I was about 14 years old when some of my friends first got into Linux – gosh, that was over ten years ago. I understood that Linux was something alternative and therefore cool; it was the grungy, smarter brother of straight-laced and blustering Windows. It was also way over my head at the time; I didn’t even have the Internet, and my family’s last computer was a Commodore 64.
So I would nod with vague understanding at phrases like GIMP and RedHat and smile at cute little penguins and demons – but it was like saying you knew about this metal band, even knew who some members were, but hadn’t actually heard any of their songs (oh, wait, that was also me). Linux was always there; it just wasn’t for me.
I’ve had this laptop for a few years, and I used it for everything (“everything” can be loosely divided into World of Warcraft, writing, and the internet). Sure, I had some antivirus protection stuff on my computer… and I totally let it lapse and paid very little attention to it. Why should I worry? I wasn’t heading into the seedy underbelly of the internet.
Except, I totally spent a ton of time in the seedy underbelly of the internet.
It’s not what you think! My weakness lay in a few reality shows which I will not name and thus save what little dignity I have left. Let’s just say I was scouring blogs, hunting for some information, playing Nancy Drew. I was so caught up in my sleuthing that I barely noticed when I got a popup (I do use Firefox, so those were fairly few and far-between). It was something about a virus… needing to scan for more… and I did the stupidest thing of my life. Without thinking, I clicked on it.
I’m sure most of you know what happened next, but since I’m spilling my embarrassing story here, it might be more cathartic to spell it out: my computer made some funny whirring noises, some stuff flashed up in rapid sequence like when they finally get the computers in Jurassic Park going, and within a minute, I had popups. Ads. For Viagra. One every two minutes or so.
I brought over my number one computer expert – and he alternately laughed at me and fumed at my stupidity. “You were looking at a blog, huh? Sure.” For two days my little laptop was worked on, scanned – and every time, the ad would pop up. I had never seen anything like it.
We sat down and made a game plan. Okay, clearly I did not have the best habits in the world when it came to the safety of my computer. And I was honest with myself; I knew I wouldn’t change all that much. After a few months I would probably neglect antivirus stuff, and find a new subject to be engrossed in, and soon my popups would probably be more graphic.
The plan: get a new hard drive. Get Linux (which isn’t targeted by viruses as much, I gather). Copy my old stuff over in quarantine, which I can retrieve when needed. Hope that Linux is enough of a baby gate to keep me from getting into too much trouble.
The idea of a switching over without Windows even as a backup was daunting, but it didn’t turn out to be remotely as difficult as I feared. Remember how I only did three major things on the computer? Well, I already used Firefox for the internet, and OpenOffice for word processing, so there wasn’t any change there. World of Warcraft was a bit trickier, as you’ll see.
I looked over a few different systems, and ultimately chose Ubuntu. It’s been a few months now, and I love it. Granted, I’m not using anything too complicated – not much chance of running into glitches and problems with what I do – but I love that there’s two separate workspaces, and so far it’s been pretty easy to find everything I need. Maybe Linux used to be scary, but not like this.
My only problem was World of Warcraft. Obviously, WoW can run on laptops, and apparently it can run on Ubuntu; still, the combination of the two proved to be one limiting factor too many. It wasn’t going to happen.
Luckily, there were many spare parts from computers past lying around, and there had always been a plan to get a computer going as a media center for the TV. One case and a few bits and pieces later – new wireless keyboard, too – and I was playing World of Warcraft on my TV. That’ll have to be a whole separate post, the search for just the right add-ons, but suffice it to say, I spent most of my first few days oohing and ahhing, because the graphics on my laptop were always at a minimum.
Anyway, it’s been a few months now, and so far, the switch to Ubuntu has gone absolutely smoothly. I suppose there’s a moral lurking under all this new shininess, though; I was forced to make this switch because I did something utterly stupid. It cost more money than it would have otherwise – a new hard drive, plus the time and stress dealing with the old, messed-up computer.
I had to change every password I’d ever had, and then I had to change one twice, because all with all those new passwords, one was completely lost in the ether (months later and I still have no idea what it was – just vanished from my brain). So for all you out there – don’t be afraid to try out a new program or OS! But don’t put yourself in a position where you have to try one out, because you’ve fried everything else. Like me.