I've been a Microsoft (MS) product user for a long time.  It started with MS-DOS 2.11 on my Tandy 1000 EX.  Over the years I migrated through ms-dos 6.0 on my way to windows 95 and 98.  I never had a personal computer with NT or ME but I did and still run windows 2000 and XP.  I've always appreciated the MS balance of usability and tweakability. 

I've been watching the news related to the upcoming Windows Vist and I have to admit... I'm not all that impressed.  Looks like the main new features are all in appearance.  That's not something I really care about.   But it is the activation scheme that bothers me most.  I won't go into details here because it has been discussed many times elsewhere.  In addition I've never been a fan of the windows one licence per PC system.  I'd much rather have a one licence per home system.  Having three desktops and and a laptop at home it could be really expensive to upgrade all four machines.  In I any event I thought it might be time to investigate alternatives to the MS products.

I'm not a complete stranger to Linux/Unix.  I've needed to access Unix systems every now and then (thank you Harley Hahn) and I occasionally run a browser appliance under VMWare.  So I'm not afraid of Linux but definitely not ready to fully commit.  Therefore, I decided on a three phase approach to Linux migration.  At each phase I'll deploy Linux in my life at increasing levels.  At the end of each phase I'll decide based on my experience if I will implement the next phase or abandon the project.

Phase I will be a complete install of Linux as a guest OS in VMWare on my Windows XP host.  Like I said I do have a prebuilt Linux browser appliance under VMWare but that doesn't give the full experience.  I want to install, upgrade, and maintain a full version of Linux.  I will decide on a distribution, download the necessary ISO(s), and install it on a clean virtual hard drive.  I'll then customize it as a I would a real system, install desired applications, and maybe even do some development work on it.  I'll also be looking out for windows applications I need in order to fully integrate Linux in my life.

In Phase II I will install Linux as the only OS on my laptop (currently running Win 2000).  I don't use my laptop that often and when I do it is usually for accessing the Internet while on travel.  I don't run any high end applications or games on my laptop so phase II should be an easy bet.

In phase III I'll install Linux on my desktop PC as a dual boot option.  I won't overwrite my current OS (Win XP) but add Linux as a secondary OS with the choice of OS to enter at boot time.  This will be the ultimate test for Linux integration in my life.  Will I be able to use Linux as my primary system or will I spend more time in Windows and allow Linux to go dormant?  I'm not at all confident that I'll be able to reach phase III much less use it more often then windows.  I have a lot of applications that I've accumulated over the years some of which I like very much.  For example RoboForm, Windows Live Writer, and MediaMan all may be hard to find replacements for.  Also, because I was once a MSDN subscriber I have a lot of MS software that I use all the time (Visual Studio for example).  Also, I'm that type of person that likes to build custom applications whenever the need arises.  This is one of the reasons that I want to switch to Linux but what about all my old applications... most of them built in Visual Basic.  I don't want to recode all of them from scratch.  On the other hand, most of my code these days is PHP in Eclipse (cross platform IDE) and all my websurfing is through Firefox so we will have to see.

Well, as I write this I have already implemented some of phase.  Full details of phase I will be in a later post.