Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Latest Turn of Events

What's the latest preoccupation in my life. Well I have been messing around with Linux for some time now. I've played with Red Hat 5, Fedora 2, did a stint with Knoppix and a couple of other distributions. This last year I have been into Ubuntu Linux. I am so impressed with this version of Linux. It just worked with the hardware I had. Of course my computers are modest by most standards and I do not have any exotic video cards or a dial-up modem as I had in the past. The experience has been overall a good one and my computing needs have been met.
I dual-boot, which means I can start my computer in Windows XP or Ubuntu Linux. I am always comparing the two operating systems. Choice is sometimes a confusing thing, but it serves to keep the competitors awake to the demands of their market. If they want the bucks, they had better make the customer happy. What is interesting here is that this competition between the makers of MS Windows (Microsoft) and the makers of Linux (a community of programmers) have engaged the users in what amounts to a religious war. This is a war over what the user puts on his/her desktop and the underlying philosophy, support, goods and services behind that desktop. If you don't think there's a war, I'll explain. First on the users side, the attitude is and still is show me the product, if I like it, I will buy it and use it. Many OS's have come and gone. Today MS Windows is expected to be on the computer when you buy it, so it and its associated software are the defacto standard. Many, if not most users today have grown up with Windows products. Mean while, in the background another OS (Linux) is being developed and used. Linux steps into the light of user availability offering the user the chance to make a choice.
Users immediately go about making it work for them and compare it to what they have been used to with MS Windows. Opinions, rants, raves, people sharing their experiences trying to exclaim why their operating system, associated products and support is the best and the other is junk.
Now what about the hardware and software makers in this war. They have to satisfy the demand of a customer who can make a choice. When there was only one OS, the standard one (MS Windows), they could tailor a product to support it. Now that the demand for a choice has been made they must make a product that accommodates that ability to choose. Some have a hard time with this, others press on with new product opportunities.
What do I think? Choice is a good thing. It forces the product producers to keep me, the user, in view when they design this thing I will eventually claim as my own. I think that this war on many fronts is a healthy expression of the struggle to put a good product in the users hands.
So, what is the real deal? I use both MS Windows and Linux right now and I am in the mist of comparing the two. I can point out the problems I have had with either of them over the last few years. While either OS will suffice, that is, meet my computing needs, there remains a philosophy and a mental mindset that I enjoy with the Linux side of things. Others who ask can they do this or that with Linux are really asking can they run the software they are used to using in Windows on a Linux machine. We could go around all day explaining about emulators and virtual machines running Windows applications on a Linux machine. I think the operating system, its applications and associated products become such a part of a users world that to enact a change disrupts a users world view. Computing is so much a part of our lives (of those who depend on them).
So, what's so big about Linux that it warrants a fuss? It is basically free from a lot of things that MS Windows binds you into. I like the idea of a product that can cross boarders and cultures without criminal activity being the instigator. I like the fact that the growth and development of Linux continually allows me choice on a level I can deal with. I am not a programmer/developer, so I can't offer code fixes or new applications, yet as a user I can still find ways to participate in the community to share ideas, etc, to improve on what I have invested in. I think that if I have to steal to own or pirate a copy because the economics are too strong or my conscience is weak, (the opportunity is there) to keep current, I do damage to myself, I can not do things with clarity. Yes, I am a Christian after all.
Now, with all the above being said, I have chosen to keep up with Linux because it is improving. I have chosen Ubuntu Linux in particular because it works on my collection of hardware and introduces me to an expanding user experience. What does that mean? This means that I have not been crippled by cost or knowledge in order to get some usefulness out of this contraption called a computer.

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