I am Peter Breuls. I write web applications in PHP, movie reviews and irregularly something on this weblog. Welcome!
Through my company Devize, I'm available as a developer or a consultant for websites or web applications.
I work as an Administrator at online community FOK! and as a Lead Developer at frontoffice supplier SIMgroep.

Wubi: the new way of dual-booting

Linux / Tech / Web development / Maccomment

When I work, I usually use two computers: an Ubuntu-powered PC and my MacBook Pro. Of those, the Mac is my main machine: I have all my development tools and environments running on it, I use it for mail and documents, my music is on it (because I can't work in silence), etcetera. It has this value to me because I can carry it to wherever I need to, which means I can use it at both of my two jobs, plus on location if I ever need to (and sometimes I do).

But there's one thing missing: although Mac OSX is a very nice OS, probably the best I've worked with, I still need Linux to complete my wishlist. The combination of Krusader and Kompare, for instance, is a golden one if you need to organize your development projects. Krusader is a two-pane file manager, with the option to use FTP and SFTP or just local files. Whenever I need to examine the difference between two versions of the same file (and I need to do that a lot: before commiting my changes to version control, I want to know exactly what I'm doing), I set up Krusader to have a folder with one version of the project on the left and one version on the right. I then select the files I want to compare and the magic happens: Kompare starts.

Kompare is a frontend to the diff tool and as such not that special: if I just want to quickly see the difference between foo.php and it's current state in CVS I can just use the built-in comparison tools from Zend Studio for Ecplise. But: Kompare is so much better! It has coloring to differentiate between additions, removals and changes, is more precise (due to the tried-and-tested diff being the backend) and has the ability to apply some of my changes to the other file, which enables me to be more exact in what I commit (you know, sometimes you have several changes in a file, but just a few of them belong to that relevant bugfix and the others are for that new feature that's still unfinished, so you want to do a partly commit).

So, I need Linux next to Mac, because those tools don't run on Mac OSX. When at home (for Job #1), that's no problem. My only PC is an Ubuntu machine. But at work (at Job #2), I have an old PC which is kinda slow which I use for this. And the slow part, that's annoying. Because whenever I need to use Kompare, I need five to ten minutes to boot the thing, and every action after that needs a lot of patience.

But, I share my desk with a colleague who sits there when I'm at Job #1. And he has his own PC, stalled under the desk next to mine. A new, fresh one, nice and fast, running Windows, and I already discussed making that one a dual-boot so we can share not just the desk, but the PC as well. But I don't have the time to go and install Ubuntu next to Windows, carefully selecting partitions, making sure I don't nuke his installation, and whatnot. So even months after "Hey, can I make that one a dual-boot?" - "Sure!" I'm still working on the slow machine.

Enter Wubi. Shipping with Ubuntu 8.04 next week, it's an Ubuntu installer for Windows. And it does exactly (exactly!) what I need:

When I rebooted my machine, an option to boot Ubuntu was added to my Windows boot list, and after selecting it, Ubuntu started loading just as it would if installed on a dedicated drive. I was even given the normal GRUB menu.

So now I can just boot my colleage's machine, put in the Ubuntu CD, click through the installer and enjoy Ubuntu. No need for me to run the Ubuntu installer, carefully selecting drives, doing all kinds of stuff that costs me time. Just click-click-install, the Windows way.

Life really does get better with every Ubuntu release.