Friday, July 8, 2011

Unintentional Ubuntu... alright

So I did basically the dumbest thing possible last week when I attempted to crack Diablo II onto my netbook and blindly accepted the idea of a loader being required to complete the operation rather than your standard, "copy this .exe file over the old one" kind of crack. The worst part is, of course, that I own Diablo II, but my netbook has no CD drive - necessitating the crack even though it is so obviously unnecessary.

Of course, I shouldn't have been so dumb as to install what was so clearly malware. I was probably possessed at the time. Maybe I was under mind-assault by an illithid. I'm not sure. But I ran a crack from - let that be a lesson to you - and ended up with PRN.EXE, a virus that wrote itself into my registry, drivers, and frequently used software.

And thus began my march toward Unintentional Ubuntu - also known as Last-Chance Linux.

Also unfortunate about the HP Mini 110-1100 netbook: no factory reset function. Drive recovery (ahem) "worked," but didn't eliminate the virus (I just love how recovery doesn't affect your files and folders. What use is it, exactly, if not for that?); neither did a battery of free anti-virus/malware/spyware software. My only options were to reset to factory conditions by ordering a fifty dollar CD from HP - and then buying a USB CD drive - or to buy a license for big-name anti-virus software on the off-chance it might be able to clean my system.

Besides the fact that I've had basically zero positive experiences with McAfee and Norton, there's the matter of the hardware itself: the netbook cost something like $250-300 dollars, no more. I really wasn't in the mood to drop a sixth of its value on something that may or may not work.

Thusly: Ubuntu.

I'd heard of Ubuntu via Cory Doctorow, that champion of the open source, at BoingBoing. Ubuntu's whole thing is that it "Just Works," and, okay, I can dig something that works. I had to go buy a flash drive - my last one ended up in the washing machine, and then the dryer, and then the garbage - but after I formatted the disk and booted my 'book from it, all was joy.

So far, Ubuntu does in fact work - in a sense. I can perform all the operations on it that I want to (so far), except that installing software is cumbersome. It is cumbersome because Ubuntu is intensely, highly secure - the kind of security an idiotface like me obviously requires to keep himself from ruining his operating system. Still, the constant demand for passwords and permissions is not so much reassuring as teeth-grinding - at least in the moment. When I think about it later, though, it makes me happy. It's sort of like how one of my thief characters, Benjamini (my originality is mind-boggling), read a magical trap and the word 'DOOM' resonated inside his skull until his brain exploded, and I got really pissed off at my DM for a few hours but, now, looking back on it, it's hilarious.

Similarly, Ubuntu is theoretically amazing: I appreciate its security features when not actively engaged with them.

However, I really should give credit to the ways in which Ubuntu truly is awesome in a practical sense, because it's not a bad OS in the least; if it weren't for it's compatibility, it would probably be entirely preferable to MacOS or Windows. For example, it has elements of cross-pollination between Windows- and Mac-style GUIs that make it highly likeable - as though, being open source, its creators don't care about brand or corporate legacy, but just want to make something that... aw, jeez... just works. It reacts really well to the user, and it's basically perfectly suited for a netbook - especially one used in an Internet/Word Processor capacity, which is (mostly) what mine is for. It may be a bit of a pain to get things running, but when you do, they run effortlessly. Even just browsing through my new system, I realized how often I grumbled about browsing through my Windows Explorer. Perhaps I just had things set up poorly in Windows, but, again: idiotface needs direction.

I have yet to attempt any sort of Windows emulation - namely with Wine, the Windows compatibility layer for Linux (also for, uh, real Windows: Wine offers better compatibility support for legacy versions than do new versions of Windows. Yikes...). This is mostly because I plain and simply wiped my entire harddrive when I installed the new OS, with the objective of thoroughly obliterating PRN.EXE, and was therefore left with none of my games. I'm sure I'll have them back on there soon, though, and that's when Ubuntu's true capacities will really reveal themselves to me. Can Wine let me kill Nazis as effectively as Windows? That is the question...

Any of you Others Out There use Ubuntu and have experiences to share? Or run Windows, are an idiotface, and have malware issues to lament? I would love for you to join my pot of misery/unfortuntely necessitated electronic adventurism.



  1. I've been thinking about switching to linux, even tried a couple of times, but never got it to work. Also, the prospect of backing up all my data, reinstalling everything, making sure everything is's very daunting. However, since I'm currently running a version of Windows XP that was obsolete some five or ten years ago...yeah, I should make the switch.

  2. I use Ubuntu Netbook Edition on my netbook. Don't worry, once you stop installing stuff and settle into using it, the requests for root password go down and you can proceed with your life.

    And yes, Wine will let you kill Nazis with aplomb.

  3. Yeah, it seems like, for every program I want to install, I also have to install a bunch of compatibility packages... or whatever those things are.

    It also seems like I could just learn to use the command line, and then not have to install all this stuff. I'm not sure if that's a correct belief, though.

  4. Well, it never hurt anybody to learn to use the command line, and it's especially useful and powerful in Linux. Here's a good resource:

    That being said...I don't think it'll be a time-saver for what you're doing (Internet/Writing/Games), and I say that because I very rarely wander into the command line on my netbook during normal use.