By Lucas | September 17, 2015
My journey into data science is taking me all sorts of interesting places that I didn’t originally expect. That’s what I love about it. While I can feel myself accelerating into the learning curve, there’s no shortage of new things to learn and won’t be for years to come.
One of the latest has been setting up of a “dual boot” environment of my new Dell PC to run both Windows 10 and Linux Ubuntu. I’ve been using Linux a lot more lately, and it just felt logical to give myself the ability to run on a Linux environment as necessary. I did consider other alternatives such as a Mac (Unix), but I didn’t really want to pay the price premium. I could certainly have run a Virtual Machine with Ubuntu, but when I experimented with that option on my last machine, I could always tell it wasn’t a native install.
As with many other experiences the last couple of years, setting up the dual boot seemed like a great learning opportunity, and it was. I started by upgrading HDD that my new Dell came with to a 500 GB solid state drive from Samsung. Samsung provides software that “magically” clones your old drive to your new SSD, but it didn’t work for my PC. As soon as I uninstalled it, the SSD was recognized again, so I used a free program from the company that made my Sata to USB cable, and I was off to the races. From there, I booted to an SD card installation of Ubuntu I had created, and I was off to the races. Now, each time I start my PC, I have the option of Windows 10 or Ubuntu.
My impression of Linux desktop users is that they are very passionate, not only about Linux, but about their specific distro. I’ve had two equally strong reactions to using Ubuntu the last couple of weeks.
Ubuntu Makes Installing Applications a Breeze
Installing tools on Linux is so much easier with Linux than it is with Windows. The stuff that is normal difficulty on Windows doesn’t even cause me to break a sweat with Ubuntu. The stuff that seems almost impossible on Windows is very doable with Ubuntu. Installing Python modules is easy, and I had R installed with one line from the command line interface. Even newer, rapidly evolving tools, like Apache Spark are easy to set up with Ubuntu, and I was even able to Spark working with Jupyter notebooks in short order. It’s great to not have to take the workarounds, and to be able to follow tutorials the way they were written. Installing with “apt-get” package management is a change if you’ve never done it before, but it truly is a better way. Heck, I was even able to install a desktop client for Spotify via the CLI.
Ubuntu Does Not Play Nicely With Some Drivers
The frustrating flip side of the coin is that out of the box not everything works on Ubuntu the way it does with OS X or Windows 10. I’ve had enough problems to feel frustrated. My touchpad didn’t work, my speakers make phantom noise when no noise is being generated by programs, and standby & hibernate modes don’t work. Of these, I’ve only been able to resolve the touchpad problem completely. Reading forums and blog posts reveals that these are common problems for Ubuntu users, and some of them are difficult to resolve. I’m left to wonder if I might have had a simpler experience if I had chosen a PC from the list of Ubuntu certified hardware.
As it stands, I’ll continue working with my dual boot setup, as both Windows 10 and Ubuntu fill important use cases for me. I can’t use either one exclusively, and I enjoy both. I hope that over time I’ll be able to figure out some of the inconveniences I have with Ubuntu and be able to use it even more.
Update (1/10/17): Going through these old posts has been interesting. When I updated to Ubuntu 16.04 about one year after this original post, virtually all of my driver problems were solved. I now spend nearly all of my time at home in Ubuntu, and it is now very rare for me to boot into Windows.