Linux and Me

Like all the "good" stuff on "W. Doug Bolden", this one is essentially a ramble more than anything worthwhile. God I love writing like me.

The Switch

My older brothers told me to switch to Linux (I pronounce it lE-nux or li-nux1, though many say it lI-nux (or usually lI-nix). I know his name is Linus, but he says his name lE-nus). I had friends who mentioned it. When I was resident advisor, I had a resident who hounded it into me. A roommate suggested it. All these people and I kept putting off.

What I didn't know is that, with possibly one exception, all these people who were saying I would dig Linux were actually very casual users. They dual booted (or had a throw away computer to play with). They used Linux mainly just to click around the screen or to run a couple of odd apps. Its kind of like having that one friend that tells you that doing Ecstacy is cool and later you find out that he never took it, he just heard about it.

There I was, though, pissed off at Windows and wanting something new. A few days back I had seen Mandrake (8.0, I think, if that dates it any) sitting in Wal-Mart and part of my urge to try it was the notion that I could, myself, afford an OS. This added to the recently mentioned pissed at Windows mindset led me to get Mandrake (downloaded, not bought, meaning I could REALLY afford it). I installed it, wiping out a couple of years worth of Windows build up, and viola! I had switched.

My sound didn't work (turns out I had to turn on the mixer and increase the volume). My webbrowser kind of sucked (turned out that I had to get Mozilla). I all of sudden had trouble chatting with friends (yay for GAIM, found not long after). I began to learn a quick lesson. If you want to use Linux, it will take work.

Note that the sister lesson is that a lot of Linux gurus are real dang friendly and will help whenever they can, or at least will occasionally make really helpful websites or messenger board posts.

The Formative Year

I would say that the first few months was definitely formative. Linux was mostly this version of Windows that had some neat command line tricks, was kind of customizable, and lacked features. I began to learn some things, but at this time I was just getting by. I started with Gnome, and thought it would be the desktop for me (playing briefly with WindowMaker and Enlightment, which were fun to tinker with).

I don't know when I switched to KDE, but it definitely stuck. This turned out to be a good thing, since Gnome later went on to sacrifice customizability and utility for pretty, user-friendliness.

Some of the lessons that were hard to learn was "It can happen if you make it happen" and "Rebooting isn't going to help all that much.". I now know these things, but it has only just been recently (after four years as a Linux user) it has really sunk in.

In my rush to update to Mandrake 8.1 I hosed my installation. Turns out the disks might have been bad. At any rate, it began locking up every few hours and would crash in odd ways, ways that Linux normally doesn't crash. This was before I found out that the Debian system handled updates much better.

I was the big Mandrake fan, but I ended up switching over to Suse. They had different ways of handling things, but were much the same. It worked out ok. For a bit.

Death of SuSe Box

Suse box, as I'll now refer to it, was a AMD6-2 running at about 475MHz and had 256M of RAM. It was a "tiny" computer compared to even standards of the day. Yet it could run six desktops and a dozen open applications. It could not handle media all that well, though my XMMS playlist did alright. Its sound card had two distinct channels for PCM, so I could pipe certain alerts in at a quieter sound and play music kind of loud.

I even got a webserver on it.

But, well, things sort of soured because Suse has some odd way of handling files and updating certain apps become hectic. I ended up hosing the system trying to upgrade some Apps.

A quick change from Suse (next release) to Mandrake (9.1, which killed my CD-Rom) to Knoppix to the shite that was Fedora Core at the time to whatever ended up putting more strain than my old harddrive could handle. It started blinking out on me, and my first computer, four years of age, died.

The New Box of a Thousand Drives

So I got a Dell (yes, dude, I got a Dell). And welcomed myself to Hell. My plans to re-Suse the box went sour when I found out that half the stuff on my box wouldn't work properly unless under Windows. I reinstalled Windows and went for a dual boot. My harddrive died. I decided Windows it was. Dell replaced my HD.

That harddrive died. I went back to Suse.

The harddrive burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp.

What I am trying to get you to get out of this is that if you get a Dell you had damn well make sure that it does not come with a large, sata Maxtor that starts with a "C" in its serial number. This really has little to do with Linux.

Where I'm At

Some hardware improvements later and it all seems hunky dory fine. And that is good. I have let go of those little RPMs and have moved over to the DEB system, specifically Kubuntu.

What I find amazing about Linux is the fact that it is not user-friendly per se (nowhere near as hard as your cousin made it out to be), but it has the user ultimately in mind. The amount of customization and tweaking you can do with it, the way it handles things, just make sense. Half the time there is a good idea in KDE, I see Windows snatch it up and claim it as being "forward thinking" or "progressive and innovative". Only Windows can be innovative on stolen technology. I guess no one has ever stolen it quite in that way before.

Without my quick-launch buttons and my multiple desktops and superior RAM handling, I cannot really use my computer. I flounder around for the most part. I also really like my music app (Amarok), mplayer, browser and e-mail set up. Somehow these things seem to make more sense to me than anything Windows has to offer.

Sure there are viruses and security flaws, just like any computer. But I love having repositories of useful apps and not having to crawl through sewers of websites trying to find a different text editor. Sure, it's a pain for there to be a dozen more or less equal text editors, but I like the choice, it works out.

I keep my gaming, largely, to the consoles. My computer I use to write and to surf the net and it works perfectly. I use it to work on websites, and love it.

There is just the ability to get things done in Linux that Windows never offered. That's why I stick with it.

1: Here is an MP3 file of how Linus Torvalds pronounces it which I got from this site. I am not trying to be snarky, I just thought it was neat.

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The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."

Doug Bolden, Linux and Me