GNU/Linux — most often referred to just as Linux — is a free, open-source computer operating system. I began using it a few years ago when Microsoft Windows XP Professional started having issues with my computer’s NVidia video card. The computer began to crash randomly and increasingly. A couple of virus scans later, I verified it was not a virus taking down the system.
I decided to resize the NTFS partition and create space for the installation of Lycoris Desktop/LX Linux. Lycoris Desktop/LX Linux was a beginner-friendly Linux distribution. It has since been acquired by Mandriva. In little time, the computer was setup to dual boot between Windows and Lycoris. I booted the computer into Lycoris and began learning my way around a Linux system. A month later, the computer was still running without a single crash or reboot. It verified what I suspected: the video card was not failing; the operating system was.
I continued to use Lycoris for several months. I found there were only a couple of things I missed in Linux that I could do in Windows. The main thing was WeatherBug. I am a weather junky. I needed something with access to weather forecasts, radar, and alerts. At the time, Mozilla Firefox had not been released and thus the Forecast Fox, 1-Click Weather, and WeatherBug extensions were not available. This proved to only be a minor inconvenience. Simply opening the Mozilla browser and linking to any number of weather forecasting websites provided me with enough weather information to satisfy my weather fix.
In Windows, I had used a freeware version of Milenix Software’s MyInfo to brainstorm writing ideas, create characters and scenes, and plot stories. Milenix has since changed MyInfo to a 28-day free trial. If you are running Windows and need software like MyInfo, I still recommend it. If a Linux version was available, I would probably buy it. Having said this, there is a good chance I would not buy it. There are several similar programs available in Linux – – such as Tomboy, gjots2, VYM, and Kdissert.
Goodbye Windows. Hello Linux.
As the months passed, I backed up my OpenOffice.org files, my photos, my webs, and my bookmarks from the Windows partitions to a CD and removed Windows entirely from the computer. Windows was replaced by Slackware Linux. I found myself using Slackware more often than Lycoris. There were more applications available and the applications themselves were more recent releases than in Lycoris. Lycoris was designed to be familiar to Windows users. It was. I just found it limiting after awhile as I gained experienced with Linux.
Slackware is not a beginner-friendly distribution, although I had very little trouble installing it. Had I jumped from Windows directly to Slackware without becoming familiar with Linux via Lycoris, then I may have experienced some confusion and difficulties in installing it to my computer. Beginner-friendly Linux distributions are the best ways to introduce oneself to Linux. Eventually, you may want a distribution with more octane, more power. Now days, there are distributions that are friendly for the beginner AND the expert. Linux has progressed quickly into a versatile desktop operating system.
After Windows was removed from my computer, I set up my computer to boot between three distributions of Linux. Lycoris, Slackware, and the “flavor of the month.” The third distribution was always a testing one. I tried Red Hat, but did not warm up to it. I tried Mandrake (now Mandriva) and found it to be too buggy. I tried pre-release of PCLinuxOS, used it quite often, and really appreciated its polish and its use of Synaptic for updating, upgrading, and installing software. Eventually, I installed OpenSUSE and used it a lot. I ran Libranet for quite awhile and really appreciated its easy of use. But its development ended shortly after the passing of its founder, Jon Danzig. Its Debian roots and package management via APT (or graphically Synaptic) led me to try Debian. Debian was good, but I just wanted a bit more polish. I also tried Fedora, Red Hat’s community release, and really liked it a lot.
I found that with most every installation of Linux, I gravitated toward the KDE desktop interface. It is stylized to appear somewhat familar to Windows users, but its capabilities are, I feel, more advanced than Windows. There is a lot of eye candy to enjoy with KDE. The task bar can be made transparent, so that the application and navigation icons appear to be part of the desktop’s wallpaper image. The Konqueror file browser can also browse the web. KDE is a very polished, advanced desktop interface.
I have a problem.
About two years ago, I realized that I was not as productive as I wished to be on my computer. I had become a “distro ho.” A distro ho is someone who has several distributions of Linux installed on his/her computer. I have read of some people having over 100 Linux distributions installed on a single computer. While I was not that bad, I eventually did have five installed. I realized that I did not need five distributions of Linux on my computer, when all I needed was one. So I considered simplifying my computer’s setup and finding one distribution I would use. It was around that time when I first installed Ubuntu Linux to one of the partitions on my hard drives.
Ubuntu — which means “humanity to all” — is a beginner-friendly, yet expert-friendly Linux distribution. It is Debian-based. It is easy to update and maintain. It is polished. Its desktop interface is Gnome. It is not as similar to Windows as KDE is, but it is not hard to navigate or use. Ubuntu provides a very clean, polished desktop environment along with all the software that one needs to be productive right off installation. It is merely a great distribution of Linux. It is now the only distribution of Linux on my computer.
Continuing the Journey
Friends of mine, who have dismissed Linux as being too hard for the average computer user or too alien to be comfortable using, have found Ubuntu to be enjoyable to use. Perhaps its the simplicity of the installation, the ease of updating, or the plethora of software available via Synaptic that has attracted them. Perhaps it is the costs of upgrading and protecting a Windows system or the costs of software for a Windows system. Or perhaps it is the frustration of virus attacks and spyware slowing and infecting their Windows installations that is resulting in them considering Linux. I have not bothered to ask.
I simply believe that Linux became ready for the average computer user. Evidently, Dell Computers, thinks so, too, when they began selling computers with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed on select models. After Dell expanded upon its initial offering of pre-installed Ubuntu Linux computers, other computer makers are rumored to be following suit.
There is talk in the Linux community of Linux reaching critical mass. I think it has. I also think that Linux will always be as good as the software that runs upon it. Much of Linux reaching critical mass has been the result of the open source software empowering computer users. As thanks for this empowerment, support your Linux vendors and software developers with either money or feedback. Both are appreciated.
If you want to be empowered, then head over to DistroWatch or one of the Linux distributions linked above or buy a new Dell powered by Ubuntu and share in the humanity.