The topic of switching from Windows to Linux has been bashed numerous times and it often comes with the same arguments: high-performance, cheap, goes against the big monopolies, and so forth. Now, as a user, does it really matter? This article focuses on the steps you need to make for a successful switch or, at least, mix platform for the best result.
So, you've made the choice to try a GNU/Linux distribution or distro and have completed the installation. But now what? While doing some spring cleaning on my desk, I came across the notes from my last distro installation. Here are the key tips that made my last transition from Windows to GNU/Linux easier.
You have some computer experience and a desire to start learning about free software. Where do you start, what distribution do you choose? The book you should read when starting out with GNU/Linux is Moving to Ubuntu Linux by Marcel Gagné, and published by Addison Wesley Professional. This well-written book discusses Ubuntu Linux 6.06 LTS from installing from the included DVD through to networking, office productivity applications, and even working the command-line. If you’re new to GNU/Linux, or want to check out the coolest new distribution, pick up a copy of Moving to Ubuntu Linux.
Is getting people to convert to GNU/Linux like feeding your kids veges? I'm used to the feeling of smug satisfaction when I've slipped a couple of extra vegetables in a meal and the children haven't noticed.
Mmmm, this is delicious Mum. I love Spaghetti Bolognaise.
The techo-resistant person in my life is my own spouse. See, my wife loves to work with her hands. Her favorite activities involve knitting or crocheting. She takes balls of yarn and converts them into items of beauty. So, her instinctive reaction to computers and software was “why do I need that” and “what would I have to show for my time”.
However, in the last few years, I converted her into a bona-fide computer user just as I converted her to Chinese food. She is now a frequent user of free software, primarily Edubuntu 6.10 and Firefox 2.0.
So how did I activate her latent geek genes? By following this four step program:
Answer: As dumb as necessary.
Let's rephrase: How technically sophisticated should GNU/Linux users have to be? How knowledgeable should any computer user have to be? The answer to that, of course, ranges from "very" to "not very." We need to get past the name-calling of clueless newbie and sneering elitist, and understand that there are going to be varying levels of ability in any community, including the one made up of people interested in using free software. From there, I suggest it is critically important that we expand the size of the free software community. That means dealing with more "dumb" people.
There is a fundamental problem with GNU/Linux—it requires clueful people to exist in the IT food chain. Anywhere in the food chain. It doesn’t take an experienced kernel hacker to install GNU/Linux, run a web server, or teach people how to log on to the network. It just requires a user with an interest in the subject, the ability to solve problems, and the desire to achieve results.
Time to get on with the move. Giving up Windows is like kicking a drug habit. It’s easier to take the path of least resistance and keep using. If quitting proprietary software was a twelve step program—although, let’s not push the analogy too far—maybe after admitting we were powerless over our proprietary programs, coming to believe that a Higher Power could restore us to Freedom, and so on and so forth, maybe we’d...
Having been engineering director at one company that became public, and a founder and CTO of another, as well as a long time professional software engineer working at such companies as Matushita Electric (Panasonic), and even Rand McNally, yes, the people that make maps, I must admit, in all those occupations, I have at most rather infrequently encountered these Microsoft Windows operating systems I hear so many people talking so much about.
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.
Sometimes you feel good about waking up in the morning, and the rest of the day brings you a few extra satisfactory moments.
For example, I got extatic when a n00b friend of mine phoned and told me “I installed Linux on my laptop!”
That felt good.
But then he asked me about something, and I asked him: “what Linux have you installed?” And all I got for my trouble was, “the latest”.
Suddenly I felt a bit... less good.
In a few years viewing source code within the major components of software infrastructure will probably be a routine way of doing business. In the meantime it seems that the only reason managers want free software is because it is free (as in free of costs). That’s not a good reason in itself: in the long run there are compelling reasons that robust, mission critical infrastructure software should be made free software.