My first experiments with Linux


Right, folks!

You can start off the barbs about me being a geek, snigger about why I waste time over things that don’t make sense to you, and wonder what joy I find in spending hours over ‘techie’ stuff. But hey, a man’s got to have his passions. And I discovered mine a long time ago – tinkering under the hood of everything.

After the forced hiatus from the Motorola office building, I decided I’d pick up linux and see how far it had progressed.

I remember the time I got a lot of you to shift to Firefox from IE. The chief reason was utility. One primary reason everyone stuck on to it was because it had features not available in IE (before you start giving individual protests, let me quote the statistics – Firefox has 20% market share. For the first time ever, IE market share has dropped below 70%. That’s a huge achievement, considering that 90% of all computers sold have Windows and IE on them by default.

Linux had always been a battle of principle, not utility. What was the advantage of shifting to an OS just because it was free, when you could get the alternative for Rs. 50/- on the streets of India? And the popular reason was – I’m not a coder. I just want things to work. I’m fine with Windows, it serves me well.

Yes, there was a lot of ground for Linux to cover to become an alternative. In the rough grounds of the bazaar, people don’t indulge in the effort of learning something new for no gain.

I studied the latest Ubuntu 8.10 edition of software (Ubuntu naming convention is x.yz, where x is the year and yz is the month of release. There are new versions launched every 6 months, so you’ll see a progression of versions 7.10 -> 8.04 -> 8.10 -> 9.04) and spent a week tinkering with it.

The laptop I tried using it on is a 2004 HP with 256MB RAM and 1.5Gz processor speed. Windows was very sluggish on it, and that was before I had a valid anti-virus software on it. I boosted the RAM by 512MB to get Windows to a more responsive speed, but I still ended up waiting for programs to start up after I clicked on them.

With time on my hands, I tried an adventerous route to linux installation – bypass regular installation from the CD and install through other means. I remember a few long hours of desperation and feeling foolish when I nearly damaged my Windows system, effectively locking myself out of my computer, internet access at a time when I most needed the internet for finding jobs.

But hey, the agony’s part of the learning process 😀

I finally resorted to normal installation, and found it to be pleasantly simple. With that hurdle passed, I dug in my heels…..

….and….

found myself surprised at how consumer friendly linux had become.

There are so many advantages over windows:

– Zippy performance with super 3D effects, all on a 1.5GHz old laptop

– Almost all native utilities for common desktop tasks prebuilt

– A repository of programs that I could install with one click (simpler than windows)

– No requirement of any anti-virus!

– Inbuilt desktop search that does not slow down the system even on data load (I currently have my 500GB external hard-disk mapped and ready for search with my laptop)

– Unlimited customization of features

– Amazing chat options. With the inbuilt chat program, I can chat with people on gTalk, Yahoo!, SPJIMR chat and even Facebook chat – all through a single interface. What’s more, I can set alerts that pop up when a particular friend comes online, something I sorely missed on gTalk client window.

– A single launcher for all utilities. This alone makes it unnecessary to learn a new menu for operating linux.

– Amazing help online. Google throws up answers for almost any question you may have about the sytsem.

I’ve put in many screenshots with the mail. Take a look and see some of the features I’ve mentioned above.

Now, why did I write the mail? I don’t expect any of you to go install linux (though I do expect quite a few replies to this email!). But in case you buy a laptop in the future that has linux pre-installed on it, give the system a spin before overwriting it with Windows. After all, it’s one of the world’s largest non-profit collaborative software efforts, backed almost entirely by volunteerism. The least I can do is advocate it to my friends 🙂

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