A New Adventure! Windows Mobile and Ubuntu Linux
I've been aware of the existence of the Linux operating system for a long time, but I'd always assumed that it would be too complicated for me to learn and was a bit too geeky. Recently, however, I began hearing about a version of Linux called Ubuntu that was supposed to be pretty easy to use. Flash forward a few weeks and not only have I found that it is relatively easy to use, but it's already replaced Windows Vista as my main operating system of choice for day to day use!
Despite my generally positive experience with Ubuntu, I was almost sure that there would be no way to synchronize my Windows Mobile Outlook information (contacts, tasks, schedule, etc.) with Ubuntu. But after a bit of tinkering this morning I'm amazed to report that I am able to synchronize with Ubuntu! Not only is this fact amazing standing by itself, it is even more incredible when one considers that I cannot even synchronize this data with Vista (see my complaint to this effect here)!
How I Got Here
First of all, let me get one thing clear right from the get go: I'm no Microsoft hater. The only computer-related hatred I bear is towards all things Apple (and before you mention it, yes, I'm aware of the relationship between Linux and the Mac OS). The truth is that while Microsoft products always have their problems, they work for the most part.
There's no one thing that drove me to try Linux, rather that move was the result of a constellation of factors pushing me away from Windows and towards Linux.
Pushing Me Away from Windows:
- Cost of Windows and supporting applications (the OS itself, Office suite, antivirus, etc.)
- Inability to synchronize with my Windows Mobile device (without purchasing Outlook separately)
- Generally being a little let down (and sometimes annoyed) by Vista (don't get me wrong, I like it, just not that much)
Pulling Me Towards Linux:
- No money required (the OS is free and so are 18,000+ applications)
- Less security measures required
- Less resource-hungry (or so I'd heard)
- One can try Linux without changing one's system in any way (using a LiveCD)
- The promise of having more control over my computer
- Its use of the command line (I actually miss using it sometimes)
- The ability to have the best of both worlds by dual-booting with Windows
- Sheer curiosity (this was probably the single most determinative factor for me)
- Good experiences with open source applications like Firefox and OpenOffice
My Setup (Dual Boot with Vista & Ubuntu)
Like many versions of Linux, Ubuntu allows you to run a version of the operating system from a CD (called a LiveCD in Linux parlance), which allows you to give the OS a test drive without having to mess with your existing Windows system. After a while of doing this I decided that I wanted to try Ubuntu on a more permanent basis so I decided to attempt to setup my laptop so that I could dual boot with Vista. Once setup properly, the way it works is that when you turn on your computer, you're presented with a screen that lets you choose which operating system you want to boot up.
Prior to this, I had never worked directly with partitions and it was a little scary and confusing because if you make a wrong move you can really mess up your system (and there are certain things that can go especially wrong if you're messing around with a Vista partition in particular). But with a little research, a freeware program called EasyBCD, and a lot of help from the wonderful people at the Ubuntu forums, I was able to successfully setup a dual boot environment in a relatively short amount of time.
Now I have an ideal way to explore and use Ubuntu and I can always boot up Windows when I need to.
Synchronizing Windows Mobile PIM Data with Ubuntu
The default personal information manager (i.e., the Microsoft Outlook equivalent) in Ubuntu is called Evolution. Actually, it has a very similar look and feel to Outlook.
In order to start synching my Windows Mobile device with Evolution I had to install two programs: SynCE and Multisync. Installation was simple and configuration only took a few minutes (subject to the exception described below). Here's a screenshot of Multisync:
The biggest problem I encountered was configuring multisync properly. You see, you can only sync those items that are in identically-named categories. In other words, if you want to sync contacts that are in the "business" category on your phone with Evolution, you've got to have a category called "business" in Evolution.
[Edit: I have since discovered another annoyance: it appears that you can only sync one category of stuff at a time. In other words, if I want to sync all my contacts I have to go into options tell it to sync everything in my "personal" category, sync, and then go back into options and tell it to sync everything in my "business" category, etc.]
I'm not saying that it couldn't be easier. It definitely could. As a general matter, PalmOS devices seem to be supported better in Ubuntu than Windows Mobile devices.
Am I the Only One?
So, have any of you toyed around with Linux and Windows Mobile?