Monday, January 14, 2008

confessions of a Linux fanboy

I have to admit 10 years ago curiosity got the best of me, I peered beyond the veil and was afflicted. I was enduring the blue screens of death in Win95 and waiting the dawning of Win98se. In a library there was a book (Power Linux) and in the back of it a CD. A free OS called LST Linux. Not having the skills, I can't recall ever installing it on my computer but I must have tried. Then I ran across Slackware which confused me at the time and then Red Hat which was probably my first real install. I've also tried Mandrake/Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, Puppy, DSL, Fedora, Mepis, Knoppix and a couple more. I now use Xubuntu 7.10 and Wolvix 1.1.0. What got me was that PC's could run on this other software and a free one at that. I didn't know about it's origin other than it wasn't Gates or Jobs. There are lots of details but I'm not writing my memoirs here. Now here we are today and what I see is a playful bickering between a mock Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. You know those commercials and ads where Gates and Jobs are representing the only two computer worlds competing for user bucks and loyalty. The inept business guy vs the hip and confident non-business guy. Of course they paint a particular picture in the minds of viewers but you must realize the scope here. They have played and are playing the same game they have played since the beginning of the "personal computer an American invention" story.
Mean while in another part of the world Linux was conceived by Linus Torvalds. Comparing notes, you realize that Torvalds was an outsider, never appearing in the same room as Jobs and Gates, even though computer technology had spread across the globe through university's. I am talking about the myth of the personal computer story that everybody assumes is true. It stars Jobs and Gates as American techno icons who started out in an actual garage and today manage huge American enterprises. As inspiring as their stories are, there remains to be told another story. Maybe, perhaps, and that is if Torvalds consents to being an icon, representing the world of Linux he started, we might know the truth not of a parallel universe, but of an inclusion in the context that goes beyond America. Sort of like the Edison/Tesla thing that our history never really explains clearly. Today Linux is a "global enterprise" but not the product of one company. And today, Linux can do on the personal computer what the other operating systems and applications can do. I know it is hard for some to embrace another point of view after being entrenched in what you know or think you know. Microsoft I know, Apple I understand, but what is Linux, where did it come from, what makes it so special, will it run my Microsoft or Apple stuff??????????
So, so many questions that frustrate a fanboy like me.

What is the Linux fanboy life like? Well, it's like telling a secret and no one around you cares or believes you. It's explaining normal stuff and being called fanatical for it. It's getting lame excuses for not looking at it and not using it. It is finding that denial and ignorance are bliss states cherished by other OS users. And if it ain't broke, don't fix it or replace it with something else. It's concluding that most Microsoft fanboys and Apple fanboys don't know they are fanboys until in the presents of Linux fanboys. Then everybody appreciates to the max the choices they made and defends them.
Yet, and there are a few, who like me are curious about stuff in a wider world. These realize that the choices on the shelf are a subset of a larger selection. Imagine, a CD in a library book changed the course of my computing history. Today, some books, magazines have live-CD versions of Linux and you can still download CD images of Linux. The live-CD versions run from the CD without installing on your computer but you have the option to install. You can copy the live-CD to a bootable jump drive and you can with some live-CD versions, create a new CD image, adding or removing the stuff you choose. These things are unheard of in the MS Windows or Apple world. I know that Linux will not satisfy everyone but if you never try it, you'll never know. To some it's hardware, to some it's applications, to some it's look and feel or it's too much like or unlike MS Windows. Some say that there is too much choice, that Linux can't settle on one desktop or version. Linux is about pools of parts that work together. In each pool of parts there are choices. These choices allow Linux to be fitted to a range of hardware and fitted to the range of users. There is no one size fits all that is easy to produce, market and sale. People have put together different groupings of Linux parts called distributions, that target users by language, or desktop preference or package management system or by other preferences. Finding a good fit is not always a speedy thing. Talking to people who have successfully used it helps. Looking for info on the web is the way to go except that some people who have issues with Linux are very vocal. In any case, user groups and user forums give the best info. I don't want to say try it you'll like it because you might not, but if you do you'll be a Linux fanboy before to long.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

very nice post.

i really became a linux fanboy when i bought an EEEPC running xandros.

being late on the bandwagon i'm still exploring the world of linux, but finding it much more pleasing than windows.

for the average user, linux does everything they need, better. they're just not used to it, and people don't like change.