One 'hold it' is worth more than two 'maybe's

One 'hold it' is worth more than two 'maybe's

This is a translation of a French proverb: “un Tiens vaut mieux que deux Tu l’auras”. It means that what you already have is better than what you may get—even if you may get more—because you already have it.

Strangely, it also is one of the problems with GNU/Linux systems.

The great dangers of the unknown

What you may get with a GNU/Linux system

GNU/Linux systems (xBSD too, but it’s less known) are usually perceived as having:

  • better stability,
  • better security,
  • more customization,
  • less software costs,
  • razor edge experimental stuff,
  • whatever you can come up with.

What do you have to lose?

Based on the problems users had with installing/migrating/tinkering with/customizing systems such as Windows 9x/NT, here is a list:

  • trashed computer,
  • hours spent reinstalling a stubbornly non-booting system,
  • lost data,
  • the need to go back to the previous system anyway,
  • no way to do what one used to do “before” any more,
  • the need to learn a new system,
  • no one can help you if you have a problem: your technically-inclined grandson or neighbour haven’t even heard of “Linux”.

For you experienced Bash or Xfree gurus, these seem unfounded and a bit silly... Yet, it’s one of the biggest problems one may face when confronted with installing a free system...

In my previous post, I mentioned my friend’s attempt of installing Ubuntu on his laptop. Why did he even try?

  • He’s not afraid of taking a risk (he’s in the army, as a voluntary soldier in the field).
  • He has an educated tech to call for help (me).
  • He took some precautions and read the manual before going forward (meaning he backed up his data on an external drive).
  • He created a dual-boot system.
  • He really wanted to try the 3D experience provided by Xgl/Compiz.

Now, who do you know would go forward with a jump into the unknown if they didn’t qualify for all those reasons?

One way to convince people to try FOSS is to prove to them that if done correctly, it would be safe, they’d get a secure, fast and cool looking system, they won’t be left dry in case of problems, it would upgrade itself gracefully, and never lose their data—meaning that they’d still be able to open their files.

Is it a lie? No.

Are those arguments known by the public?


Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?



Terry Hancock's picture

... is the English expression. ;-)

In general, I seriously advise against installing dual-boot systems as a way to learn Linux. They are generally much more fragile than plain installations. I think it's a pretty harsh thing to expect someone to start out that way. That's more like something you install for someone else so they can try it out (and even then, it's rarely worth it).

Instead, let them start with a Live CD. I think that's really the kicker -- there's basically no way Knoppix or other Live Linux CDs can wreck your system (until you get ready to install to the hard drive).

Or better yet, put together a $500 computer from parts and install Linux on that (but that really depends on your budget).

Mitch Meyran's picture

I didn't install my friend's system: he did it by himself. On top of that, he has a laptop with a single hard drive - meaning he couldn't easily swap OSes independantly. Then, he wanted Xgl - and Kororaa has gotten hard to get. Then, he wanted to be able to experiment yet keep working - so he needed both. And last, he didn't want to spend cash on setting up a new computer just to give a thorough test run to a Linux OS.

In his case, dual boot was a very sensible options.
- LiveCDs are nice to check a system and everyday use of a very close to complete GNU/Linux, but they don't allow you to tinker with your system.
- I don't agree with you that dual boot systems are less stable: if you install WinXP first on NTFS partitions and don't use FAT with Linux, systems are kept entirely separate. I do so on a few systems, and I never had any problem with dual boot - except when installing WinXP last, as it doesn't play well: it overwrites the MBR. Other than that, nothing.

Thanks for the translation, but you misquoted: 'a bird IN the hand is worth two in the bush'. Moreover, it doesn't exactly fit: 'a bird in the hand is worth MORE THAN two in the bush' would be more appropriate.

I'm being picky ;p

Terry Hancock's picture

"Thanks for the translation, but you misquoted: 'a bird IN the hand is worth two in the bush'. Moreover, it doesn't exactly fit: 'a bird in the hand is worth MORE THAN two in the bush' would be more appropriate."

Yep. Typo. Fixed now. I often leave out when typing quickly. ;-)

I just thought it was odd to try to literally translate a French expression into English, when there is already an English version which is pretty darned close, if not identical.

And as for dual-boot systems, I'm just speaking from experience. I have no doubt that it can be done by an experienced user, but I think it's much trickier to do as a first system. Of course, to be fair, I haven't tried it since 2000, and back then there were multiple ways to do it and no GUI that I know of to set it up for you.

Mitch Meyran's picture

While my grasp on the English language is - in my humble opinion - nothing to sneeze at, there are some expressions I don't know yet. I do agree that the one you provided is a very close equivalent - and that I wasn't aware of it - both in form and meaning, yet the small difference in meaning amounts to the difference between an OR and an XOR...

Dual boot has gotten a bit more stable with the advent of WinNT5: if not for WinXP's and Vista's tendency to overwrite the MBR, data corruption due to dual boot is something that has been reduced drastically. Dual boot hazards were caused by both Win9x's inability to handle disk addresses in 32-bit due to real-mode DOS, which could end up trashing a disk's master boot record, and limitations in old lilo versions needing the Linux boot partition located in the first 1024 sectors of a disk, but both have been more or less solved:
- lilo can use boot partitions past the 1024th sector,
- win9x is little used any more.

Of course, a sweet dual boot is with Win2000: it keeps itself well inside its partition and it doesn't overwrite the MBR on a new install.
A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

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Have you ever fixed a computer with a hammer, glue and a soldering iron? Why not? It's fun!