By James Cooley - October 18 2007 tags: ubuntu desktop gutsy x64 muitlarch laptop t61

I have been using Gutsy on my T61 laptop for the past couple of months. I think I'll definitely keep running a Linux desktop. The Ubuntu hype machine got me to to take the plunge but I would imagine a vanilla Debian or an RPM-based desktop would be just as good.

My desktop has always been pretty portable Firefox, Thunderbird, Freemind, Pidgin, OpenOffice, Emacs, Eclipse, etc. so I can move to and from XP pretty easily. On Linux Python is pretty much everywhere but the thing that surprised me was I actually use .Net/Mono based products on Linux - Tomboy Notes (a wiki style note taker), beagle (a desktop search tool) and some others are written in C# :)

My T61 is 64-bit so I went for the Ubuntu x64 distribution. That was probably a mistake for the desktop as while I got Flash to work it has recently stopped working and I don't want to spend a day figuring out what has happened - I think I'll do a clean reinstall of the x32. Java doesn't support x64 browser plugins so you have to work pretty hard to get the x32 one working under x64. Skype is also only available in x32. Likes Wine. Mandriva, and other RPM-based distributions, do support multi-arch (seamlessly run x32 packages under x64) but the debian distros have some work to do there.

So Flash and Java are pretty poor on the x64 Linux desktop while I use .Net apps all the time - odd isn't it :) OpenJDk and Gnash will eventually sort this out but if you want to pick something today the x32 distro is the way to go.

Ubuntu is good on its consumer desktop message so if you're thinking about a Linux-based desktop I think they are a good choice. Ubuntu doesn't play DVDs or MP3s out of the box but it's a solved problem if you google it. The community around Ubuntu is very approachable and responsive.

There are some good reasons to want to use a Linux, OSX or non-mainstream desktop. As a software developer the Internet is the platform. An alternative desktop forces you into the Internet way of doing things and that's where you should want to be. Try it out while it's fresh - Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon).