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Taking the Plunge

I'm sure the title of this post makes most people think it will be about my sister Monica getting married in less than a month... WRONG! (BTW: congrats Monica and John!)

This is about moving my home computer to Linux. Ditching Windows from my life before it becomes necessary to switch to YET ANOTHER Microsoft operating system (Vista). From news reports, it appears that migration to Vista is much slower than previous versions of Windows, but I don't care. I hate not having a choice about what to use, and I'd like to more actively support open source efforts. Heck, maybe I'll even start contributing, or moving some of my home projects under an open source license.

So what has changed to make me switch? I've used every single version of Windows since I bought Windows 95. I even had a version of Windows 3.11 that you installed from floppy disks! (probably still have it somewhere in the elephant graveyard in my basement...) Well, up until now, there were two compelling reasons to run Windows. Not just compelling; it was impossible to reasonably circumvent these two requirements for my home computer:

1. My home finances - I run Quicken
2. My sporadic but long-standing addiction to PC computer games.

First Quicken: I love Quicken. It does a great job of sorting through my income and expenses, balancing my checkbook month-to-month, and tracking my investments. I like how it gives me control over my current finances and provides budgeting and planning tools as well. Frankly, if I didn't have something like Quicken helping me out, I probably wouldn't do much more than a bare minimum of financial planning and tracking. I probably wouldn't even balance my checkbook. With Quicken, I can spend two or three hours a month and I have an ongoing financial outlook, balanced checkbook, spending trends, graphs of cash flows, stock analysis, retirement planning, etc.

Quicken just does not run real well in Linux. I've tried it with "wine", which does a pretty decent job of running windows programs for the most part, but it seems to me, based on the behavior it exhibits when I try to run it in wine, that Quicken has a pretty weird and bastardized GUI implementation. I mean, I like their GUI, but it doesn't behave like a "normal" Windows app should, graphically, especially in Linux with wine (weird flashes, bizarre clicking behavior, etc.). However, the nice folks at Code Weavers have a product called Cross Office that will run Quicken in Linux. Fantastic, and certainly worth the $39 to me!

Next, the gaming. Computer games are not really a huge part of my life anymore, but I definitely still enjoy them from time to time. There is a project called Transgaming that specializes in getting popular games to run well in Linux. And they run REALLY well. Because of Linux' kernel scheduler and because all the nonsense that Windows usually does in the background is gone (indexing my God-forsaken hard drive for Word documents, for instance) a lot of games actually run more smoothly in Linux with Transgaming. Utterly fantastic. Christie and Alex both have computer games that they enjoy playing, and this way we can all continue our computer usage unfettered to Microsoft's Evil Plan (tm).

I'm now experiencing Linux euphoria. Note that this sort of switch is not for the faint of heart. There is a fair amount of knowledge needed before such a switch will go well. However, I encourage you to give Fedora Core 6 a shot if you have an extra computer in your house. You'll be pleasantly surprised (especially if you have another Windows machine to fall back on). FC6 is really easy to install, and the basic configuration gives you a nice setup (no searching through and tweaking package configurations or anything). Other than the two requirements I stated above, Linux has a viable replacement for everything. "Evolution" for your email client / calendar (Outlook replacement), Open Office to replace Word and Excel. Firefox for browsing the web. Pretty much everything you need. Plus a lot of added bonuses, such as a free and high-quality compiler (gcc), advanced window managers (GNOME and KDE), etc.

Ok, I'll stop raving now, and get back to paying the bills on my new Linux/Quicken installation. :)