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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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:26PM (#6325474)
    It's hard to reconcile because for nearly 20 years I've mostly stayed on the one true Windows path.

    If you were using Windows in 1984 and kept using it... you have more problems than just trying to reconcile an OS.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:28PM (#6325484)
      This must be the guy who makes up all the job ads for "required: 20 years windows 95 experience" and "required: 10 years programming in java 1.4"
    • by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <giles.jones@zen.[ ]uk ['co.' in gap]> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:29PM (#6325494)
      I think he was talking of 20 years of personal computer use.
      • But that is exactly one of the problems another contender (Linux, OS/2, ...) in the market faces. Users are so used to buying PC's with windows, they don't even consider a change.

        In this context, only OSS has a real chance of becoming relevant to 'house-garden-kitchen' users. Because it doesn't cost to test it out.

        What's interesting about the article is that it shows 'missionaries' spreading the news, might be an approach to enlarge the userbase

        • I want to believe. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Glonoinha ( 587375 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:15PM (#6325751) Journal
          Ok, I want to believe. I honestly do.

          I loaded RedHat around version 5.1 or 5.2 long, long ago - dedicated a machine to it, got it working, don't remember any of the particulars such as which shell I was using, hell it was 5 years ago (plus or minus.)

          I got it running one afternoon, configured the modem (external modems by Hayes / USR - accept no substitutes) and got it talking to my ISP, used some version of Netscape that easily adequate for surfing at the time, I totally dug the 8-way virtual display under the GUI, I almost understood where everything on my drive was and why, had fun with the screen backgrounds (XEarth, etc..) and then ... what?

          What did I do next? Not much else to do. None of my apps (read : games) were available at the time for Linux. I was unable to find replacements for any of my tools (read : an XTree clone such as ZTree, Office, Visual Studio, Drive Image, etc.) - I know now that there is a viable replacement for Office, but my professional experience doing development is on the MS platform. I have an entire support system for coming up with software on the MS platforms that I just haven't found (either where to find, or even that they exist) for Linux.

          And of course there is the real reason we own home computers (and yes, I already mentioned it) : games. Flight simulators. Everquest ( MMORPGs) MechWarrior 2/3/4. Battles of Destiny. Yes, I know that Q3 is available on Linux, as is Unreal (well I believe it is) and the UT series. Anything else?

          And as for cost ... people please. XP you have to pay for. Win9x, WinME, Windows 2000 are pretty much available for the asking on a trial basis. Assuming people are actually purchasing their applications the OS is a tiny fraction of the overall cost when you include their 3D modelling package, Photoshop, Games (Q3A for Linux wasn't free last time I checked, nor any of the Unreal series.)

          I would love to run a Linux box at home if for no other reason than the cool 8-way virtual desktop in the GUI ... but I don't think I could find 8 apps to run, one for each virtual desktop.

          Linux is good enough. Quit making it better and spend some time coming up with apps - now THAT will get people to convert.
          • 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.
            • Most people wouldn't touch DOS anymore (Most Slashdot users exempted from that)

              How many Slashdot users do you think use DOS. Since most think Windows is an inferior OS, I would think that they would consider DOS beneath them as well.

            • by dash2 ( 155223 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {senojhguhdivad}> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:29PM (#6326402) Homepage Journal
              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.

              This is almost true. I just had a seven-day nightmare, trying to get an unrecognized wireless card to work with SuSE. The great advantage Microsoft has is that every piece of hardware you buy comes with Windows drivers.

              (Actually, come to think of it, my card had a Linux driver. But I had to compile it myself (kernel versioning hell prevents precompiled drivers) and when the card wasn't autorecognized, there was no way their tech support would help. They just pointed me at the HOWTO.)

              From which I conclude... well, don't buy Trendware wireless cards. But also, that Linux is going to impact the corporate desktop long before it really makes a difference in the home desktop.

              Corporations can have hardware buying policies and make sure they get Linux-compatible hardware. Corporations have sysadmins who can use the wonderful command line. And Linux is naturally built for multi-user environments.

              The home desktop is a much harder - and less lucrative - market to crack. I don't really see it, to be honest, until the corporate market has cracked.

              • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:38PM (#6326452) Journal
                That is an important note. I find autodetection of hardware to be far superior in linux when compared with windows!

                But you are certainly looking at more work in those rare cases where things don't autodetect.
              • On a side-note, my Microsoft intellimouse wouldn't work on my Windows 2000 and it even made some irreparable damage to that machine. (I know the MS mouse driver caused this, because according to, 12% of the people who downloaded that driver had the same exact problem.) And yet, when I recycled the mouse on my linux box, Red Hat autodetected it without a hitch, and it has worked beautifully for two years (going on three).

                In any case, I agree that there is a lot of FUD about Linux. It

          • 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.
          • I believe. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by SHEENmaster ( 581283 ) <travis.utk@edu> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:23PM (#6326104) Homepage Journal
            Linux is fundumentally designed as a replacement for UNIX, not a replacement for Windows.

            I've been Linux-only for two years, and I've been running a Linux server for 4 years. As a result, I have a much different view on things.

            While you ask for Visual Studio, I ask for a decent replacement for my developer tools. 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. COMMAND.COM is crap, and so is CMD.EXE(essentially COMMAND.COM+DOSKEY).

            GUI utilities are $599.40+tax a dozen in Windows, and a dime of bandwidth a dozen in Linux. A good command line base is essential for me. I can search through all of HTTP access logs and only display the results of my dad checking his email to find his current IP address with a single, simple, line of shell code. Then I can securely connect to his computer and change whatever needs to be changed without wasting bandwidth with (Tight)VNC.

            If you just want virtual desktops (which can be of any amount) check out LiteStep [].

            Pointing and clicking is like a baby pointing and screaming. Stuff gets done, but it's a lot faster to ask in an intelligible language. I'll never give up a great shell(zsh being my favorite) for a prettier interface.
            • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:17PM (#6326614)
              > GUI utilities are $599.40+tax a dozen in Windows, and a dime of bandwidth a dozen in Linux.

              Show me a Linux replacement for Adobe FrameMaker (or better yet, a port), and I'm there. Even at $599.40 or whatever Adobe's charging this week.

              The original article was written from the point of view of a technical writer. IMO, any technical writer using MSTurd for documents over 100 pages in length needs to have his head examined. (Fuckin' Windows print drivers that won't print the same Word document the same way on two computers, meantime the FrameMaker d00dz are happily writing stuff in Frame on their Windoze laptops, then checking the files in to the source code control system at work, where they resume working on them from their Solaris and Windoze and Mac desktop boxen.)

              I think FrameMaker's market share at the midrange of tech writers is pretty high, and for good reason. If you want to go beyond FrameMaker, you're talking even more money - Documentum-class document management systems, single sourcing from a big pile of XML into PDF, hardcopy, or HTML - but Linux ain't even in contention here.

              It's sorta like Photoshop vs. The Gimp. The Gimp's great for Joe Tuxpack's vacation photos, but if you're doing color separations for inks that are requires to print on a billboard, and you wanna be damn sure it's the shade of puce that your Marketing department wast^H^H^H^Hpaid half a million bucks in researching, sorry kids, break out the Photoshop.

              • 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.
              • by tres ( 151637 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:47PM (#6327625) Homepage
                This goes back to what I think is the highest hurdle Linux has yet to leap: application support by industrial software houses like Adobe.

                Without applications a platform is dead. It doesn't matter how good it is, how easy it is to use, how intuitive or how much it costs. What matters is having professional grade applications available for your platform. Linux is thriving in the server arena just because the best server-side applications (like Apache) are available.

                People don't buy Windows because they like the "look and feel" of it. They buy Windows because it has the applications they need.

                No matter how good the Mandrake installer is, no matter how nice and easy KDE is to use, no matter how much support is available, Linux won't win on the desktop until it has the application portfolio that people need.

    • by Chyeburashka ( 122715 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:40PM (#6325566) Homepage
      From the article:
      I was a disciple from the beginning when it was called Dos, and kept the faith through the buggy, painful years of Windows 1.0 to 3.11.
      Windows 1.0 was released around November 1985, so nearly 20 years is not an exaggeration, especially since he is counting the DOS days too.
      • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:27PM (#6325813)
        Macs and X11 were usable in the 80s, but Windows was a joke until 3.11 (and not coincidently Microsoft started playing hardball on making other solutions work). Anyone doing real work at the time would have used the Borland or similar environments, or perhaps GEM (iirc).

        But that doesn't take away from his point that he's been working in this environment for a very long time.
  • by Martin Kallisti ( 652377 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:27PM (#6325477)
    I cannot really find this relevant. I mean, we have all heard the Linux is better than Windows, blah blah blah. I mean, if someone (a real person, that is) posted a testimony that Windows is better than Linux, then it could be news, but this feels just like regurgitation.
    • Positive news like this doesn't hurt GNU/Linux's image while the SCO fiasco ensues.
      • by Martin Kallisti ( 652377 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:43PM (#6325599)
        Well, as most other people here, I support Linux. However, that does not mean that I think Slashdot should be just a propaganda machine, pumping out all positive material regarding Linux that the editors can find, no matter how newsworthy it is. I come here to read news for nerds, stuff that matters, not just to be subjected to "Microsoft sucks and Linux is the best".
        • by nick this ( 22998 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:28PM (#6326400) Journal
          One would suppose that's why this site isn't "News for Martin Kallisti. Stuff that matters." I think you are confusing this site with a democracy.

          It isn't. Deal with it.

          Either that, or you and the other guys that are always complaining about it can go set up an "antislash" site that promotes news items you think are more appropriate. My guess is that if you got any kind of following, you'd find trolls on your board saying "I hate that they never publish Microsoft sucks and Linux is the best kind of articles".

          Can't please everyone. I think you just have to take it how it is.
    • by JohnTheFisherman ( 225485 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:47PM (#6325615)
      The gift came to me via David and Roger, two very nice, not pushy, Linux missionaries who are involved with the coming Linux Installfest.

      It wouldn't hurt to have more of their type.
    • 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:29PM (#6325492)
    We hold no grudge. Just donate half your money to the free software foundation. Thanks a million.
  • by netsharc ( 195805 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:29PM (#6325493)
    Let's see who can find the stock photo and the PR agency responsible for this. ;-)
  • Not Worth Our Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by carb ( 611951 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:30PM (#6325496) Homepage
    This article is something like 10 small paragraphs long as an introduction to setting up and running (for a short while now) Linux. It is hardly worth the average Slashdot reader's time.
    • by TummyX ( 84871 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:43PM (#6325593)
      I especially the last line.

      I think I'm becoming a believer.

      I've heard that so many times from so many people, but it always goes away after the "oooo new" factor wears off. They say it to sound "hip" and tech savvy.

      How long do you think it'll be before he deletes the partition and returns to windows full time?
      • by faaaz ( 582035 )
        I don't think so.

        Using myself as an example:

        I was introduced to Linux far to early on in my life. I was young and running a turbocharged 166MHz when a friend brought over this Red Hat thingy. Installation went ok, but we could not get the modem to work. I never considered actually using Linux at that time, and my modem not working made me delete the partition and stick to Windows.

        Later on I tried using Mandrake on an off, it was perhaps version 7 or 8? I don't remember really.

        Anyway, about a year and a
        • by DShard ( 159067 )
          It took me about 8 years to dump microsoft from full usage. I used windows for games and my job. Lukily when I came back to my current job my boss said "I am surprised you didn't put linux on that..." I did and after six months of waffling, I only use linux. I can actually do things outside of a gui. I guess you could have in winblows but why? After getting used to not unix I don't know how I ever used windows in the first place.
    • by flikx ( 191915 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:53PM (#6325646) Homepage Journal

      Actually, it's quite fitting for the average slashdot reader. Most people here are armchair Linux users. Some may even have a dual boot system set up. But the majority: "I only use Windows for games." (and email, slashdot, work, coding, chatting, and browsing my internet.)

      It's no surprise that 95% of slashdot traffic comes from IE.

  • by Rebar ( 110559 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:31PM (#6325502)
    but the modem was a nightmare taking an hour or so to resolve

    Sheer hell, it sounds like!

    • Re:Favorite quote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:02PM (#6325696)
      Sheer hell, it sounds like!

      Back in the day, attempting to decipher the poorly written, unorganized, and very cryptic ppp, slip, and chat documentation could take hours if not weekends.

      An hour is clearly a milestone of progress, here.
      • Why, back in my day I had to dial out by stripping the wires and alternately shorting them out to simulate the pulse dialing. And don't get me started on file transfers... we had to upload, both ways! Man, you had it easy.
    • Re:Favorite quote (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plague3106 ( 71849 )
      Well...i'm programming for a living, and i defaintly am into anything computers. But the novelty of getting your modem to work wears off pretty quickly, even for me. There are other fun things i'd rather be doing with a computer, i've installed enough OSes and drivers that i'd really like to be done with it. There are other more interesting problems i'd like to solve; i'd like my internet connection to just work.
  • by fuzzeli ( 676881 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:31PM (#6325506)
    "That" was a "nice" "article" about "something".
  • Hm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Binary Gibbon ( 413182 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:32PM (#6325512)
    You'd think a 'technical writer' or 'IT Editor' would be a little more knowledgeable about 'basic computing concepts' like 'disk partitioning' and maybe wouldn't use so many 'extraneous unnecessary quotation marks'.
    • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:27PM (#6326997) Homepage Journal
      Heh heh! Look at the clueless "tech writer". Heh heh!

      People, the guy writes for the New Zealand News, not Nework Computing. His audience is people who want to be informed about technology without being made to feel stupid about it.

      The use of quotes is one technique to introduce terms in a way that acknowledges that the terms might be new to Windows users. The author wrote, "If you don't know how to defrag, you're probably not ready for the Linux experience." Note that he didn't say, "I don't know what defrag means." He wrote it in a way that made readers realize that there is some technical stuff going on with a Linux installation that might be new to them.

      While it's funny to think that there are people out there who don't know how to defrag a disc or set up dual booting, or select the right distribution for their needs, the truth is that if Linux is going to penetrate the skulls of Joe and Joan Public, they'll need gentle introductions like the one provided by Mr. Barton.

      I love to ride bicycles. But I hate going into a bike shop where the people who work their look down their nose at me simply because I don't shave my legs and ride a Lightspeed. If you've ever been in a bike shop like that, you know what it's like to be a Windows user confronted by sneering Linux know-it-alls. The "you're an idiot" mentality of so many Linux users is the opposite of true evangelism.

      Chris Barton has the right approach to introducing Windows users to Linux in a non-threatening way. Kudos to the man.

  • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:33PM (#6325518) Homepage Journal
    I have a very low opinion of anybody who could spend twenty years of experience in the IT industry without using more than one OS.

    I mean, it's 2003, for God's sakes.

    • Yeah. Just today I saw a post [] by a web-designer, explaining how he/she had never used Mozilla.

      Sad, sad, sad.

      (as if the original topic wasn't sad enough)

    • 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.

      • 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.
  • by pytheron ( 443963 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:35PM (#6325529) Homepage
    Yet another person tries linux, finds to their surprise that it is possible for a collection of loosely tied enthusiasts to produce something that works well, and writes about it, with the weight of "I'm a tech writer, so my opinion is more valid ;-) ) It discourages me when I read comments like the one in the artice - "What was it like - surprisingly, rather like Windows". Rather than look for similarities between the two, see how well you can use it, and comment on that useability, not on it's similarities. This way, fewer first time adopters will be put off when they discover that some things definately are _not_ like Windows.
  • One true windows path? Where does the path lead to? Podunk, Nebraska?
  • uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:36PM (#6325541)
    "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."

    If they have been using Windows for 20 years they are foremost a technical person, early adopter, and to some extent a knowledgable computer person.

    The fact that Linux is always an "alternative" to Windows is in my opinion, just furthering the saying that "Linux is for people that hate Windows, BSD is for people that love UNIX". Why do Linux users always have to profess their fate to Linus & Stallman and in the same breath say something, ANYTHING, about Windows?

    I run FreeBSD & NetBSD because I love UNIX and its capabilities and its features and EVERYTHING. It has nothing to do with Windows. Ever. I still run Windows XP and 2K. With Linux users it seems to be a conversion of holy nature like they are becoming a shaolin priest and can't look back....why?
    • Re:uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:23PM (#6325789)
      Why do Linux users always have to profess their fate to Linus & Stallman and in the same breath say something, ANYTHING, about Windows?

      Why do BSD users have to brag about how l33t they are? I'm sure the BSDs rock, but they are still much harder to leap into. It's all about momentum and developer mindshare. I'm not using Linux because of the philosophy, but because it suits my needs and I know how to use it.

      I run FreeBSD & NetBSD because I love UNIX and its capabilities and its features and EVERYTHING. It has nothing to do with Windows.

      Good for you. This may come as a shock, but many of us use Linux for the same reason.

      As for the Windows-bashing, I grew up on Macintoshes, and never touched a PC, with the result that Windows has always seemed like a model of how not to design an OS. At some point in college I switched to Linux (then Solaris, then Irix) because I was tired of my iMac crashing all the time (this was long before OS X). Now that I'm a full-time programmer, many of the people I work with use Windows and love it. Unfortunately, they expect me to love it too, and help them with it, and read their .doc files, and help them pirate the expensive proprietary software they can't do without. Pardon me if I sound bitter.

      So, it's all a matter of circumstances - I bash Windows because it is the bane of my existence and because I can't avoid it no matter how hard I try. I don't give a shit what platform others prefer, but where Microsoft is concerned people usually force their preferences on me.
  • Short Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by twoallbeefpatties ( 615632 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:36PM (#6325545)

    Kind of a dry article. All it really says is "I tried Linux. It took a while to set up. It wasn't too hard to use after setup. There were a lot of different software choices." To me, that's the big note of the story: that a rube took a look at Linux and couldn't believe that this platform had more than one viable word processor, browser, etc. "Look, Mom -- No monopoly!"

  • by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <slashdot AT stango DOT org> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:41PM (#6325579) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    I know it sounds mad, but it's a fundamental tenet of this new religion. 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. By making underlying source code available to all, many hands and minds work on the software to improve it - hence "open source".

    and later on:

    My own installation was a breeze - at the beginning. Mandrake "partitioned" the PC's disk so it could "dual boot" to either Windows or Linux.

    "People" who gratuitously overuse words in "quotes" too much these days give me Austin Powers "flashbacks" which make me "laugh."

  • by hether ( 101201 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:42PM (#6325587)
    Hardly worth any of us reading, but perhaps a significant article in that it goes to the everyday masses and provides a place and date of where you can get help installing Linux if you've ever wanted to try it. It's just a round about way of telling about the installfest and making the idea at least palatable to Windows users by explaining that Linux isn't really all that far off from Windows and still has plenty of apps.
  • by zonix ( 592337 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:43PM (#6325595) Homepage Journal
    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.

    Nice article probably, but Free and Open Source software is not "public domain". It _is_ copyrighted and comes with a license, which grants you the right to modify/redistribute, etc. Well, I guess I'll give the guy a break - he is new on the block. :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:43PM (#6325598)
    One thing that hasn't changed since the days of MSDOS is the underlying philosophy of Microsoft operating systems. Bill Gates's vision of an operating system has always been that the os need be little more than a program launcher.

    The whole MS goal is to encourage the user of its operating systems to buy "applications" which can be launched by a few clicks. A corollary to the Microsoft philosophy is that all human actions can be anticipated and distilled into a a few fixed menus.

    There really isn't any problem with Microsoft products as long as the menus match the user's needs. However the frustration sets in when the user grows beyond Microsoft's predigested canned offerings. There is little one can do except possibly buy another "application" in the never ending quest for the final one. The game is rigged and your goal will always be just out of reach -- tomorrow, next month, next year.

    You see, actually, it isn't really about buying new applications per se. It's about buying new menus, the eternal search for the perfect menu which will do it all.

    • No operating system is perfect and there will never be one that does it all.

      Each OS develops its own niche based on what people want to do with them.

      A few stereotypical examples:

      Windows - gaming, using Office programs, file/doamin servers
      MacOS - graphic artistry, press pagination, digital media creation
      Unix - c++ coding and using pine for shell account email access.
      Linux - web servers and homebrew software/drivers

      While some of these roles are capable of being done on other OSes, it's the righ
  • by robbyjo ( 315601 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:44PM (#6325604) Homepage

    The author should close with the Linux Prayer:

    Our PC GOD Torvalds, which art in Transmeta^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H OSDN
    Hallowed be thy skillz
    Thy kernel comes, in the US and all the earth
    Give us this day our daily updates.
    And forgive us our holes, as we apply thine patch.
    And lead us not into closed source, but deliver us from Microsoft.
    For thine is the kernel, the skillz, and the leetness for ever and ever. Amen.

    Only THEN, he can say: "Praise the PC god and Linux open-source apostles, I'm a believer."

    • In the worker's eutopia that is Microsoft, people have no need of superstitious beliefs such as religion. Everyone knows with scientific certianty that Chairman Gates will lead us all on to greater glory, if only our sacrifices match his. We do not need these elite people who publish their source code and undermine the secrets which keep Microsoft great. We need only apply binary patches and pay, and pay. We need no faith because we have money!

      The thought criminal, Chris Barton, shall be shunned and pu

  • Defrag? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joto ( 134244 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:44PM (#6325605)
    No why on earth would he need to defrag his diskdrive before installing linux? There are two ways of doing this, either repartition the disk drive, or you install it on a FAT partition with the VFAT file system (not really recommended but it works). None of them requires defragmentation though...
    • 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:3, Informative)

      by iabervon ( 1971 )
      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 h
  • by tim_maroney ( 239442 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:53PM (#6325645) Homepage
    (If you don't know how to defrag, you're probably not ready for the Linux experience.)

    Setting it all up can, however, be a little daunting...

    Etc. This and other negative comments about usability in the article make an unintentional but important point.

    Linux is not for ordinary people. It's for computer enthusiasts. Most people want to use the computer as a tool, not for its own sake. They have no interest in memorizing reams of arcane computer trivia in order to get email, surf the web, write, and work on spreadsheets.

    Desktop Linux can't and won't satisfy the requirements of the ordinary user, even though it may be a great playground for hobbyists, as well as a perfectly reasonable solution on the server side for many applications. The conversion of a longtime computer hobbyist says nothing about the dream many Linux users have of their pet OS becoming a significant force in the desktop market. Neither they nor Chris Barton reflect the consumers in that market.
    • Which is why... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:16PM (#6325755) Homepage
      Linux is not for ordinary people. It's for computer enthusiasts. Most people want to use the computer as a tool, not for its own sake. They have no interest in memorizing reams of arcane computer trivia in order to get email, surf the web, write, and work on spreadsheets. ...Windows comes preinstalled. If you have a properly set up distribution with some good default choices (OpenOffice, Evolution etc.) it is not really any harder than on Windows, apart from unfamiliarity. Getting a Linux geek there to install and configure it shouldn't be the problem, the question is what it takes to keep it running, and more importantly if it runs the software people want to run.

    • Last Post (Score:4, Informative)

      by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> 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.

  • Did anyone notice? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pettifogger ( 651170 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:03PM (#6325706)
    Did anyone out there notice that a Linux Installfest is mentioned? The link to it is right here:

    As you can tell, it's only going on in New Zealand. Good for the Kiwis, but is there anything of the sort being done in the United States? I think we need Installfests here, too.

    As for the article, I think everyone should quit carping. This is good press for Linux. I had the same experience in March when I made the "switch" on my main PC. Only difference is that my machine does not dual boot, and I'd had Aurora Linux on a Sparc since December '02. At any rate, though, the message needs to get out that Linux *IS* a genuine alternative, and this article does just that.

  • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:08PM (#6325719) Journal

    Having RTFA and most of the comments, I'm a bit baffeled by the slasdot community today. Even I see this not as a article in how to use Linux or anything, but more as the sort of commentary that you can read on page three of most computermagazines these days. Saying things like "we knew that" and "is this news" actually misses the point, as he isn't speaking to those who already uses Linux but rather to those who still sees Windows as the only operating system out there. He isn't preaching to the choir my friends, he is preaching to the heatens, like myself.

    The article / editorial / comment is more of a key than a crowbar... it may wet peoples appetite for the 'free*' OS they can get from their nerdy friends - even if the setup can be more of a hazzle than Windows is (well, than Windows can be; I used several hours patching up my spare PC yesterday after upgrading to XP). As such, I would say this is a good little article. He mentiones several of the pros of Linux, a few of the drawbacks, points out that it isn't a scary thing to try and that it is realivelty easy to do. He even adds a numer of links to distros, info on opensourse and the Linux Newbie Administration Guide... The only thing he don't add is the URL to knoppix [] so people could try Linux without having to change anything on their 'puter.

    *) However you want to define 'free' as far as Linux go...

  • Nice article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cnik70 ( 571147 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:22PM (#6325780) Homepage
    It's nice to see a good article like this one. Sure it lacks depth, but it shows that even a hard core Windows user can see what draws many of us to use Linux instead. I would love to see a similar article where various people are forced to give up using Windows (or Mac) for a week and made to use Linux for their daily PC routine (of course with someone to help them along the way nearby) to see how quickly they adapt to the new environment.
  • by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:59PM (#6325978)
    Since Knoppix boots right off the CD and doesn't touch your system then I feel that's the best way to get newbies interested. That way there is no commitment to just try Linux.

    Most of the time it requires zero work to get them running Linux. After that they can decide if they want to really install Linux.

    Even though I don't use it, KDE 3.1 usually produces a very favorable impression of Linux because it looks slick.
  • Pathetic (Score:3, Funny)

    by CausticWindow ( 632215 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:23PM (#6326107)

    Call me a misantroph, but there's only one thing sadder than "tech writers" and that's "sport writers".

    Now go back to watching "Everybody Loves Raymond".

  • by Chmarr ( 18662 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:07PM (#6326309)
    To me, the article seems that was 'just enough' pro-linux to get mentioned on a site like Slashdot, but not enough 'real information' to actually convince many people at all.

    And that whole psuedo-religion thing turned me off treating the article seriously, and I bet it will turn away many Windows-but-thinking-of-trying-Linux users too.

    Bleah... I've seen way better advocacy than this.
  • by sgage ( 109086 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:25PM (#6326388)
    I have been using Linux since RH 5.1 - worked my way through various 6's, 7's, and 8.0. I spent a considerable amount of time learning and understanding Linux, and got pretty knowledgeable about it. I tried very hard to go all-Linux, all the time, but I couldn't and still can't do it. Here's why: apps. Yes, apps.

    OK, the Office situation I consider adequately covered. Ditto Internet: email, browsing, etc. I even converted my years of Quicken data over to CBB. And I couldn't care less about games. But I still found myself needing to dual-boot, and I hate needing to dual-boot.

    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.

    When Windows 2000 came out, that was a turning point. So much more stable than Windows 98. I generally run Windows 2000 now, and hardly ever boot into Linux. I don't have the time or inclination to maintain 2 systems, so I'll stick with Windows 2000, because it's good enough.
    • That's what Wine is for.

      Too bad some people persist in believing that fairly vague things like ease of use and immaturity are the biggest problems that desktop linux has today. They are problems yes, but the biggest is, and always will be most likely, compatability.

    • 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.


  • by Eminor ( 455350 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:20PM (#6326627)
    I know people may see this as "Propaganda", but considering the foothold Microsoft has on the industry, I think it's good to find more positive news relating to Linux. I find microsofts ad campain to be very propagandic. It's good to see some counter balance.

    This story reminds me of my own conversion. It wasn't that long ago (This January) that I switched over to Linux completely. I was quite impressed with all the applications and how well they worked. I have always been a fan of GNU tools. It's nice to have both without dual booting.
  • by LowTolerance ( 301722 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:06PM (#6326867)
    I think it's pathetic that someone who writes articles on PC use took this long to just check out linux. It isn't like it's some obscure OS! It's half as old as his PC experience!
  • by Inexile2002 ( 540368 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:50PM (#6327080) Homepage Journal
    But also because for the first time there is a realistic alternative to Windows that runs on Intel-based PCs.
    I love that. He writes that as though in his grandfather and great grandfather's day we all had no choice for OSes. It never ceases to amaze me the power branding has over people. M$ drops a couple of billion into ads and people really buy into it. People really believe that Nike's shoes are better somehow, people actually go to McDonalds.

    One of my favourite analogies when it comes to M$ and Linux comes from something I saw a couple of summers ago. Some soccer club was doing a fund raiser and selling food at a soccer tournament. They had bar-b-ques fired up, real beef burgers going, a salad bar where you could get the fixings you wanted for it and although it was mostly people improvising stuff they were serving up a damn good burger.

    Half a block away there was a McDonalds, and me and some of the other watched people leave the stands, walk to the McDonalds and come back with a McDonalds hamburger (or whatever, Big Mac or what have you). The burgers the soccer club was selling were cheaper, clearly better by any definition of a burger and right there for the taking. The only explanation me and my friends could come up with for why people would walk to the McDonalds is brand.

    Weird weird stuff.
  • by paj1234 ( 234750 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:26PM (#6327545)
    Mrs Betty Blow, to create a character, is Joe Blow's wife. She has quite different wishes to the tech writer in the article. She has (IMHO) been poorly served by Windows et al in the past.

    What she wants:

    - Email
    - Web browsing
    - Letter writing
    - Printing
    - Solitaire
    - That's it.

    What she doesn't want to do:

    - Change the mouse speed
    - Change the colour scheme
    - Change the monitor settings
    - Change the time zone
    - Muck about with screen savers
    - Add or remove programs
    - Select new hardware eg printers
    - Play games other than Solitaire
    - Use Internet chat
    - Use fancy web sites with streaming audio etc

    Hackers, you know how to use a system like Debian to build a setup that does these simple tasks. Just be local and be around. Use SSH or TightVNC to help sort out problems if you want.

    By contrast, Windows presents a bewildering world full of control panels and other scary things. Betty's never going to touch them, so why clutter up the interface by presenting them? I don't know how many people fall into the Betty category but I'm willing to bet it's a lot more than we might think...
  • by timothy ( 36799 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @10:29PM (#6328028) Journal
    How plausible would a parallel article have been (a few years back), perhaps in Byte or Dr. Dobbs announcing that Amiga was ready for the masses?

    (If someone can point to one, I'll take this back, but I don't *think* Amiga -- or BeOS, or a lot of others -- ever got past the Beautiful Swandive phase, no matter how nice they are, or how many people persist in not burying them :))

    Bob Young's book about Red Hat's (so-far) success is titled "Under the Radar" -- seems like an apt phrase not just for Red Hat but more generally for the way Linux (or, to be fair, BSD) desktops have semi-suddenly become hip to heap praise on, much of it deserved.

    OpenOffice, AbiWord, KOffice, Mozilla, the various free programming languages, the various free desktop environments, (etc etc) have been evolving for years, and the Free software matrix is both complete and flexible enough that a Grand Unified Final Answer hasn't been necessary. Rough edges are still there, probably always will be, but they demonstrate how dynamic the whole process is. Every minor release of GCC shows this, in fact :) *That's* why suddenly there are complete systems that even many Windows diehards admit are either "good enough" or nearly there -- because it's not sudden at all.


God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker