The quiet revolution continues

Story: Why The Linux Desktop Still RocksTotal Replies: 21
Author Content

Dec 20, 2011
12:42 PM EDT
My experience was a lot like that of the writer. Back in 1993 I was a windows user, but curious about that powerful and myterious OS called unix. It was way beyond my budget. But then I was told about Linux, which was free and could run on the same generic hardware as ms dos. dipped a toe in the water, and everything was fine. Over the next few months I switched from SLS to Slackware, shrank my windows partition down to 10 MB, and installed linux on every machine I had. I became the Linux install guy at the university, and the CS and EE students would bring me their windoze pee cees and leave with full blown Linux systems, or dual boot Slackware/windoze systems. Eventually I left the university to take a real job doing unix/internet stuff and never looked back.

I'd been tending to think nostalgically of those times as the good old days. It's good to be reminded that those good old days are still unfolding all around the world.

Dec 20, 2011
1:54 PM EDT
@herzeleid - Agreed - the article made me feel nostalgic as well. The first I heard of Linux was in a book store, and I was astonished to read that there was a totally free universe of software you could load onto a typical i386 PC. Thirteen years later, I build custom workstations for my own business and load Linux to handle complex accounting tasks that a Windows or Apple OS would be too slow (and expensive) to handle.

Linux is truly computing power delivered to the masses.

Dec 20, 2011
5:47 PM EDT
I'm old enough and went to a college on the leading edge of Unix adoption -- and bringing Unix to non-computer scientists -- in the 1980s, and I thought I'd never be able to run my own Unix machine.

It's crazy how things change.

Dec 20, 2011
6:33 PM EDT
I am a teacher and I have been installing Ubuntu for students and friends.

Yes, over time, they all boot into Ubuntu much more than Windows. For the students, the only times they really need Windows is to play 3D games or when they need to do an assignment using software (e.g. Photoimpact) to hand in assignments that require they use proprietary file formats that cannot be replicated in Linux.

Dec 20, 2011
8:28 PM EDT
Begs the question:

Why are you (plural) requiring assignments to be completed on proprietary software???

Dec 20, 2011
9:25 PM EDT
It's a sad affliction that affects far too many academics. They believe they are somehow preparing students for a specific career. Never mind the reality that not all firms use the same software, or that software must evolve or it is left behind (*knock* *knock* Hello? Microsoft?).

I actually had a respected academic in my field argue with firmly held belief that by teaching our students one specific application, said students can easily master other similar applications. . .

Regardless of whether there is any truth to his point, isn't the whole point of attending a university to LEARN?

Fortunately, this is one dinosaur who is retiring. Unfortunately, there are many Microsoft drones still to retire.

Dec 21, 2011
12:01 AM EDT
I went to college where I had to use Unix workstations. I never bought a DOS/Windows PC after seeing my roommate's PC and how horrible the video graphics and hybrid 8/16-bit DOS/Windows was compared to the unix workstations. And all he did with it was play games, which were worse than 8-bit computer games. By the time I was on my way to write a senior thesis, I had to fight for free spot at school workstations and I wished I had my own personal unix workstation. Then I heard about Linux, bought a PC, downloaded Slackware Linux on floppies, and installed it. Voila, I had X-windows server connecting through a modem to school workstations, my own latex packages, C compilers, database management, and all the personal applications I needed. It was such a liberating feeling that I had the raw unadulterated computing power at my fingertips like a unix workstation, without spending tens of thousands of dollars on hardware and software. And it was all free.

Dec 21, 2011
12:09 AM EDT
Free of viruses, free of spyware, free of proprietary control...

Dec 21, 2011
1:01 AM EDT
I have been using Open Source -- GNU/Linux, OpenShot, GIMP, LibreOffice, and many more -- since 2008 and I can't imagine my life without it. This article reminds me of my first days with Ubuntu... Ah, I'm getting nostalgic.

Dec 21, 2011
10:42 AM EDT
2001 here... after dabbling in 1999... My wife gives me cr@p about not using M$ office, but she's never used the latest, with the ribbon and all... She'd stop giving me grief if she ever had to use the ribbon ...

Dec 22, 2011
11:13 AM EDT
Still rocks? When did it stop? 'ix, in some form or another, has been on my desktop since the very early '90s.

I started drifting away from the Microsoft camp before Linux was available dual-booting DOS+Windows and Coherent on my '386. Yeah, it was a command line desktop but, heck, I was used to that since most of the VMS systems I used at work were all accessed through terminals. It was still a desktop with all the editors and development tools I could shake a stick at and email access via uucp. What more could one want. That later became a '486 still with DOS/Windows and Coherent but I later started running a commercial SVR4.2 (triple booting using the Coherent boot loader) as I wanted to start doing some X Windows programming and Coherent/X wasn't well tested at the time. I tried a very early version of Slackware on that '486 in the mid-90s (using the CD that came in "Linux Unleashed" or something like that) and liked what I saw though I wasn't real happy with the effort one had to make to get X up and running (without smoking one's monitor). When I saw online that Linux was working on SMP and things were looking stable, I began plotting to get a dual socket motherboard, finally taking the plunge and running Linux (Slackware) on a dual Pentium Pro board and recompiling the basic kernel to enable the (then experimental) SMP support. I haven't looked back since. (No, I'm not still using board.)

I stopped all my dual booting when Microsoft made it a hassle to add hardware to your system. Sorry Redmond but adding a SCSI controller to an already working system so I can add more disk drives does not make it a new system that should have to be approved by you. When the Windows OS that complained about the SCSI controller inevitably scribbled on itself and I couldn't locate the CD-ROM to try and repair it, I said goodbye to dual boot forever. (It was dual-booting SuSE by then.) I don't miss Windows one bit; it's too constraining.

For me, Linux made computing FUN again. Never let anyone tell it shouldn't be. Now when I run into a problem, I can fix it. Very satisfying. My wife's got a Windows laptop and when I hear her say something like "Uh, oh..." or "Why doesn't this work?" I know my blood pressure will have just shot up ten points because we probably won't be able to fix it without a trip to the vendor.

Dec 22, 2011
11:33 AM EDT
Quoting:My wife's got a Windows laptop and when I hear her say something like "Uh, oh..." or "Why doesn't this work?" I know my blood pressure will have just shot up ten points because we probably won't be able to fix it without a trip to the vendor.

My recommended solution (not that you have not thought of it): Free her and her laptop from MS's chains.

As I started my switch to Linux only about 5 years ago, I'm a relative newbie (see water behind ears). But since then I've moved my spouse and my son to Linux. True, there has been the occasional hassle. But the solution has been the same: Keep investigating distros, DEs, and packages until you find a combination that works well with their hardware and them.

MS can go to 'ell.

Dec 22, 2011
9:00 PM EDT
My first "personal" personal computer was back in [strike] 1999 [/strike] 1998 (Win '98, PII/Celeron 333MHz "Slot 1").

I had heard about Linux, and thought it might be cool to actually "learn about computers", so I went to some effort to get a system that would be Linux compatible. But then I found I kept quite busy enough exploring the web and fiddling with (ie. maintaining) Windows. Besides -- I was a little nervous about experimenting on my main (and [i]only[/]) computer. My boxed SuSE gathered dust on the shelf.

But Microsoft diligently made it clear that I didn't want to do business with a company like them, and also that I couldn't rely on them (or their product) and that they were liable to eventually force me to go elsewhere, so about a year later I had picked up a garage-sale clunker I wasn't afraid of breaking, and (as my boxed SuSE was both too heavy for it and out-dated) tried my hand at installing Debian. I didn't think it would be easy, but I figured setting up an [strike] escape route [/strike] migration plan was only prudent.

It turned out to be not as difficult as I had feared (Debian supplied a very comprehensive install guide and manual), and everything worked rather nicely. It wasn't long before I was dual-booting my "real" computer -- I actually liked using it better than using Windows, and I actually (measurably) got better performance, too. The reliability was a real plus, and I wasn't fiddling with AV, and security measures all the time, either. Eventually I discovered that I just wasn't booting into Windows at all, anymore, except to do maintenance (and maintaining Windows was much more work than running Linux).

I liked it so well I started pestering my bank and my public library about open standards compliance. The tech support for my bank was actually sympathetic and helpful, and some months later (without fanfare) they stopped gating access by browser (which had of course been justified from "higher up" by supposed "security issues"). I was so happy; I now both could, and dared to, bank on-line. Meanwhile, the Library Association is active on open formats and open standards issues. Today, the place where I bought my computer advises customers against banking on-line, for security reasons. Yes, the revolution continues, indeed.


Dec 26, 2011
6:39 AM EDT
Felt very nostalgic after reading the article. I installed PCQLinux in my PIII 733MHz pc back in 2001. The first thing that I immediately liked was it recognized all of my pc hardware. Unfortunately I messed up the sound card detection. But later on when I did a reinstall and played the first ever mp3 in that machine. I was feeling like in a blissful state. Even today the only reason I use windows is to play games and code in VS.

Jan 01, 2012
10:27 AM EDT
Sounds to me like the writer isn't comfortable using Linux as he said he disto hops all the time. If you are still distro hoping after a year or 2 then maybe Linux isn't for you. Ask yourself why are you distro hoping?

I distro hopped for months when I 1st started using it and it almost destroyed my wanting to use linux anymore, The more you hop the worse it gets and the harder the decision becomes on which one you are going to settle on and as soon as you see news of a distro release you are wiping your machine and installing it. I just wanted something which worked, something I could call home like I had done for 18 years previously with Windows, Something I didn't even need to think about. When your distro hoping you can't find that.

Jan 01, 2012
11:50 AM EDT
Quoting:If you are still distro hoping after a year or 2 then maybe Linux isn't for you.

Very valid point except, many of us have our favorite steady as she goes Distro and, at the same time, we keep testing the waters in other distros.

Personally, I started with Red Hat for few month until a friend of mine, a dentist (Yes a dentist) mentioned Suse, which I never heard of before. He happened to see Suse's packaged books and CD in a book store and needed some help. That is when I switched to Suse and stayed with it until Novel signed their famous deal with MS. It was the reason I switched to Kubuntu and still currently use it as my main Distro. During all these years since 1997, I tried all sorts of distros but they didn't capture my interest. It doesn't mean they weren't good, but rather most distros are close and pretty much do the same thing and pretty much the devil you know is better than the one you don't know.

I believe many tend to do the same just because FOSS keeps advancing at a very fast pace and we don't want to miss on any new thing. The reason we don't Distro hop much is because new good features brought by one Distro eventually get implemented in all others.


Jan 01, 2012
4:17 PM EDT
You get to the point where you don't want to set things up from scratch every five minutes, you find something that works, and you just want to get your work done. That's when the distro-hopping subsides.

Jan 01, 2012
4:57 PM EDT
Until the distro you choose makes changes that force you to reconsider your decision. Then the searching starts anew.

Jan 01, 2012
7:03 PM EDT
Hence, I use Slackware on my desktop and server, and I'm trying Bodhi on my netbook.

Jan 01, 2012
8:14 PM EDT
@fatriff, just wondering.

Personally I've not done much in the way of distro hopping. I tried Lycoris, Red Hat and Mandrake back in 2000, settled on Mandrake, then after Mandriva (Mandrake) moved to KDE4 I looked around tried Ubuntu and it's derivatives and settled on Linux Mint. I can't at this moment think of any reason to try anything else, as Linux Mint is supporting continued development of MATE.

Jan 03, 2012
10:46 AM EDT

That doesn't happen very often though. It's happened more frequently, as of late, but that's because of the Gnome Foundation thing. Mostly, once you find a favorite distro, that is pretty much it, for most users, anyway.

Jan 03, 2012
5:30 PM EDT


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