My wife Brandy thinks I’m a little crazy.
Some four years ago, I converted my Windows PC over to Linux, Red Hat 7.3 to be exact. I considered the conversion for some time, but several events propelled me to action. Key among, the unveiling of Windows XP. At the time, I was operating a Pentium 133 with Windows 98. I started to notice that software was passing me by. I had the gotten the computer as payment for an editing gig back in 1996. Needing only minor repairs, the machine ran just fine for over eight years until I retired it. I could probably take it out of the closet and boot it up now.
There was no way XP would work on the 133. Besides, I couldn’t afford it. Until the arrival of XP, you could buy older versions of Windows software cheaply. Windows 98 would cost you $40 or so, 2000 for $60. A new version of XP ran $200 dollar. Even worse, XP is not only assigned to the person but also the particular machine on which it was installed. In other words, if you buy a new PC, you have to buy a new version of XP as well. Then I found out that a lot of older hardware and software won’t work with it anyway.
I immediately became an Open Source convert. For my purposes, Open Source refers to software that is usually created by groups and freely available to everyone. Linux, first developed in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, is an open source operating system (OS), published by several different packagers.
After upgrading through various Red Hat permutations, I switched to Ubuntu earlier this year. The most popular desktop and laptop Linux, Ubuntu is noted for its ease of use for both novices and experts.
Everything on my computer is Open Source: browser (Firefox), word processing (Open Office), desktop (Gnome), graphics (GIMP), chat (Pidgin Internet Messenger), RealPlayer (Helix), and Quicktime (MPlayer). All the software works as well or better (especially in the case of Firefox and Open Office) than the for-pay analog. The beauty of most Open Source is that it can be run on multiple platforms so PC and Mac users benefit as well as Linux users.
Over the years, I’ve seen Linux go from a difficult and cranky operating system into an almost user-friendly OS. Almost. There are still setbacks that prevent everyone from adopting it. Since everything is Open Source and easily configured, most Linux software needs some tinkering and without experience that can sometimes be tricky.
It’s that tinkering that makes Brandy think I’m crazy. I’ll spend hours playing with my computer OS. (I’m strictly a software guy.) One of the beauties of Open Source is that if something doesn’t work or you don’t like, you can just go get a different version. I’m constantly swapping software out and trying new things. Brandy, like many, just wants the machine to work when she needs it. She doesn’t care how or why it works. I see Linux as a challenge. That’s what makes it fun.