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Taking the Plunge into Linux

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Linux

I first came across Linux some seven years ago. A technophobe friend had been persuaded to buy a Windows PC and was spending many a happy hour tinkering with its settings as he is wont to do (he's also a Harley-Davidson enthusiast, which may explain things).

One night, he casually mentioned that he was trying out Linux. As I had spent the previous four years learning the ins and outs of Mac OS as well as Windows (I cut my journalistic teeth working on tech mags) I couldn't see what the fuss was all about. Linux looked extremely clunky and very hard to use. Moreover, it also seemed completely pointless.

After all, my home PC already had Windows 98, MS Office and all the bells and whistles pre-installed. At work, I used a Mac, so I really didn't need another operating system, particularly one that seemed like a leap backwards in terms of usability Latest News about usability.

Worth a Look

So I forgot all about Linux for a while. Then earlier this year, I returned to the UK and visited the same friend, still tinkering and still enthusing. He had, he told me, switched to something called SuSE Latest News about SuSE Linux and was rarely using Windows. Of course, in the years between these two events, the background chatter about Linux had gotten more audible and I had gotten more and more disaffected with Windows. So I took a look at my friend's system, and what I saw rather impressed me.

Gone were the command-line interfaces of old (a command line is when you enter an instruction at a cursor rather than using an icon-based system like Windows) and gone was the home-made feel of the thing. In its place was a sleek system that looked and felt like a Windows/Mac hybrid.

Clearly, this was something worth exploring and some months on, I am happily using SuSE Linux 9.0 in place of Windows. This article is intended as a warts-and-all account of how I got to this stage. It is definitely not meant as a guide to using Linux and nor as an exhortation to ditch Windows. I certainly wouldn't recommend Linux to a PC novice and, if you choose to try it out, neither myself nor Post Database will be held responsible for the consequences if parts of your hard drive disappear. Don't scoff -- it happens, as you will read later.

Fact or Fiction?

In addition, I am no Linux expert -- I just decided to take the plunge and these are my observations. Not all I note will be applicable to every version of Linux and its associated software, so please bear that in mind.

In the first part of this feature, I'd like to debunk a few myths. First off, Linux is not just Linux. There's a whole slew of different versions, called "distros'' (short for distributions). One is SuSE, which I use; another is Mandrake and another is Red Hat Latest News about Red Hat. Secondly, Linux is not free -- not always. While you can download certain versions for the cost of a dial-up connection, and other versions come as cover-mounts on magazines, you can pay several thousand baht for a boxed set.

Then there's the myth propagated by Linux evangelists that it is the most stable operating system in the world and that everything Linux is logical and smells of roses. It's none of those. It took me some time -- measurable in days -- just to get my printer to print a test page, for example. Then there's the fact that at one time I managed to make the system so unstable that I couldn't boot up in Windows or Linux and had to use a rescue installation. It worked, but not without me developing several grey hairs in the process.

Ease of Use

Now to Apple Latest News about Apple. I love Macs, but I'm not going to pay twice the cost of a PC just for the privilege of having a shiny new Mac on my desk. Plus, as far as stability goes, I would argue that Mac OS X variants and Windows XP are about level now. That's not necessarily good, mind you -- just level, although I would argue that all Mac operating systems are more user-friendly than any of their Windows peers.

Speaking of being easy to use, there's also a lot of fiddling required to get Linux to the stage where it's usable for the average user's needs. A branded Windows PC usually comes ready-to-use out of the box with helper programs to get you started. While these things irritate the heck out of me and get deactivated as soon as possible, they are great for the "mum and dad" user or beginner.

Given all this, you're probably wondering why in the world I've chosen to use Linux. Well, first it was out of curiosity. Having seen it in action, I really wanted to try it. And now that I have, I'll stick with it. Why? Well, despite the cons mentioned above, there are quite a few pros, and we'll be exploring them next week.

More in Tux Machines

Linux 4.17-rc7

So this week wasn't as calm as the previous weeks have been, but despite that I suspect this is the last rc. This week we had the whole "spectre v4" thing, and yes, the fallout from that shows up as part of the patch and commit log. But it's not actually dominant: the patch is pretty evenly one third arch updates, one third networking updates, and one third "rest". The arch updates are largely - although not exclusively - spectre v4. The networking stuff is mostly network drivers, but there's some core networking too. And "the rest" is just that - misc drivers (rdma, gpu, other), documentation, some vfs, vm, bpf, tooling.. The bulk of it is really pretty trivial one-liners, and nothing looks particularly scary. Let's see how next week looks, but if nothing really happens I suspect we can make do without an rc8. Shortlog appended as usual. Go out and test. Read more

Today in Techrights

Libre Hardware

  • Flash your Libre Firmware with a Libre Programmer
    Whether or not you personally agree with all the ideals of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), you’ve got to give them credit: they don’t mess around. They started by laying the groundwork for a free and open source operating system, then once that dream was realized, started pushing the idea of replacing proprietary BIOS firmware with an open alternative such as Libreboot. But apparently, even that’s not enough, as there’s still more freedom to be had. We’re playing 4D Libre Chess now, folks. [...] Luckily, the FSF has just awarded the Zerocat Chipflasher their “Respects Your Freedom” certification, meaning every element of the product is released under a free license for your hacking enjoyment.
  • Coreboot Picks Up Support For Another Eight Year Old Intel Motherboard
    If by chance you happen to have an Intel DG41WV motherboard, it's now supported by mainline Coreboot so you can free the system down to the BIOS. The DG41WV motherboard comes from the LGA-775 days with an Intel G41 Eaglelake chipset back when DDR3-1066 was great, motherboards topped out with 4GB of RAM, four USB 2.0 ports were suitable, and motherboard PCBs were much less fashionable. The DG41WV was a micro-ATX board and a decent choice for the times to pair with a CPU like the Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad.

Events: KubeCon, openSUSE Conference 2018 and Hacker Summer Camp 2018

  • Diversity, education, privilege and ethics in technology
    And that is the ultimate fraud: to make the world believe we are harmless little boys, so repressed that we can't communicate properly. We're so sorry we're awkward, it's because we're all somewhat on the autism spectrum. Isn't that, after all, a convenient affliction for people that would not dare to confront the oppression they are creating? It's too easy to hide behind such a real and serious condition that does affect people in our community, but also truly autistic people that simply cannot make it in the fast-moving world the magical rain man is creating. But the real con is hacking power and political control away from traditional institutions, seen as too slow-moving to really accomplish the "change" that is "needed". We are creating an inextricable technocracy that no one will understand, not even us "experts". Instead of serving the people, the machine is at the mercy of markets and powerful oligarchs. A recurring pattern at Kubernetes conferences is the KubeCon chant where Kelsey Hightower reluctantly engages the crowd in a pep chant: When I say 'Kube!', you say 'Con!' 'Kube!' 'Con!' 'Kube!' 'Con!' 'Kube!' 'Con!' Cube Con indeed... I wish I had some wise parting thoughts of where to go from here or how to change this. The tide seems so strong that all I can do is observe and tell stories. My hope is that the people that need to hear this will take it the right way, but I somehow doubt it. With chance, it might just become irrelevant and everything will fix itself, but somehow I fear things will get worse before they get better.
  • openSUSE Conference 2018
    This year openSUSE conference was held in Prague and, thanks to both my employer and openSUSE conference organizers, I've been able to spend almost a full day there. I've headed to Prague with a Fleet Commander talk accepted and, as openSUSE Leap 15.0 was released Yesterday, also with the idea to show an unattended ("express") installation of the "as fresh as possible" Leap 15.0 happening on GNOME Boxes. The conference was not so big, which helped to easy spot some old friends (Fridrich Strba, seriously? Meeting you after almost 7 years ... I have no words to describe my happiness on seeing you there!), some known faces (as Scott, with whom I just meet at conferences :-)) and also meet some people who either helped me a lot in the past (here I can mention the whole autoyast team who gave me some big support when I was writing down the autoinst.xml for libosinfo, which provides the support to do openSUSE's express installations via GNOME Boxes) or who have some interest in some of the work I've been doing (as Richard Brown who's a well-know figure around SUSE/openSUSE community, a GNOME Boxes user and also an enthusiastic supporter of our work done in libosiinfo/osinfo-db).
  • Hacker Summer Camp 2018: Prep Guide
    For those unfamiliar with the term, Hacker Summer Camp is the combination of DEF CON, Black Hat USA, and BSides Las Vegas that takes place in the hot Las Vegas sun every summer, along with all the associated parties and side events. It’s the largest gathering of hackers, information security professionals and enthusiasts, and has been growing for 25 years. In this post, I’ll present my views on how to get the most out of your 2018 trip to the desert, along with tips & points from some of my friends.