So, what if you don’t like the way Windows is headed? You could abandon the PC altogether and go get yourself an Apple computer (which isn’t as much of a pocketbook hit as it used to be). What about Linux? Is there room in your heart for Linux? Lockergnomie François Laverdure wanted to tackle that question.

I have always been fascinated with Linux. And if I had to tell you the number of times it literally saved my behind! Most people to whom I talk (enthusiastically I might add) about Linux, they all have the same comment: “Linux is hard to use”. Now, I must say that it is one of the biggest myths in the world. The only difference between Windows and Linux is in the choices we make. And Choice is the power of Linux. When you have a Windows machine, you have the choice between, well, the Windows interface and… the Windows interface. Sure, some would argue that there is XP Home, XP Pro, XP Media, XP Corp, 2003 Server, etc. But to me, it’s still the same thing. When you startup, they all look pretty much the same, you program them the same, they take about the same amount of resources (maybe except server editions), thus require the same basic minimum hardware.

But with Linux, things sure are different! Do you want ease of use? Do you have a low powered machine? Do you want to do supercomputing on a budget? Do you enjoy the command line? Do you want a small simple server for a networked printer and file sharing? Those are only a few of the questions to answer before choosing a distribution. And with the Live CD’s, you can try before you commit to the switch! Try that with Windows. I remember one time I had a major problem with my machine (no system rom message)… I had no backup of my documents. No time to panic, the Super Penguin came to the rescue. I just booted to a Live CD distribution called Knoppix (very easy to use also), used the bundled CD burning app, and the day was saved.

A friend had a hard disk that stopped turning. He needed access to the internet with his high speed line, had a low powered machine and no money for a new drive. I made him a copy of a very lean distribution called Damn Small Linux. The entire Operating System is only 50mb… including user interface, word processor, spreadsheet, e-mail client, 2 web browsers, MP3 player, and other stuff I don’t remember! As I last heard of his computer, it’s been over 6 months and he is still running with no hard disk storing his documents on a USB key!

Now for the ultimate in lean computing. I bought a used HP laser printer that I wanted to share between a few computers. I also wanted to store a few files. On thrash day (please don’t laugh), I found a 100mhz 80486 by the curb. The owner threw it out while cleaning his garage (you should have seen all the sawdust that was inside, and that’s not counting a few generations of dust bunny families!) I had to take it all apart to clean it properly… what a job. I put an old network card in it, added an old 270mb drive I had lying on a shelf, replaced the 5¼ floppy with a mobile rack to make future repairs simpler (optional) and installed Freesco Linux. The entire operating system fits on a single 1.44mb floppy! It comes with a web based configuration application, printer server, FTP server, can act as a firewall (feature which I don’t use). I can configure it entirely through my network (the computer has no monitor attached). It just lies there, on a shelf, dutifully doing it’s job. And I have only to remember 2 commands to use it: setup and halt (to shut it down). The rest is done through menus. And the total cost… a 12$ network cable. Talk about cheap for sharing a printer with 2 computers!

As you can see, Linux isn’t so hard to use. I see it more as an addition to Windows than a competitor for now. It does many things that Windows won’t do. It is extremely flexible and as stable as a rock. And it all comes down to your choices. Choose the distribution that fits your needs exactly, not everyone else’s taste in software.

I don’t know. I’m still a Windows guy because there’s something to be said about the power of Microsoft. Some find that power scary, but I find that power comforting – with power, generally comes ubiquity. Of course, you couldn’t tell that with my two posts today on Office 2007 and Windows Vista Beta 2!

[tags]windows,windows,microsoft,pc,knoppix,computer,computing,personal computer,lnux,live cd[/tags]