Installing Heron

Despite recent posts, I admit to being a long term Windows user myself. I therefore share many of the characteristics of Windows users. The most important of these is that I am naturally extremely conservative and very reluctant to change a laptop when I have things working the way I am used to. I have been using Ubuntu Feisty since late July 2007 without ever  bothering to upgrade to Gutsy (although I installed it for my son).

However I decided that the release of Heron really deserved my attention. I was becoming increasingly  frustrated with the limited disk space on my duel boot Toshiba Tecra with its original 80 GB HD (40 GB still in an XP partition that I now never use). So today I treated myself to a 250GB external Simpletech ATA hardrive. On getting it home I  invalidated the warranty by opening the case, taking out the drive and swopping it for my 80GB ATA drive. I mention the fact that it is ATA as older (my Toshiba was bought in October 2006) or cheaper laptops are likely to have IDE drives. Always check first and be aware that this simple trick will not work if your machine uses IDE. But if you need a new hard drive, and can afford one, simply switching the drives saves all worries about upgrading. If it goes wrong just put the old drive back in.

In went the Heron CD (I decided not to bother with any native windows install this time) and 15 minutes later all the basics were installed without any tweaking at all. I turned on the advanced visual effects. Ubuntu realised I needed an Nvidia driver and installed it. After rebooting I then had all the  wobbly windows and spinning cubes if might ever want, if I ever feel like using them. A completely painless, risk free upgrade in no time at all. Now all I need to do is copy the parts of my home director I want to keep back over from the external drive and it is all back where it was, with extras. Two hours maximum for the whole process, including putting back R, GRASS, Qgis MYSQL etc. PostGis is just a little bit more difficult in my case due to the fact that I previously used Postgreql 8.1 and it is time for 8.2. But that detail is fairly tecnical.  Contrast the basic experience with a complete re- install of Vista. It would be a nightmare that could last the best part of a  week.

Last night I read this very useful and sympathetic account of the install experience from a novices’ perspective http://www.bspcn.com/2008/04/28/the-great-ubuntu-girlfriend-experiment/

As I had handed out several disks of the Heron after the Ecosur seminar I thought I should be aware of these sort of problems.  I am quite likely to have a few students coming into my office in the next few days asking for help. The girlfriend gotchas really are all very minor. My  experience with the new Heron install was simple to the point of being disappointingly trivial. I missed all the thrills of fixing screen resolution and sound. The only important detail worth mentioning is to make sure that the flash plugin is installed from symantics before going to watch a you tube video. There are then no problems. You simply get a polite message asking for permission to install codecs and there is no need to try to install a gzipped file from adobe. Done.

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