Friday, March 21, 2008

Linuxville has politics too!

There are always parallels in life, religion and politics and Linuxville has its share too. In America I can't understand the way some presidential choices are handled (the media, people's minds). The same has been true with Linux. We won't dip into the details of haggling for a president but the metaphor in the PC arena is nearly the same. Is Linux ready for the desktop? This is a very loaded question and a hot topic in debate. It depends on who you ask and what you are referring to. If you are looking at the whole Linux OS as a system that can run a server, corporate and web services and administration tasks and coding skills, yes Linux is quite complex and not for the average user. Then if Linux is a PC desktop OS, you get a different picture. Among Linux users, who is describing Linux experiences? Programmers and system admin folks view Linux differently than desktop users. Lets not forget technicians who fix and repair PC's what ever the platform (mostly MS PC's). The question as to if Linux is ready for the desktop is often subtitled by other questions and realizations like; why change? I don't know enough about it to support it. Microsoft is on every PC, I don't know why we need another OS, Linux can't possibly take over, so I'm not really interested. Well, there are a zillion of them, the point is that since Linux as a desktop is not common, we don't consider it a real part of "the computing experience". We all sort of say that MS owns the town and their logos are on everything and Linux is just some graffiti by a renegade tag artist (probably Tux). Of course some of us know this is not true, but folks are so used to what they are used to. Even the PC tech crowd is avoiding Linux because they lack knowledge and experience of it. For instance on MS Win systems, something goes wrong and you do the three finger salute (ctrl-alt-del), but in Linux you do a different one (ctrl-alt-backspace). Imagine getting hundreds of calls just for that. But so many don't know what to expect when you click the mouse or push the button in Linux. So with all those vocal Microsoft trained folks speaking on Linux, it is overwhelmingly against it. Linux was only a small mention at the college I attended. I learned all about PC tech stuff including the server. It was said that Linux existed, but nothing else. If I hadn't pressed the issue, the school wouldn't have talked about Linux at all. By the way, they didn't say much about Macs either. I showed a fellow student and a teacher a printed color screenshot of my desktop. They were amazed that it was like MS Windows then turned away when it wasn't better, flashier, or what ever than MS Windows. So, I am laying down some ground rules so that folks who come to visit Linuxville can give a fair assessment to their friends, write on their blogs and such.

1. If you come, stay a while. Hit and run analysis is not a reliable source. If you use a new thing over time the tastes and habits of the old thing gets tempered. Knowing more than one system also looks good on your resume and you are not backed into a corner when upgrade time comes.

2. Don't compare Linux too closely with MS. Realize it is engineered to be different than MS. While MS emulation is possible, being different and free are features worth enjoying.

3. If you are unsure about anything, ask for help. Why figure it out yourself if others have agonized over the same problems and found solutions.

4. If hardware compatibility is an issue, don't just proclaim Linux is crap. There maybe clear reasons or exclusions, like newness, propriety drivers, obsolete equipment, etc. Compatibility lists do exist and even I had to buy new hardware to install Linux (DSL box instead of a winmodem).

5. Installation is an option. If you must install, learn the install steps, get help, be patient. Even MS Windows is a hassle to install (most don't have to do it). Recite point 3 over and over.

6. Don't trash your MS install for Linux if you are not committed. It is OK to virtual machine Linux or live-CD Linux. And if you install Linux you can do the same with MS Windows (except MS Windows has no live-CD). Dual-booting, which I am doing now, is bothersome, messy to set up and a hassle to switch between OS's.

7. Linux applications are fine. It is not intended for Linux apps to be spitting images of MS apps. The important thing is the file formats. If you must run MS apps, use virtual machine or Wine or Crossover office, the same is true for games.

Linuxville is a varied place. Some come for vacation, some escape from legal entanglements, some want to explore, play, some do serious work and some just think penguins are cute. Most who come want to reside here even just to say they've been here. Yes, Linuxville is quite the place, if you give it a chance, it will grow on you (you might wake up in a TUX suit!).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Arno!

Just a shout from Tony C. in AZ.
I still check in on your blog from time to time and I must say I find it very inspiring. I got my laptop up and running fedora 8 and ndiswrapper for wireless networking FINALLY. I am still working on getting it to handle video formats properly. I read that zine does a good job of handling multiple proprietary formats. The desktop on your blog really rocks!