That’s Ubuntu 8.10 for the uninitiated. As you might know, my computer is a four-year-old Dell laptop with Windows on it. Until last year, I had no reason at all to use Linux on my machine. However, this year I’m taking the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) course as one of the subjects for the broadening materials option (the other subject being French). The CFD software resides on some high-speed Linux servers in the department, which means that if you want to do the work in the comfort of your own room, then you have to use Linux or a Mac to connect to them. Windows computers won’t work.
One way to install Linux (Ubuntu in my case) to a laptop is to partition the hard drive. However, my laptop doesn’t come with a Windows recovery CD when I bought it. Instead, it has a hidden partition in the hard drive that can be used if I want to restore the laptop to factory settings. The problem with this is that I don’t know if the hidden partition will still work if I make a new partition to install Ubuntu, so I’m not taking the risk to find out.
Hence, I’m doing it another way. I installed Ubuntu on a virtual machine and run it from there! For those who don’t know, a virtual machine is like a computer inside a computer. Whatever you do in this virtual computer will not affect your real computer. The downside is that you’ll only be able to use a portion of your total RAM, but for me it doesn’t really affect performance that much.
Anyway, back to CFD. For those unfamiliar, the course is basically about using computers to solve fluid flow problems, because doing it by hand or analytically is virtually impossible except for really, really simple cases. This course is probably my second favourite subject of the year after French, mainly because I get to play around with computers and also produce these kinds of diagrams:
A side effect of CFD is that I’m also getting familiar with the basics and workings of Linux. So now I won’t just be staring blankly when people are talking about the command-line or shell-scripting or the jaunty jackalope. Who knows, maybe it’ll be my main OS later in the future.