Notes from a Linguistic Mystic

Hello everybody!

Sorry, I’ve not updated this site in a while. I’ve been bogged down in a fairly major project recently, and I think it’s about time to share. This first segment will be about the switch and setup, and the second (and subsequent) sections will involve Linux and Linguistics.

Fare thee well, Apple

I’ve been an Apple computer user all my life. I’ve never used a Windows machine for more than a few hours at a time, and up until recently, I never felt a need to leave. However, between Apple’s switch to Intel chips, their snuggling up to the RIAA and MPAA (two large American Copyright Cartels), and their decreasing respect for customer privacy, I’ve realized that Apple and I must part ways. I know Windows isn’t an option, so I looked to Linux.

Linux, for those of you uninterested in the world of Open Source computing, is a blanket term for a number of operating systems building on a single core, the Linux Kernel. They vary in terms of included programs, User Interfaces, and ease of use, but they’re all based on the same beating heart. The whole idea of Linux, though, is that it’s free and Open Source. This means that the software is free, and the code is open for change, improvement, and examination by anybody who choses to do so. There’s no corporate nastiness, no privacy invasion, and nobody profitting from the system. It’s all just a community effort. Given this sort of atmosphere, I decided that Linux is my best shot at escaping Apple before it grows too large, nasty and locked down.

Learning to pilot the escape capsule

I’ve had some Linux experience in the past. I’ve installed a few different versions on my Powerbook, and they were all just good enough to be tantalizing. Of course, none of the specialized software ran on an Apple Laptop with a PPC chip, so I couldn’t get good graphics, Flash Player, or several other programs, but damnit, it was a good start. I gained some experience, some background, and a bit of preference in terms of what I wanted to do, and now, I’ve finally made the leap.

Enter the Liberator

As I said, PPC Linux on an Apple Laptop is far from ideal, so I knew that to really make this work, I’d need new hardware. Rather than getting a really expensive new laptop or desktop for the experiment, I decided to build my own. I bought some parts from a friend, both some others online, and after around two hours worth of assembly, I had a functional computer, which I’ve named “Liberator”. The non-geeks among you may want to skip the next sentence or so, but here are the specs: AMD Athlon 3000+ processor, 1GB RAM, ATI Radeon 9600 Graphics card, 2x 160GB Samsung Drives, 1 Samsung DVD burner, and a beautiful new case with 420W PSU.

All of the above roughly translates to “Quite fast enough”, and the resulting machine is really quite nice, especially given my total cost to build and buy, which was less than $300USD. Couple that with a used keyboard and mouse from my house and an existing display, and I’ve got a fully functional machine. Then, I just had to install software.

Kubuntu for Fun and Profit

I chose to use the Kubuntu Linux distribution for my computer, based on my personal preferences in the past. This is the KDE version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. It’s probably the easiest one to set up, and I like the interface better in KDE. Of Linguistic Note, the Ubuntu distribution is named after an “african word” (apparently nobody told them that there are a number of languages in Africa) which means “humanity to others”.

I also chose to use the Edgy Eft distribution, the most recent beta version of Ubuntu, mostly because I like to live dangerously. Another Linguistic note, “Eft” is an archaic word for “Newt”, and apparently “Newt” was formed when “eft” when to “ewt”, and then “an ewt” became “a newt”. This distribution is pretty solid, even now, and I’m very impressed with the ease of use. There are always little things to change, but hey, such is life.

State of the Unit

At the moment, the Liberator and Edgy Eft is my primary computer. All my basic needs are met, and it’s stable and fast enough to use as my daily driver. I’m still ironing out little kinks and learning new tricks, but hey, that’s what I expected. So far, I’m pleased with the new change, enjoying a bunch of new programs, and some things that just plain work better than OS X. I’m still working on converting documents and finding ways to do everything I could on my Mac, but I’m feeling good enough about things that I’m glad I made the switch.

Until Next time…

I’m going to make a few posts about important linguistics and language related issues in Linux, as well as discussing different ways to accomplish various linguistics-related tasks on the new OS. However, I just thought I’d keep you all in the loop, and let you know that if you’re not happy with Apple and Windows, there is another path!

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