Last weekend, I had a short period of time when I couldn't start anything new because I had a toddler sitting on my left arm and doing their best to cut off my circulation. Obviously, not a good position for writing. So, I decided to install Ubuntu 12.10 on my laptop.
The games, the games
I switched my desktop to Ubuntu a while later. The primary reason came from Steam announcing they supported Linux. Which, as my primary platform, got me excited.
Side note: I went a trifle overboard and bought about $50 worth of games since.
I love Linux, because it works the way I work. Or, I work the way it does. There are very few applications I need Windows for, mostly Visual Studio and games. Everything else, I switch over to Linux to do my work. The virtual desktops, the keyboard-centric programs, and even the look and feel just appeals to me more than Windows.
I won't give up Visual Studio and ReSharper though.
I hesitated to upgrade my laptop. With the weekly serial, I have about an hours worth of posting to various private forums and mailing lists. Much of it is automated (because I automate everything), but the automation was based on the laptop's environment. Blowing everything away meant I had to figure out how to get that environment up and running again.
There is something to be said about doing it though. I wrote down the tasks that I went through and I haven't encountered too many missed items (mostly my custom code and some Python libraries). I did lose a password for an email account, which I never added to the password vault, so that has been done.
It is work reinstalling things. Ubuntu (well, Debian in general) makes it easy since I can just use
apt-get to install the bulk of my needs (emacs24, kde-full, etc).
Out with the old
I get into patterns. Things I do every day. Before the flood in 2008, I used to play Kingdom of Loathing religiously. I even wrote a number of scripts to get through the tedious bit (more fun to write the scripts than to play the earlier quests). But, after three months of not playing, I sat to log in and realized I didn't really care anymore.
Reinstalling an operating system is much the same thing. There were programs I used fairly heavily that I realized I didn't really need. Firefox extensions I didn't need, Chrome profiles, various libraries and development environments. It was all cruft that built up like plaque on my arteries.
The clean slate is a good thing on occasion. I usually try to wipe one machine once a year, simply to prevent too much of it dragging me down. Now, my Windows XP machine... I'm afraid to clean that (plus, it's a 1.3 GHz machine and won't run Windows 7 well). There are a lot of things that I can't get back, including some games I didn't get on Steam and I've lost the source files to reinstall. I suspect that machine will eventually become a VM and bit-rot, but at the moment, it is the only machine I won't touch.
And in with the new
I like change... in certain cases. But, I'm also fairly loyal to programs. One of them, Thunderbird, has been my mainstay since it is cross-platform and supports GnuPG. But, it also crashes a lot in both Debian and Ubuntu. So, I switched to KMail and I've been pretty happy. I've tried other things, however, and they just don't work for me. I like Tomboy too much to give it up yet (and no one has come up with anything close to OneNote on Linux; I also hate what Ubuntu has done to Tomboy).
With a clean slate, I think it is important to try new things. They don't always work, but at least I'm not retreating to the things I know and missing out on the improvements that happened in the last 10, 5, or even 1 year.
I did the same thing with using my tablet. I like the touch interface for some things but hate it in other ways. But, I think the important part is that I tried to learn something new, even if I skipped out. The whole Python experience was a good example, I tried it for two years, wrote a good number of programs, and decided that I didn't like it. Right now, TypeScript is going to be my exploration project for Author Intrusion, because I think it will do what I need it to do. If it doesn't, I'll switch gears again and find a different framework to work with.
There are a few quirks on the laptop that took me a bit to figure out. It wouldn't hibernate at first, but I finally tracked down the package I needed (powermanagement-interface) and it looks like I can hibernate again. This is important because I charge at home, and then hibernate so I can mess at work. I have about enough charge to make it through lunch before the battery dies. There aren't any places to charge in the lunch room, so it limits my work there nicely.