OricXe - Column for 5/17

Linux

I asked everyone I knew to get me a copy of Linux. Most replied with a look of confusion, as if I spoke a dialect of French not yet invented. Granted, I knew not at this time what Linux was or even what it did, except that it was another operating system. I was driven to post on forums imploring for anyone who had information to share with me the secret on finding a copy of Linux.

A lecturer replied that he had Linux. All I had to do was visit his office. Minutes later I found myself in the office of a computer hobbyist.. There were programming books on the shelves, hardware lying everywhere and a naked computer with cords hanging everywhere stood on the only available chair. On the desk lay the cd's I came for. I introduced myself, nervously stating the reasons for my presence in his office..

He looked up at me and said(Allowing for foggy memory), "Well I have here, Suse, Redhat, Debian Woody and Mandrake. Which one do you want?" I was somewhat stunned at this point though "Debian" was what I'd said, because it sounded vaguely familiar.

In reply to my reply he replied, "I wouldn't recommend it for beginners. It's complicated."

"Well I want something a bit complicated." was what I think I said.

The installation was a nightmare. As a windows user I had no clue that the manual should be consulted at all times. There wasn't a point and click interface. No extremely simplified questions. A menu of stuff that you had to go through one by one was all I had to work with. I didn't know my monitor's specs or any idea what LILO or GRUB was. I wondered aloud what the fuck mounting was.

I accepted the defaults for everything and installed all packages. Installation ran, completed without hiccoughs and the computer rebooted. There was a ugly red square with options for Linux and Windows. I chose Linux and hoped for the best.

KDE2 was the default window manager. It was ugly, but after many changing of preferences it looked better. I got used to the ugliness after a while, explored more, found my harddrive and XMMS. This completed the experience for me. Now I could do exactly what I was doing when I was using Windows. Play Solitaire while listening to music. Life was good.

Debian just crashed for no reason at all some time after.. Figuring out the problem was far beyond my newbie knowledge, so I booted into Windows and that was that for the next 6 months.

It was like returning home after visiting an nasty grandma. I played Solitaire and listened to music with Winamp. So it went until curiosity got hold of the beast within me, making me reinstall Debian.

The install went better. I discovered HOWTO's, man pages and some copies of the Linux Gazette I read, absorbing what I could, forgetting everything else.. I started using the command line. I knew what chmod was. I still don't know how to use grep. A copy of Ubuntu was delivered. It looked better, but it was shit. I reinstalled Debian.

I was a Linux convert by then. I loved the fact that a 'Please enter the upgrade key to continue using this program?' dialog has never popped unexpectedly. I loved that programs didn't insert themselves into the taskbar without explicit permission. I really like mounting.

That concludes my story. Now go drink some beer.

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