In all the years I've been experimenting with Linux, I've never been able to install software or drivers or browser plug-ins. If I was going to be going on the road withe HP's Mini-Note running Linux, I'd first have to learn how to do that.
Once I got Ubuntu Linux running on my dad's old Compaq 3000 notebook computer, I began to test the software I would need on the road.
Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice, so a word processor is "built-in." I tried running Google Docs in FireFox, and it worked just fine -- the documents and spreadsheets I'd created in the Windows version of FireFox looked identical. So, that was good.
I also checked GMail, and that worked for my email. Praise be OS-independent software.
However, Google Docs warned that I need to installed Flash 9 for collaboration activities. I don't collaborate, but I thought it would force to me learn to install software under Linux. After some frustrations, it finally worked: the Flash 9 plug-in worked with FireFox. I'd like to tell you how, but I tried so many things and finally something worked.
The part that puzzled me was that Ubuntu didn't want to work with RPM files. (This is a file format in which Linux programs are distributed, kind of like Windows MSI install file.) FireFox and Ubuntu recognized the downloaded RPM file and opened the appropriate software for installing it, but then the software refused to install it. After a bunch of clicking and right-clicking, it got installed. I just don't know how.
A piece of software I'd need on the road is Adobe Reader, in case someone sends a PDF file. I found that Adobe has three versions of install files for Linux users to install:
-- .gz, which is the Linux equivalent of a Windows ZIP file.
-- .rpm, which the aforementioned install file.
-- .deb, an install file specific to Debian Linux, upon which Ubuntu is based.
I found that choosing the DEB download for Reader is painless. FireFox downloads the file, and Ubuntu automatically installs. All I had to do was agree to the license (no choice there) and give permission to Linux to install it.
Another crucial piece of software for me is Google's Picassa. It's available for Linux, but I was a bit worried: (1) it runs under WINE, the WINdows Emulator -- how hard was that to install? (2) Would it recognize my Canon S1iS camera?
But I didn't need to worry. Google as a DEB version of Picassa for Linux, which made for hassle free installation. Ubuntu recognized my digital camera, and Picassa downloaded its photos. Because this is the Windows version of Picassa running in the emmulator, all of Picassa's functions are available.
Where things got rough was in media. My wife and I like watching Deutsche Welle tv over the Internet; DW uses the Octoshape P2P software to transmit its broadcast at 600kpbs -- 4x faster than what my DSL line is normally capable of. Octoshape has a plug-in for Linux but it is a nightmare to install. I haven't got that done yet.
The other thing I tried was to watch a DVD on Linux. One of the great scandals of our time is that DVD anti-theft system (CSS) is not freely available for Linux as it is for Windows. Installing the CSS decoder is even more complex than Octoshape, and after an hour of trying I gave up -- even though I was following instructions on Ubuntu's help site.
Well, HP's Mini-Note doesn't have a CD or DVD player, so this last item is meaningless.
I still have other things to test: how well it works with my Palm TX, my MP3 player, etc.