Today, Running a Linux Virtual Machine is Painless
If you're considering trying out Ruby, just run Ruby inside of Ubuntu on a VirtualBox VM instead of Ruby on native Windows, because the Ruby/Ubuntu/VirtualBox combo is completely painless. I might even be so bold as to say flawless.
Linux is painless (today)
As someone who has lost hours and hours and hours unsuccessfully troubleshooting, and as someone who has experienced a Personal Complete And Total Data Loss Incident, I want to acknowledge that running "linux" in its many flavors can be painful.
And it is with that in mind that I want to let you know that, as of January 2012, I'm having no problems.
With no special configuration required, I've set up:
- VirtualBox (free for non-commercial use)
- the newest stable Ubuntu 64-bit release
- with an instantly adjustable monitor resolution via VirtualBox extensions for Ubuntu and RIGHT CTRL+F
- with working sound *note: don't take this for granted, you punks
- with both Chrome and Firefox
- with internet access, even when I switch from ethernet to wireless and back (my fellow former VirtualPC/Virtual Server users are having PTSD flashbacks right now, sorry)
- with equally snappy performance as the host Windows 7 machine
- with easy and "Windows intuitive" text editing via Sublime Text 2 AKA "new hotness" – by the way, Sublime Text behaves identically on Windows and Ubuntu, so I'm having zero Text Editor Culture Shock. We can talk about text editors later—today, the point I want to make is that by using Sublime Text I can defer "the talk". Compare to the past where my choices were vim (:qA!), emacs (CTRL+X, CTRL+C), and pico (oh sweet, sweet menus written in English!); or the past where I couldn't figure out how to get pico installed and worked with vim. (Vim protip: press "i" and it goes into Normal Mode, then anytime it starts acting weird, hit ESC a bunch and try and get back into Normal Mode. And yes, I said "protip".)
- with copy/paste between host and VM
- with working VM pause/resume that takes a grand total of 2 seconds
So to be clear, it wasn't always this easy.
It probably took less time to install and update Ubuntu than a Windows 7 VM, and I've done both recently, so I guess that makes me a leading world authority on how long it takes to install operating systems on VMs.
It even took less time to blunder through apt-get-ting/gem-ing/bundle-ing all the dev tools on Ubuntu than to sleepwalk through the VS2010 + SP + SQL + SP installers.
So there's your anecdote. As of January of 2012, it's easy.
What does this mean
If you're considering tinkering with "the Ruby" or whatever*, just install VirtualBox and Ubuntu…or whatever works for you. I'm just here to tell you that it's very easy to get an Ubuntu VM set up and running, and it's easier than trying to get Ruby working on Windows.
And, when the Ruby On Windows Pain Factor dramatically drops (like it did with git—oh by the way—if you haven't heard already, running Git on Windows is easy now), maybe you'll hear from me again.