I have an old computer. I got it as a gift 8 years ago, and it wasn’t even top-of-the line then. It is an Acer Travelmate 512T laptop, which comes with a whopping 330 MHz processor, 64 MB of ram, and an unbelievably huge 4 GB hard drive. In subsequent use I’ve updated the ram to 160 MB, and the hard drive to 20 GB (I had to do this when the old hard drive died on me…)
It was running Win98SE, which was sufficient for its time. In the past I’ve experimented with a few linux distributions on it, mostly Mandrake because I was a newbie to linux and the command line scared me. I never really got used to it though, and always went back to Windows.
Well, that computer is old and it got to the point where running anything with Win98 was practically an open invitation for viruses and zombification, so I stopped using it. It’s been sitting in it’s bag for about 3 years.
But the other day I needed to install Linux on one of my computers at school, so I gave Ubuntu a try. And lo and behold, it was easy! I had it up and going, patched, and ready to go in under an hour. I was so impressed that I decided to try something that I have tried many times but never gotten working in linux before – Japanese input.
Now having Japanese input isn’t so hard really, you just log in with a Japanese session. However, that makes all the menus, etc. Japanese, which isn’t really what I want. I just want the ability to input Japanese when I want to while staying in a primarily English environment. It used to be hard in Windows, but in XP it’s pretty simple. Just a few clicks on the Language Settings.
So I performed a google search that gave me this site. I followed the instructions, and it worked the first time! I was amazed. So I decided to pull out my old laptop and give it another try, this time with Ubuntu. There were a few snags, mostly just that it doesn’t have the memory to handle the graphics-based installer, but there is a seperate alternate-install CD for computers with less memory.
And did it work? I’m typing this entry with that very same super-old computer. The 600×800 resolution is a little smaller than what I’m used to, but other than that it’s great. It did take over 4 hours to install and patch it, but that’s not too different than how long it took to install Win98 and get everything installed and working again.
And did I get Japanese input working? それもちゃんとできている。文句はただ一つで、その英語と日本語の引力を変えるホットキーはShift+Spaceであるから、英語で「Ｉ」を打ったらよく日本語に変わってしまう。そのホットキーも変えられるはずけど、まだそこまではわかってない。
So my point behind the title is that linux may now be to the point where it’s usable/useful for the more average computer user. This old laptop is now my mess-around computer. I can surf and blog, and even code if I want to. For now I guess I’m limited to C++ and python though. I can get Fortran working if I install the compiler (but why would I want to, do you ask?), but no Matlab. Although there is Sci-Pｙ, and GNU Octave, which are both kind of open-source Matlab alternatives, so when I have some time I’ll check it out.