin and OpenSuse.
I wanted to look at OpenSuse again for nostalgia reasons. I wanted to try Bodhi because I'd heard good things about the speed and the enlightenment desktop that it uses and I wanted to try Zorin because I was told that it was the closest thing to Windows.
OpenSuse is solid. For me it always has been. If I wanted a dependable version of LINUX then this is what I would call old faithful. Bodhi on the other hand is like a formula one car speeding round the tracks but with a few steering issues.
I can't believe it took so much effort to get music playing on my netbook with Bodhi using Rhythmbox and Banshee. I read thread after thread about getting MP3s to play. Nothing seemed to work. Then I was given the suggestion to install an extension that allows long
filenames. Suddenly music started playing. Unbelievable. I can't believe I'm the only person to suffer this problem. Everyone using Bodhi must fall into this trap mustn't they.
When I tried Zorin out I was impressed in the sense that it looks so familiar. If Zorin had been around when I first started looking at LINUX then it would have been must easier for me to transition across. So for me it is a great distribution because for Windows users that
are tempted but aren't quite sure it is an obvious distribution to recommend. Now as a LINUX user of some years this is where of course it also falls down.
The desktop and menu system is much like Vista's which is of course the idea but having to use Vista and Windows 7 for a number of years at work I much prefer the gnome desktop (even with the shell), I have to admit to being a little bit taken with the Enlightenment
desktop used by Bodhi. Now I know there is the alternative view which makes Zorin look like a MAC but again if I wanted a MAC desktop I could just buy a MAC.
So Zorin is both beautiful and ugly at the same time. For tempting users into the world of LINUX it is great but I liken it to a train station pub. With a train station pub you are tempted in by the fact that it looks like a pub and it serves beer like a pub but really it
isn't a pub and only serves to tempt you to go and find a pub that is a pub. I can see Zorin gaining and losing users at a similar rate.
New users will come from Windows (especially if Windows 8 sucks) but will lose other users that are tempted to go for other distributions now that they have dipped their toes in the water.
This is a guest post by Gary Newell, which won the 3rd prize in the joint Zorin OS contest.