Adventures in Linux: Or, How I Almost Burst a Blood Vessel Installing a New Operating System
As a self-proclaimed Non-Technically Skilled Person, I am often at the mercy of friends, boyfriends, and my Dad when I want to do something at all tricky on a computer. When I wanted to build my own gaming PC, it was only with the assistance of three other people that I was able to make it work; one person designed the thing, someone else helped me put it together, and someone else helped with the software and virus protection. I could probably learn the basics on my own, but I’ve never wanted to risk fucking stuff up in order to do so; I’m impatient and cheap, and I’d often rather just have the damn thing work than play around with it for a month first, or risk breaking something.
I’m fairly proficient with most Windows software at this point, but it was only recently that I felt confident about my knowledge. Being able to Google stuff helps a lot. Keep in mind, though, that I’ve been a gaming geek since I was eight; I played The Secret of Monkey Island, Police Quest, and Duke Nukem on my Dad’s PC in our old basement. (Cred, what.) Whenever he would try to teach me anything technical to do with DOS, I would patiently pay attention, be able to do it for about a day, and then promptly forget everything. He would get frustrated and impatient when he had to show me again, leading to my being averse to giving a damn in the first place.
As I got older I found that many of my geeky friends actually knew how to make the computers work, and would even help me if I asked nicely. A lot of computer-savvy people would also rather just make the damn thing work, however, rather than show you in detail how to do it yourself. And I kinda like to know how my stuff, especially something I use every day for both work and fun, works. I’ve tried to get better at it, really I have. My proudest moment to date was successfully installing all the Skyrim mods I wanted. It took me a whole evening and was very frustrating, but damnit, I wanted those hi-res textures for the dungeon walls and the female model cleavage, and in the end I got them. I felt like a 1337 Haxor.
Enter my Asus Eee PC 900 netbook:
Dubbed minikin (because it’s tiny and cute!), this computer seemed like a great way to get my feet wet learning how to do stuff myself. It only cost $150 (refurbished from Woot.com), and it came pre-loaded with Ubuntu. Ubuntu is an operating system based on Linux, a free and open-source operating system….kernel? Or something. When I hear anyone talk about Linux, I get the impression there is this giant network of Linux nerds around the world, fighting for software freedom everywhere…
(Oh, a quick note for all the smug Mac users in the audience: when I can afford a Mac, I’ll get one. Until then, well, we have this.)
I’ve actually had my netbook for a while, but I (stupidly) put Windows 7 on it, thinking I was going to be doing a lot of complicated stuff on this tiny computer. In reality, I just need something to surf the web and type on while I’m out and about, so why do I need Windows taking up all that space and slowing things down? So I recently decided to switch back to Ubuntu. Again, same logic: maybe I’ll learn some stuff, and plus the computer will hopefully run better with less crap on it. But! The screen was cracked, has been for a while, so first I had to put a new screen in it. Ok, I didn’t put the new screen in, but I watched. Tensely. I helped! I held the screws!
I was on my own for the OS (that means “operating system”) but hey, I watched the last time someone did this, so no problem, right? I knew you could make a “boot disk” on a USB thumb drive. Easy, right?
Of course then I started reading about kernels and mounting and all this crazy stuff that I didn’t understand, because there isn’t exactly a guide on how to be proficient in tech-speak, or even a place to begin, and all the how-to sites assume you already know the basics. So after lots of searching, I finally found what I thought were good instructions, and I went through some basic steps. But then something went wrong with YUMI, which is software that allows you to install Linux and Windows at the same time (which I didn’t want anyway, I wanted to get rid of Windows). To fix the problem, I needed to mess with command lines, so I gave up on that route.
So, a day and a half later, my netbook works! Except my new screen didn’t come with a new inverter cable, which apparently controls the LCD light, and my screen is permanently dim. So… too much squinting. Sigh.
Join us next time for more “Adventures in Linux”, when I attempt to futz with hardware in order to have a useable netbook.