As I briefly mentioned in a recent twitter I got the dreaded Blue Screen of Death when booting up my laptop in Windows last weekend. Repeated attempts to reboot in various “safe” modes were to no avail and finally a CHKDSK revealed that there was disk corruption. I need to re-install Windows, and perhaps get a new hard drive.

Luckily my laptop is dual-boot, so I was able to boot up in Ubuntu Linux. There I could see all my Windows files, albeit in read-only mode, so that I could back them up easily onto a USB hard drive in preparation for the WIndows re-install.

Meanwhile I had a lot of other work to do, and it was interesting to see how much of my normal day-to-day work I could do on Linux. All of my software development work is done on Linux anyway, so that was not an issue, the question was how much of the other work could i do.

My company uses Outlook Exchange for e-mail, but it also allows access via IMAP, so I had no problem getting the Thunderbird e-mail client to connect both at work and at home. Microsoft Office documents are widely used in the company, but I could easily view and edit them using OpenOffice. I have not yet however tried sending an edited file back to someone using Microsoft Office to see if they could open it properly. Web browsing in Firefox on Linux was pretty much an identical experience to using Firefox on Windows. I did encounter a few videos I could not play, and our company has an internal IT support chat service that uses a Windows ActiveX component that I could not use to report my woes.

There were really only two shortcomings that are going to force me back to Windows. First is the support of Outlook Calendar, which is widely used in the company to schedule meetings – despite trying, I never found any solution on Linux that allowed me to access the Outlook calendar. The second is the VPNs that I use to connect to work from home and to the data center where our web application runs.