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Windows Tech Writer Looks at Linux 664

An anonymous reader writes "Three days ago I accepted Linux into my life and while I'm not yet a convert, the experience has shaken my faith in Windows. It's hard to reconcile because for nearly 20 years I've mostly stayed on the one true Windows path."
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Windows Tech Writer Looks at Linux

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  • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:48PM (#6325626) Homepage
    Here, software is not made by armies of "Microserfs" employed by a giant corporation,


    but by armies of volunteer programmers who "donate" their code to the public domain.


    Most Open Source code is not in the public domain, but rather distributed under an exceptionally liberal license.
  • Re:Defrag? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:50PM (#6325632)
    You defrag to make it easier to repartition the disck drive. Without defraging you may be limit on how much you can shrink a partition because of a file out near the end.
  • Re:Defrag? (Score:2, Informative)

    by ece ( 524786 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:51PM (#6325638)
    When you use your fat32 windows system for a very long time, some of the programs you use seem to write data randomly on the hard drive. Thus, it might write data at near the end of your hard disk or in the middle. Defragmenting your hard drive rearranges your "written data" so there's no gap between those multiple "writes" since you're running many program that write randomly. When you decide to install Linux(partition), you defrag so you get a chunk of the hard drive space that's not polluted with those "writes."
  • by anonymous loser ( 58627 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:56PM (#6325661)
    RTFA. He liked MacOS (back in the day), but switched because he got a job at a PC mag, and also tried OS/2 but ended up going back to Windows. Let's also try to remember that he works at a PC mag, so more than likely everyone he works with uses Windows for their day-to-day activites, all the documents he works with are MS Office documents, etc. Why would you deliberately alienate yourself from everyone else, especially if you needed to be able to swap documents with everyone for work-related purposes? He doesn't follow Linux news, so he'd have no idea that stuff like OpenOffice even exist unless some kindly folks took the time to dispel his false assumptions.

  • by plugger ( 450839 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:56PM (#6325663) Homepage
    Well, he does say he first installed it 3 days ago. He is talking about his first impression of Mandrake Linux and his pleasant surprise that it isn't utterly alien.

    He seems to concentrate on the revelation that there is a viable alternative to running Microsoft systems. When he is running Linux, browsing the web for answers, maybe asking for help on irc or usenet, that's when he has the chance to start learning everything from GNU philosophy to how his system ticks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:59PM (#6325677)
    Er, 20 years ago (1983), Windows was a non-factor, was still vaporware being re-engineered from a Multiplan-like text interface to a """graphical""" interface. It was obviously like "graphical" versions of these two programs bolted hapazardly (sp?) together, this file manager one and this program launching menu one... I can't remember their names exactly, can anyone remember? They were well-known at the time.

    In 1983, you still could find Apple IIs, some TRS-80s, some Ataris... M$ was not yet the black-hole that sucked the life out of the software industry.

    IIRC, Windows 1.0 came out in *1984*. And no-one used it, nor v2.0. Windows started proliferating only with version 3.0, which came out in 1990/91.

    Stating he's been a Windows user for 20 years is a sign this guy had an orwelian "bad memory" or is suffering from heat stroke or something...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:13PM (#6325740)
  • by lunatik17 ( 91135 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:25PM (#6325797) Homepage
    "It's quite liberating to try out five different web browsers - Galeon, Konqueror, Mozilla, Quanta Plus or Screem - until you find one you like"

    That line got a raised eyebrow from me, seeing as Quanta Plus and Screem are not web browsers.

  • by dfj225 ( 587560 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:26PM (#6325807) Homepage Journal
    I actually like Windows better than Linux for what I need to do with a computer. As someone who plays games on his PC, I pretty much dont' have any other choice. However, I also like the fact that Windows XP works so well with my Pocket PC as well as my digital camera. For an office environment or a PC that is for work and not play, then Linux would be much better than Windows. And yes, I have used Linux (Red Hat 8.0) and am not just guessing what it would be like.
  • by mrjive ( 169376 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:28PM (#6325819) Homepage Journal
    There are plenty of local linux user groups that do similar things in the States, but not on as grand a scale of course.

    For example, there is the Colorado Linux Users & Enthusiasts [] group here that did an installfest [] a few months ago.

    Do a bit of searching and see if you can find one in your area.
  • Re:Defrag? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:40PM (#6325877)
    If you don't defrag you'll destroy any NTFS or FAT partitions if you attempt to do a resize. Most (all??) factory-installed Windows take up the entire disk so you'll need to defrag. As you mentioned, FAT is not optimal for Linux (high sub-optimal, most pessimal).

    BTW, I just gave a demo on installing Linux to dual boot with an existing Windows partition.

    RedHat does not ship with an NTFS resize utility. You can use the Mandrake 9.1 utility for only the partitioning, then install RedHat (or any other desired distro). The Mandrake utility is particularly simple to use; though if you don't defrag it will destroy the partitiion. You can also use the standalone ntfsresize utility (though you'll need to calculate the offsets by hand) or PartitionMagic to do the same thing. Mandrake is free, though :D.

  • by eakerin ( 633954 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:49PM (#6325937) Homepage
    Redhat 5.2 was a much older distibution, compared to today's stuff, Similar in to windows 3.1 with windows 2000. There wasn't much available when windows 3.1 came out, and many people said, "I'll never move away from dos, the applications for windows just aren't there."

    Fast Forward to today.

    Most people wouldn't touch DOS anymore (Most Slashdot users exempted from that), and the application base is there now for windows.

    On the linux side most modern distros (Redhat 8/9) (Mandrake 9.1) (Suse 8.2) All include more applications than you could ever need. Need a word Processor, You've got 3, same with spreadsheets. File Managers, Got a few of them, Games, Lots of small ones, and If you want the better ones, You can use most of them through wine. and even a few Games have a native linux version Unreal Tournament, UT 2K3, Quake. I Run Warcraft 3 though winex, and it works great.

    As for Development, it comes with all the development tools you could need, 2 different SQL Based Databases (mysql, Postgresql), a Very nice IDE (Kdevelop), Photo Editors (The GIMP).

    And the list is only getting longer.
    You probably remember having trouble getting most hardware to work, That's a thing of the past as well, It's a rare case for me to install Linux, and have to manually configure hardware. Much better than my luck was ever with windows.

    All in all, linux has improved a lot over the years, and Is worth a try again.
    For something you can try out without committing yourself, Try Knoppix [](mentioned a few times before) It includes an Amazing amount of applications.
  • by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:53PM (#6325955)
    Eh? Depends on what you do with your computer. RedHat 5?! You're talking massive changes since then.

    What did I do next? Not much else to do. None of my apps (read : games) were available at the time for Linux.

    All you do with your computer is play games?? Hmmm. True, maybe Linux isn't for you. Although I'm a hardcore Quake3 player so that's my favorite game and it just happens to run great in Linux. I play some Tribes2 and UT2003 in Linux also.

    I was unable to find replacements for any of my tools (read : an XTree clone such as ZTree, Office, Visual Studio, Drive Image, etc.)

    Xtree? Try "ytree" in Linux. Personally I'd rather use a GUI file explorer or the console though (Konqueror, Nautilus, ROX, etc.).

    Office? OpenOffice, Koffice, the GNOME office stuff... What applications do you use? There are many, many word processors besides the "office" suite versions. Same holds for the other applications.

    Visual Studio? I do a lot of VS development and agree there is nothing as good for Linux, but there are tools if you're into that kind of thing. Kdevelop, wxPython (VB-like), Eclipse, NetBeans, and many others. There are craploads of development tools on Linux.

    Drive Image??? How much time per day do you spend in that app?? There are a ton of backup applications for Linux. I can't comment on any of them because I don't back up as much as I should. Kbackup and others are easy to use.

    I mean what really do you spend your time doing on the computer?

    Need to web surf? MozillaFirebird, Mozilla, Opera, Netscape, Konqueror, Lynx, Nautilus, etc.

    E-Mail? Mozilla, Balsa, Kmail, mutt, pine, and all the others I'm forgetting about.

    Other popular and useful apps:
    The Gimp

    I could just go on and on. It really doesn't sound like you gave Linux a fair shot. Plus that was 5 years ago, that's an eternity in computer terms.

    Burn the Knoppix [] ISO and you won't even need to do anything to your computer to run a newer Linux. It boots fully off the CD and contains a ton of applications. It will kinda chug because it has to read from the CD so much, but it works good enough and doesn't touch your current system.
  • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:03PM (#6326295) Journal
    He doesn't follow Linux news, so he'd have no idea that stuff like OpenOffice even exist unless some kindly folks took the time to dispel his false assumptions.

    Or unless he uses the Windows version of OpenOffice.
  • batch 101 (Score:3, Informative)

    by lseltzer ( 311306 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:13PM (#6326333)

    dir %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9
  • by Chyeburashka ( 122715 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:13PM (#6326336) Homepage
    Well, I avoided Unix for ten years, using TOPS-10, Data General RDOS and AOS, and DEC RT-11. When I finally went to college, we had this VAX-11/750 running 4.2BSD, IIRC. What I'm sure of is that filenames were limited to 14 characters. DG's AOS allowed 31 character filenames, so my very early opinion of Unix was that it was a joke. That was 19 years ago, and Unix got a lot better since then.

    Likewise with DOS and Windows. Remember all the futzing around with CONFIG.SYS that was necessary to do anything serious? When Dave Cutler went to Microsoft more than a decade ago, I was actually hopeful. I should have known better.

    Then along came that skinny (then) little Swedish-speaking Finnish guy, and the rest is history.

  • Re:I believe. (Score:1, Informative)

    by TheRealSlimShady ( 253441 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:47PM (#6326484)
    I don't even see "grep" for winshit, much less the pipes required to make it useful

    Well you can't have looked very hard then. Try findstr. As for pipes, you also can't have looked very hard. cmd.exe supports pipes, redirection etc (see below from the Windows 2000 Help):

    Combining commands with redirection characters

    You can combine filter commands, other commands, and file names to make custom commands. For example, you could use the following command to store the names of files that contain the string "LOG":

    dir /b | find "LOG" > loglist.txt

    Windows 2000 sends the output of the dir command through the find filter command and stores the file names that contain the string "Log" in the Loglist.txt file. The results are stored as a list of file names (for example, A.log, Logdat.svd, and Mylog.bat).

    To use more than one filter in the same command, separate the filters with a pipe (|). For example, the following command searches every directory on drive C, finds the file names that include the string "Log", and displays them one screen at a time:

    dir c:\ /s /b | find "LOG" | more

    Because you use a pipe (|), Windows 2000 sends the output of the dir command through the find command. The find command selects only file names that contain the string "Log." The more command displays the file names that are selected by the find command, one screen at a time.

    Still, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

  • Re:I believe. (Score:0, Informative)

    by LadyLucky ( 546115 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:00PM (#6326535) Homepage
    You do know that windows does do piping, right? It's had that for ages.

    However if you really want a command line windows isn't for you. But Windows does have more powerful scripting than unix, you just need to learn a bit about it.

  • Re:I believe. (Score:0, Informative)

    by JKR ( 198165 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:03PM (#6326547)
    COMMAND.COM is crap, and so is CMD.EXE(essentially COMMAND.COM+DOSKEY).

    This demonstrates just how clueless you are. COMMAND.COM is a 16-bit DOS emulation shell, running in a VDM (virtual DOS machine). CMD.EXE is a real 32-bit console process which happens to accept most of the same commands as DOS (although it extends the syntax considerably). You can do much the same things as traditional UNIX shells, e.g.

    for /f %I in (*.txt) do somecommand.exe %I > outdir\

    which runs somecommand on all txt files, writing the results to a directory called outdir and renaming the resulting files to have a .foo extension.

    It's not as flexible as UNIX shells, but it's fine for a lot of tasks, and if you really can't live without bash, install cygwin and all your precious UNIX utilities are there, including a reasonably good (and unbeatably cheap) X server. That way you get the best of all worlds; I've made it our standard install for developers - Windows XP + cygwin + CVSNT


  • by Quixotic137 ( 26461 ) <pjennings-slashdot2 AT pjennings DOT net> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:09PM (#6326578) Homepage
    My mistake, this line is elsewhere:

    [CmdrTaco] Shit, I just looked this up an hour ago. 50% MSIE ish.
  • by mattdm ( 1931 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:52PM (#6326782) Homepage
    Show me a Linux replacement for Adobe FrameMaker (or better yet, a port) [...]

    Several years ago, Adobe actually released a beta version of a port, but then decided not to release a final product based on it. Check out this page [] for more info. There's even a specific e-mail address for comments.
  • Re:I believe. (Score:2, Informative)

    by binner1 ( 516856 ) <> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:12PM (#6326899) Homepage
    Care to elaborate on 'more powerful scripting than unix'? I'm curious. VBScript? Windows would have a long, long, way to go to beat unix for scripting of any kind.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:40PM (#6327039)
    I'm not buying your Red Hat 5.2 : Red Hat 9 :: Win3.1 : Win2k analogy. Windows 3.1 is a 16-bit DOS shell with a crude UI, and Windows 2000 is a 32-bit protected OS with pre-emptive multi-tasking.

    Red Hat 5.2 is, surprise surprise, a 32-bit protected OS with pre-emptive multi-tasking. Red Hat 9 is Red Hat 5.2 with newer packages and boot scripts, and GNOME. Red Hat 9 is just a logical continuation of Red Hat 5.x. Windows 2000 is a totally different beast from its predecessors. You could argue that Windows 3.1 isn't even a predecessor to Win2K, since NT is a different tree. The only thing they really have in common are some GUI APIs.
  • Re:Defrag? (Score:3, Informative)

    by iabervon ( 1971 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @07:06PM (#6327166) Homepage Journal
    Back in the old days, hard drives were so small that files sometimes ended up near the end of them, and so you couldn't resize the partition until you moved the files towards the beginning of the drive. This was because people would keep from running out of storage by deleting files, which would create free spaces in somewhat random parts of the drive.

    Of course, nobody deletes things any more, so you no longer need to defrag drives when you install Linux on a formerly Windows-only machine. But the people helping him probably remember the old way.
  • Re:I believe. (Score:1, Informative)

    by dotwaffle ( 610149 ) <> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @07:47PM (#6327373) Homepage
    I don't even see "grep" for winshit, much less the pipes required to make it useful. I don't see a decent commandline, or any semblence thereof. YOU WHAT? Ok, there's no grep, which I admit is a hindrance, but I bet there's a third party tool, if not a "feature" of windows that can do it, but probably not in the way UNIX/Linux does it, but there's a reason for that - it's NOT UNIX/Linux. And it sooooo can pipe. You can write to a file with >>, overwrite it with >, pipe the contents of the output to something with |... At least with cmd you can... Sure isn't great, but cmd is! It even has history functions. was a DOS Lite (tm) but cmd is just like a shell - in fact if I didn't have bash, I'd want cmd. (I've only every tried bash, sh, and zsh so I'm not speaking form experience!) Oh, and Linux is Linux, not GNU/Linux Mr. Stallman! (Just had to get that in!)
  • by epsalon ( 518482 ) <> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @07:55PM (#6327414) Homepage Journal
    Install CygWin [] and have a true bash shell on Windows.
  • by stanwirth ( 621074 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:26PM (#6327542)

    Well, I can assure you that Chris Barton is a real person -- a journalist for the New Zealand Herald technical and business pages, (not a "technical writer" as written here) i.e. He is a real person who needs to get real work done irrespective of what operating system he's running. He's a journo, not a techo by trade. That's what's news. More and more, musicians, artists, novelists and soccer moms are flocking to Linux in NZ because of what Chris Barton writes in the newspaper. Particularly his promoting our INSTALLFEST [] which is what the original article was about.

    Now Chris has also written numerous good articles about WETA DIGITAL [], the people who brought the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the big screen, running linux clusters (at least two generations of them), as well as numerous other commerical linux deployments throughout New Zealand and the rest of Australasia. I was actually quite surprised that he wasn't running Linux on his desktop already, but, then, a lot of us are literally forced to use Windows at work by brain-dead MSCE-infected ITdiots who advise Upper Management. The more of a groundswell towards Linux adoption they see, the better.

  • Re:batch 101 (Score:3, Informative)

    by lseltzer ( 311306 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:02PM (#6327701)
    For those of you who think modern Windows command prompts are the equivalent of DOS 5's prompt you're very wrong. See this MSDN page [] for the command reference for Windows XP. And I dare to say that the shell scripting capabilities are unparallelled if you consider Windows Script Host [], which has been standard in Windows for many years.
  • by meinBobo ( 666895 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @10:39PM (#6328063)
    "I was a disciple from the beginning when it was called Dos..."
    Windows was never called DOS.
    That's Like saying a cell phone used to be called a telegraph.
    Microsoft could never have made something as stable as DOS.
    For a "Technical Writer" following Windows for "20 years" this guy sure doesn't know his history.


  • by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @10:52PM (#6328101) Journal
    Most of your points are quite valid. The big applications are covered, but it's the little ones that suck you right back in. On /., if you mention that you need application X to run, the response is "yeah, but we have an office suite that works good, so what more do you need?".

    The latest version of Wine is really coming together. Your GPS software is probably a sticking point, both the hardware and software features aren't going to be duped for linux for awhile, especially to your likeing. Geneology software is going to take awhile also, because not every Grandma is on linux yet and there's not an outcry for it.

    As for sound editing, I'm really taking a shine to Audacity. It's not Cool Edit (If you've seen Cool Edit 2, you KNOW there's nothing better) but it does most tasks well. The Windows port is a bit crashy, but the linux version runs stable. I do all of my editing on Audacity, for the above average audio geek it does well. I haven't noticed a feature missing that I really need.

    As for 2000 and XP, I must say that MS created a very stable product. The OS itself doesn't crash nearly as much, and it does a better job of containing the system so that when apps crash (Windoze apps will always crash) they don't hurt the fragile OS underneath.

    I have to ask, have you played with Cygwin? I run Cygwin on my box at work (Windoze shop) so I have KDE running right next to Windows. No dual booting, and all the goodness of linux on my desktop. If you haven't tried it, you should.
  • Re:I believe. (Score:3, Informative)

    by LadyLucky ( 546115 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @10:56PM (#6328117) Homepage
    Yeah that was what I meant. The thing that makes it so damned powerful is ActiveX though.

    Really, you can test it out in a webpage too if you're happy to click through the warning box. In one line you can create a new word document. You can do stuff to it, then print it bob's your uncle. (new ActiveXObject( "MSWord.Document" ); // if I remember right.

    Also, I can list all my emails in my inbox. You can connect via ODBC to outlook, and treat it like a (slow) database. That's just a few examples. Most people flame away at Windows without having a clue that it can do half the shit they complain it cant.

    The really neat part comes in my mind two ways:

    • It's OO (well, sorta)
    • Any language baby! You know you can package up JSScript as an ActiveX object and then use it from the command line, C++, whatever?
  • by lysium ( 644252 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @11:35PM (#6328313)
    ...falls into the realm that it well-loved here, IP. The Pantone color system is a closed-source standard, in the sense that a license is required to use '120F400' as a designation of 'red' (no, not accurate). Unforunately this is the only way to get around the immensely-complicated color variations from workspace to workspace.

    Part of the license of Adobe products goes to pay for Pantone compatibility. Until someone creates an open standard for color, free software equivalents will have a very hard time matching utility value.


  • by Jim Hall ( 2985 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:27AM (#6329766) Homepage

    It's the less mainstream stuff that's still missing. On Windows, I have some excellent topographic map software, nicely integrated with my GPS unit. I have some excellent birding software, with videos and birdsongs. Great genealogical software. Great sound editing software. Etc., etc. I looked pretty hard, but was not able to find Linux equivalents.

    This may seem silly, but have you considered asking the software publisher if they would consider releasing a Linux version? Only by hearing from their users will a software publisher consider a new platform.

    I've done this several times with software that I like. I've been using Linux at home 100% since 1998 but I still have a dual-boot laptop for work. So I sometimes see software for Windows that I might like to use under Linux. For me, that's mostly games. But this applies to all software, I think. I've written to the software publishers and asked if they have a Linux version. In all cases, the answer was at least "we're thinking about it, but haven't heard from enough Linux users yet". But in a few cases, the answer was "yes, one of our developers is working on that .. want to beta test it?"

    I guess my point is that you need to talk to the software publishers if you want to use that software on Linux. They need to know that people want to use their software on Linux, then they'll release for Linux.


  • Last Post (Score:4, Informative)

    by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai&gmail,com> on Thursday July 03, 2003 @05:40PM (#6363057) Homepage
    Tim died today of a heart attack. He was fourty two years old. His brothers and sisters will miss him.

    Good luck, Tim, wherever you are.

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler