Getting to Know the Penguin

June 23, 2006

My inner geek needs some room for expression, so I guess this is as good a place as any to spread my proverbial geek-wings in order to fly.


Linux has been around a very long time, over 10 year as far as I know I remember first seeing or hearing about Red Hat and seeing that adorable little penguin, Tux. 


Yes, I am a noob when it comes to Linux.  This is going to be more and more obvious as a reader follows my adventure and my story.  But I also represent a significant group of people who:

-know quite a bit about computers

-is self-taught

-is not a programmer and don't really want to become one.

– is interested in doing things better, easier and cheaper.

– is willing to do a bit of learning.

-is not happy with Windows.


I used to be a Mac person.  Why did I switch to the Wintel universe?  Because Apple was over pricing every single thing they sold.  A simple keyboard for the Mac cost over $100 in 1994, while a new PC keyboard could be had for less than $30.  Programs would cost twice as much, if you could even find them.  Getting online and doing stuff online was more difficult as the BBS systems I was dialing into were all PC based.  And the Mac user BBS's all wanted to charge various fees.  Otherwise, Macs were excellent machines.  I never had a crash, never got hung up and never had to reboot.  If I could be a universe unto myself, it would be great.  But I wanted to be connected.  Another option I tried was AOL, using one of those ubiquitous floppies they kept sending to everyone.  Again, this was expensive since they were charging by the minute back in those days.


When ISPs began sprouting up all over the place, those of us with Macs were being rapidly left behind.  Catching up meant buying more Apple stuff.  A new CD-ROM costs 3x more than the PC counterpart.  It was harder to add new stuff.  So, in 1996, I took the plunge with a new AST 486 with Win95 installed.  I was now part of the assimilated hive. 


Working with a PC means having to do a lot of upkeep and babysitting.  My wife enjoyed it but her level of knowledge of computers was severely limited.  So I had to keep the machine maintained for both of us.  Plus I was working where I had a computer lab with Apple II GSs, A couple of Apple Performas, a couple of Mac Power PCs and then 8 or so Compaqs running Win95.  Such was the nature of educational computer labs in the late 1990s. 


The PCs did give me fits much more often than the Macs, even if they were running the exact same programs.  I'd get a kid set up and would often end up moving him while waiting to reboot the system after it got hung up.  That's not to say the Macs never had problems.  Sometimes they did, but it was very rare.


Gradually, we moved the GSs out and more PCs in.  By 2000, PCs running Win 95 or 98 were ruling the world.  But this was not enough for Microsoft.  They wanted to have more.  Despite the profits they made on every single machine sold, they discovered that some people were bootlegging Windows and other Microsoft products.  So it began instituting draconian registration and anti-piracy measures which made it more difficult even to use their stuff, even by those who actually paid for it.


And then came the viruses, the worms and the malware.  These would bring systems to their knees, rendering machines almost useless.  Companies had entire networks brought down by these things.  Eventually, programs and patches would help salvage a machine, but in the early days and sometimes even today, the only way to restore a machine is to reinstall everything.  Which means going through the registration process again, and having Microsoft question you as to why you need this certain activation code number…AGAIN.


Okay, this is not very exciting.  Most readers have similar stories, I'm sure.  The purpose here is to document my journey into the world of Linux.  Some of you might be thinking tbe same and are looking for information.  Stay with me, and you might learn a thing or two.


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