Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ubuntu AMD64

I have been using Ubuntu almost exclusively, and AMD64 in 3 of the four computers I use.

When I moved to New York, I came only with an Ubuntu laptop, which unfortunately is an Intel Core Duo limited to 32 bits. Anyway, I discovered that people respect better your refusal to use Windows if you really don't have any installation, not even in VMs, otherwise they just think you are being uncooperative.

After a few months of Windows-abstinence and forced to really do 100% of stuff in Linux, I really got liberated.

By then, when I managed to bring my heavy boxes to New York, I purged them of Windows and got on my merry way. By the way, it has actually been merry. Ubuntu Linux not just gives me freedom, but it also incentivizes doing productive use of the computer; and disincentivizes being a passive consumer. If you think about it, for example an iPad: Apple solves most of the configuration issues so that you use your iPad and enjoy content; they charge for their design, so, everybody is happy; but you might use your iPad to watch videos and read books all they long, that's passive; if you would even think of, let's say, learning Haskell, then the device and its configuration so nice to turn you into a couch potato get in the way. Conversely, if you want to make some nice code, in Linux you have all the enticements; in the end I have become a tad more disciplined.

My main gripe about Ubuntu in particular is that the automatic configurations do far too much that you don't have visibility of. And there are many options that you can not get to through the user interface; and this may give you the worse of both worlds if the User Interface somehow disagrees with the actual configurations: The novice can't do what he wants, and the expert who does not need the dumbed down UI is interfered by its options. It happened to me recently: I had set up a non-standard port for VNC, and Ubuntu dropped the "advanced tab" in the "Remote Desktop" option. I forgot this, and then I needed VNC and it would not work no matter what I tried. Until I got to conclude that the user interface had an option somewhere that needed fixing, which forced me to learn about gconf-editor to get to the config options I set before an automatic update that hid them from me.

With regards to the 64 bit issues, both AMD and Intel computers work without a hitch; I only realize I am using 64 bits when I have to install third party binary libraries or applications; that it gets confusing whether you have the 32 bit and 64 bit libraries you need