My pal Murray Wilson does great things – he and AWOL take kids the system doesn’t want and teaches them to take apart, clean and refurbish computers the system doesn’t want – computers that would otherwise go to the landfill.
They then put linux on them and put them out into the community with families that need them. He’s one my absolute favorite people in Savannah (nay, the world) and I’m proud to know him.
The computers will, of course, end up in the landfill eventually, but the “Goon Squad” gives them easily another 2-5 years of life, and the kids learn useful and marketable skills. It’s a win-win, and an amazing program and Murray and AWOL built from the ground up.
If you can spare it, AWOL can always use some help. Every little bit helps, and every kid they help is one that’s not in the juvenile justice system or out on the street by themselves.
I’ve been sick all week. It finally got bad enough that I went to the doctor today and… I’ve got bronchitis. Hooray! I’ve got steroids and an industrial-strength decongestant to try to get the gunk out of my chest. I’ve been exhausted and in pain all week. I’m still exhausted and still in pain (it’s amazing how painful coughing gets after a while). The one bright spot? I got to drive my car to the doctor’s office, and it was great.\
The only other bright spot was that Jen finally has her own laptop, and she’s running linux! It’s a swanky used IBM ThinkPad T40 from Ombligo. It’s now running Ubuntu and she’s happily surfing, e-mailing and playing with background images. The install was painfully easy. The only weird part was getting the wi-fi working, and getting it to stay working after a reboot. But, even after fixing that, the total install, install updates, install missing software (RSS reader, Thunderbird, blog client) and fixing the wi-fi took about an hour (off and on between coughing fits and naps).\
Gotta look for the little bright spots.
Since I don’t have the mental capacity at the moment to concentrate on anything for more than fifteen minutes, I decided to try out Ubuntu, a “linux for the rest of us” distro that actually lives up to the hype. Install was insanely easy, even though it did take too much of the hard drive for itself (which was easily fixed with Partition Magic). The install was quick as OS installs go, the bootloader found everything it was supposed to and the usually problematic things weren’t. You know, the usual:
video adapter/monitor/refresh settings
Nope, none of those were a problem at all. It’s been awhile since I’ve used a linux distro for more than command line stuff (X on my Fedora box doesn’t even work anymore – stupid NVIDIA card) and running webservers. I’ve missed a lot of new stuff!\
For example, I’m posting this using Drivel, a journal client for GNOME. It’s simple, but it works (so far).\
I tried using Blam!, but it exploded with the 330 feeds in my blogroll. maybe I should have started smaller.\
Overall, Ubuntu feels like the perfect linux distro for folks who’ve always wanted to try linux but were too afraid to try. So far everything just works, and the install couldn’t be easier. So, don’t chicken out, get up with Ubuntu right now. Really.
An Interview With a Grandmother is an interesting look at Linux for the Home User. I don’t see it as a win for Linux, per se, because HomeBase is such a specialized product that wouldn’t work for us geeks anymore than Solaris would work for my grandmother. I think it’s more a rousing recommendation of Linux as a platform for Consumer Electonics and specialized computer needs. It’s open and easy to customize. You can do whatever you want with it and make it your own. That EOne decided to use Linux to build their system on is a testament to Linux’s portability and customizability.
I think Linux has a way to go on the desktop market, more from a momentum perspective than a lack of features or usability. People don’t switch. They’re not motivated to use something that’s better. They’re happy to use what they know, and unfortunately they know Windows.
For example, I’ve been working switching my work computers. I have a P3 and my Quicksilver G4 and I want to switch to OS X permanently instead of using OS X and home with the Powerbook and my XP machine at work. But, I have all these workflow habits I’m finding hard to break. Today is the first day of my attempted total OS X experience, and it’s hard going. It’s not that using OS X is hard. It’s not. It’s getting used to writing code and doing my daily thing using different keystrokes, with things in different places, etc. Doubly odd is that when I go back to XP, I notice how cluttered and clunky it feels compared to OS X.
Ok, this has turned into a ramble and I’m going to stop now.
I feel so geekily accomplished. I’m installing GNOME2 on the uber-box and have already completed the schema for a new project (reporting – not exciting). What else will I be able to accomplish today? Who knows!!?? It’s not even 11! Maybe I’ll rewrite everything in Java (which I need to learn). Maybe I’ll invent a better velco. Maybe I’ll make sense of the mysteries of the universe and plot a course to the stars. Maybe I’ll get some more caffeine…
In the interest of fairness, David Coursey has posted part two of his Linux Journey. This article is much better than his first, and I actually agree with a lot of his points. I love Linux because of it’s power, customization options, and its overall geek-appeal, the same things that make it a bad choice for people who want “ease-of-use” right out of the box. Linux is fun. It’s a tinkerers world, full of more options than anyone will ever have the time to tweak, and that’s the joy. It can be and do anything if you have the time to figure it out. You can take the core of Linux and put it in a phone, a toaster, a PDA, a satellite, a settop box, a PC, a Mac, an e-mail server, a dual-processor web server up to the largest virtual multi-processor super-machine at the NSA. Linux is great, but not great at everything, and that’s part of its charm.
I like David Coursey. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but asks some good questions, and loves starting a fight. His latest missive, the ill-researched, by the seat of his pants Can a Windows User Learn to Love Linux? is hilarious. He wrote is as he was installing Red Hat. It’s almost stream-of-consciousness. To answer his question, yes, a Windows user can learn to love Linux. I did. I love it for its power, speed and all of the tasty stuff that comes with it.
Learning to love Linux is like learning to cook or speak a new language. At first, it sucks, and things don’t make sense. But, the more you use it, the more you dig into documentation and talk to those who know, the better it gets and easier it is to use. Depending on the distro, it’s not “You opened the box and it tells you how to use it right off”. You have to learn in order to love it, and that’s the beauty.
I updated my linux newbie page to tell you how to start XWindows from the command prompt.
Also, if you were planning on installing YellowDog Linux 2.2 on a newer quicksilver G4 – don’t. Let me save you the trouble. There’s a problem with the new kernel and the installer that will totally hose you. Stick with 2.1 for now. It’s safer. Install and the product work great on my crap old Powerbook, but not my new machine. Go figure.
I have a new love. It’s not really new, but I just thought I’d spout off a bit about how much I love this part of my life. Linux, I love you. I love you so much in fact that I want to write a sonnet to you. I just moved a bunch of stuff around my gigantic linux box here, added a user (because he’s going to use my box to run something for my new group and he needed access to the pages and tcl directories). I was able to add him as a user both of the system and the db, move the pages and tcl directories, change permissions on them to allow him to use them, and bounce the server all in about 3 minutes. If I were using… Solaris, that would have taken much longer. Why? Because Linux has nice GUI-based tools for doing this stuff. Solaris may be rock-solid and everything, but Linux is leagues ahead in ease-of-use and in most distributions, bundled software. Everytime I have to help someone set up Solaris, I have to spend several hours downloading things like gcc, make, gzip, emacs, etc. You’d think Sun would give you the option to choose what you want to install. “Is this a developer workstation? Ok, we’ll install the stuff you’ll use every day.” or “You’re going to set this up as a big huge server? Ok, we’ll only install the OS and you can configure the rest.”
Plus, Linux is just fun. It’s a great tinkering OS. You can get under the hood if you want and play around with services, compiling software, etc. Or, if you’re just into playing with the surface, you can skin just about everything.
It’s funny. The more I use Linux and Mac OS X, the less I like Windows. I started on Windows and still use it at home and as my main machine at work because I’m just more comfortable with it. That doesn’t mean I like it. I’m kind of tied to it. Why? I work at AOL and we have to use the AOL Client to get mail, and everyone sends docs in Word format. I know all the arguments for StarOffice, KOffice, etc, but I just can’t get into them. Plus, I like to play UT and Jedi Knight too much to give it up.
I like having all my options open. I love being able to switch from one OS to the other without much difficulty. It’s a great time to be a geek!!!! (and yes, I know this whole ramble was incoherently geeky – so sue me)
For the geeky Mac folks out there, YellowDog Linux 2.2 is now available for download on their FTP site. Since I love this product, I would suggest you do what I do (because, of course, I know what’s best): Try it first, then buy it. They’re a great company to support, and everyone I’ve ever talked to there has been helpful and excited about what they’re doing. Give ’em some love (and cash, I’m sure they could live without the love if you give ’em some dough).