Linux and Newbies


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I didn’t realize what I had done. Once I realized what was happening I was shocked. There should have been some sign — some symptom that things were about to come to a sudden and unpleasant, screeching halt. Things shouldn’t have been going so smoothly. It just didn’t make sense. If I were doing the exact same thing in Windows 98 on this very same computer it would have long ago demonstrated it’s lack of appreciation for my negligence and would have required a reboot in order to recover it’s composure. Unless it crashed first.

I had approximately ten different applications open with several instances of many of them. All told, about eighteen or twenty windows of the KDE GUI open and minimized and the computer was functioning as if I had just one window open. There was no discernible slow down. Windows would snap open instantly when maximized, and snap shut just as quickly when minimized. When I performed a task such as clicking a link in Netscape, it launched the page instantly painting the screen with all the GIFs and text as if the computer had nothing else to do but that. Windows, any version of Windows on this same machine with this same RAM and HDD would have been on it’s virtual knees begging for mercy.

Welcome to Linux, the geek OS that nobody uses.

I’d heard stories of how cryptic and difficult it was to work in Linux. Word on the street was that you pretty much had to have a pocket protector, tape on the bridge of your bottle-bottom glasses, a bad haircut, irritated adnoids and knobby elbows in order to have a prayer of using Linux. It may have been that way in the past, but it ain’t so now. I wear pocketless T-shirts, no glasses, have no hair to cut, stud-like adnoids and my perfect elbows are my best feature (it ain’t sayin’ much, I know — but it’s all I’ve got so I’ll brag about `em all I want).

Once I had figured out how Linux wanted the host disk partitioned it was easier to install Linux than Windows 98 and much easier than installing Windows NT — whatever version. What’s more, the only reason I had difficulty with partitioning was because the instructions (destructions) that came in the box had me thinking I had more work to do than I really did. If I hadn’t read the partitioning stuff I’d have a much easier time of it.

Like most of you, I have been a user of Microsoft’s various OS’s for all of my computing life. I’ve dabbled in DOS, winged it in Windows and ponied up plenty of pesetas for the privilege of doing so. While there are certain marked differences between each of Microsoft’s various operating systems, there are many consistent structural aspects that I had always taken for granted. For instance, system resources can be used up, regardless of how much RAM is available to the OS, if the user isn’t at least reasonably cognizant of managing them. This is not a critical problem, but that’s only because we deliberately set about performing tasks such that we won’t drain the system resources beyond what is needed to function properly. Even then, occasionally after a heavy session of computing you just have to reboot in order to get it to snap back to it old lively self.

It’s not as though you just can’t kill Linux, I’m sure you can — but I sure haven’t been able to do it yet. I installed the OS about a week ago, have used it for many hours every day since as I learn my way around it, and in my greenhorn ignorance I have not yet even once caused it to crash or even hiccup. It is clearly a more robust operating system than what I am used to using.

And it’s faster, noticeably faster than Windows 98 on the exact same machine using the exact same hardware. In fact, Linux is installed on an old, cramped, pre-UDMA disk while Windows 98 is resting lugubriously on a nice fat, roomy, new Western Digital UDMA hard drive. And Linux is still faster. Both are fresh installations on a clean, formatted HDD. Windows was installed with a bare minimum of ancillaries — no screen savers, no themes, no power management schemes; just the basic installation. I added some indispensable utilities like an anti-virus util and an archiving utility and that’s it.

Linux on the other hand, comes with an array of utilities and word processors and Internet Relay Chat programs, two different browsers, several text editors and full blown word processors, developer software, two (maybe more!) e-mail client’s, newsgroup readers, sound file manipulation utilities, desktop themes, screensavers, networking capabilities that put Windows NT to shame, a whole slew of games, system utilities, task managers, file managers, several consoles (like a DOS window), tools, gizmos and probably a bleedin’ kitchen sink in here somewhere if I can just get through checking out all the cornucopia of stuff that comes in the box.

And it’s all available at the click of a mouse pointer. The KDE graphical user interface that comes as the default with this particular version of Linux is both extremely attractive and easy to use. You can see a screen shot of my desktop here: here.

And that’s not all. The KDE interface I’ve described is only one of two complete GUI’s available to Linux. GNOME, the other one, is just as slick and easy to use. It’s like having two completely different versions of Windows 98 available to you on the CD.

All is not perfect with Linux though. Certain tasks are more difficult than they should be and I have had some trouble getting certain features to work properly. Also it takes some time to learn some of the underlying cryptic stuff that makes for the kind of power-use that I’m accustomed to in Windows. However, I learned much of what I know about Windows using Windows 95a, which crashed and BSODed with such infuriating regularity that it made me quite skittish about trying new things out. Linux is far more stable which encourages experimentation.

Great news for computer users. There is an honest-to-God challenger to the overwhelming might of Microsoft. Most of you are probably unaware of it yet but trust me on this — many of you will end up using Linux in the not to distant future. It’s just too good to fade away. The fact that it is freely downloadable will simply speed up it’s encroachment in to Microsoft’s domination of the market. As time passes and people that cut their teeth on Windows become more knowledgeable about the computers they use, the resistance to change will soften. Sooner or later many of you, and many businesses will start to look at an OS and a myriad of software available at no charge. Then, the stipulation that Linux users make public any enhancements developed for the OS (the GNU license) will really start to pay dividends.

Microsoft’s days are numbered.

Submitted by: Scotterpops

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