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Free is too expensive

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LINUX, the free operating system that brought professional-grade computing to the lowly PC, has come a long way since doing something as simple as switching off meant performing secret handshakes or offering arcane prayers to the computer gods (eg, “computername ~ # shutdown -h now”). Today, practically all Linux distributions (some 450 are in circulation) hide their stark command lines behind prettified user-interfaces such as Gnome, KDE, Enlightenment or Xfce which mimic the desktop metaphor familiar to a billion Windows users. Should it ever be necessary, shutting down a Linux machine gracefully nowadays involves no more than a few clicks of a mouse.

Your correspondent has been a Linux fan since discovering the charms of Turbolinux, an early Japanese distribution, back in the 1990s. After the tribulations of Windows NT, he was pleasantly surprised by how easily Turbolinux resurrected a geriatric Pentium machine to give it new life as a print server in this newspaper’s Tokyo bureau.

Once set up, the Linux box just ran and ran without ever missing a beat.

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