From a pile of components to Ubuntu Linux in 25 minutes

When my teenager learned that I was heading to LinuxWorld this week, he said, "I'd like to try Linux." Good for him; he's already bilingual, with a MacBook for schoolwork and a buffed-up Dell desktop for gaming. Why not Linux too?

I promised to snag him the latest copy of a friendly distro at LinuxWorld. The Canonical booth helped me deliver, as I picked up Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS Desktop Edition and a bunch of stickers. Perfect.

Next step: Find a computer. We found a dusty Sun Ultra 20 workstation sitting in the garage. I bought it at JavaOne 2005 to use with Solaris, but in 2007, the AMD Opteron-based minitower was relegated to Legacy Land. (At this moment, Sun is running a quote from me about that Ultra 20 on their Web site, saying, "A Sun workstation, with Unix, development tools, and support for less than I spend each month at Starbucks? It was silly. It was cool. It was irresistible. I just had to have one.")

More scurrying around the garage unearthed a flat-screen monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and a power strip. My son now had a pile of components and an Ubuntu disc. The time on the kitchen clock: 10:30am.

At 10:55am, he called me over to watch him playing Tetris on the machine. He wasn't running off the CD; he had blown away the Solaris installation (I told him that he could), put Linux onto the hard drive and was fully up and running. And this is a kid who's never used Linux before.

Kudos to my son for being so darned clever, but the real credit goes to Ubuntu and Canonical for making Linux so easy to install and use.

I can't help but point out that it took less than 25 minutes to do a full install of the operating system. It may have been significantly less, since I don't know how long it took to get the hardware set up.

Contrast that with Mac OS X or Windows. It takes more than 25 minutes to do a full clean install of Mac OS X. It takes a significant multiple of 25 minutes to do a clean install of Windows XP or Windows Vista.

Linux has shown that it doesn't have to take ages to sniff out the hardware, copy the files and build the configuration. Hear that, Apple? Hear that, Microsoft?

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Co-founder and editorial director of BZ Media, which publishes SD Times, the leading magazine for the software development industry. Founder of SPTechCon: The SharePoint Technology Conference, AnDevCon: The Android Developer Conference, and Big Data TechCon. Also president and principal analyst of Camden Associates, an IT consulting and analyst firm.