Friday, September 18, 2009

Why I Like Linux

In the old days, M$ had declared all out war on anything Linux. Uncle Bill et al proclaimed that Linux was a Hacker's Tool bent on the destruction of everything that was good in computing. These were the days of FUD - Fear Uncertainty Doubt - and the Redmond Rat Pack were doing a good job of it, for a while.

Considering that at the time something like 65% of the servers on the Internet were running the Apache Server powered by Linux/UNIX - a piece of free software - and that M$ was wallowing in Server Hell with their abysmal NT 4.0, the Penguin People were holding their own.

Potential converts can usually get a taste of what Linux is like by running a Live CD. True, they don't exercise the full potential of the OS due to the bus restrictions of running from the optical drive, but it delivers a close enough feel for what's in store.

Most of the Distros have these Live CDs and they all have worked on the installer programmes until it can be installed automatically, if the user wishes. The controlled install is now straightforward & easy to follow including the drive partitioning app.

The present day GUIs are swiftly catching up to the Windows & Mac styles. Here's a few samples & although not quite up to date with what's currently available can demonstrate what the potential canditate has to look forward to: The KDE Desktop Environment is probably the most flashiest & at present is undergoing a major changeover that can make it pretty close to what MacIntosh Users experience. The XFCE Desktop is another of the "eye candy" style environments & is designed with a smaller footprint in mind for those with older hardware & modest resources. Also, not to forget the other major Desktop Environment, GNOME, which is undergoing an upgrade at the present and is usually the default desktop in most Distro installs.

Another sore point that Windows users have with Linux is that some of the apps that are only available in Windows can't run in Linux. There are some emulators available that will enable most of these programmes to operate within a Linux environment: WINE which is a free, open source app; CROSSOVER is a polished version of WINE marketed by the CodeWeavers™ programming group. There's also the illustrious VMWare™, which is actually not an emulator but a virtual environment allowing one to use multiple OSes simultaneously - no dual, triple or even quadruple booting.

That's another thing that the FOSS (Free Open Source Software) Foundation is involved with: Software Development. Not only is there development for Linux apps, but Windows stuff, too. At the present time there are over 25,000 apps available in the Debian Linux repositories alone not to mention the hundreds of free Windows apps being sponsored at SourceForge & other open source hosting facilities.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that current Linux development is doing itsbest to be nice to Windows & progress is moving along quite nicelybut Computing, Hardware & Software being what it is, namely dynamic, it's tough to keep up with current standards.

Can the same be said of Windows' attitude toward Linux? No. But since Big Blue (IBM) has come forth and is actively supporting Linux development & Windows' long time thorn-in-the-side where Enterprise Marketing is concerned, NOVELL & its acquisition of SuSe Linux transforming it into SuSe Enterprise, an impressive & powerful Server platform for the Big Business market, Uncle Bill & the boys have had to step back & re-evaluate their approach to this upstart OS. These two Computing giants have had long standing feuds with Micro$oft for quite a while. Still, in the interest of keeping International BusinessLines operating smoothly, Novell & M$ have partnered up to exchange coding to keep the appropriate servers playing nicely with each other.

As to date, IBM still growls at M$.

The issue of Linux being free has many people stepping back with the idea that since it is free, there is no support. This is not true. Being a free OS has spawned the development of the many different flavours of Linux: Debian, Ubuntu, Slackware, Arch Linux, Mint Linux, Xandros,Lindows, Mandriva, OpenSuSe, Red Hat, Fedora & the list goes on into the hundreds. Each of these distros has their own support forums & since the idea of open source is that anyone can contribute, many talented programmers, administrators & other computer related people freely give their time & effort to support their favourite flavour. Bug fixes & any viral issues are dealt with swiftly & succinctly compared to the corporate proprietary environment where any decision or change has to be run by & through various committees, boards & other levels of administration thereby delaying any crucial development(s).

The definition of Free means not only Free as in Free Beer, but mainly Free Choice. Unlike the proprietary OSes, one can choose how to run that OS in any way one chooses & on what one chooses. I've even heard that some folks have blown the dust off their doorstop 486's & are using them as file or mail servers running a very basic Linux system. Hell,I've even installed a Linux flavour, Xubuntu, on my old Pentium II laptop & it skips along pretty good.

Linux has always been about that - giving people a choice in how they want their computers to run. Linux isn't out to destroy Windows. I think it's best said in the quotation below:

Really, I'm not out to destroy Microsoft. That will just be a completely unintentional side effect.
-- Linus Torvalds, September 2003

Basically, I just wanted to tout some of the general features of Linux before I started getting into the details - a 'warm-up', so to speak.


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