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Linux Software

Why Do People Switch To Linux? 746

tadelste writes "During the last month, conducted a survey of readers who use Linux. They asked readers why they switched to Linux and received a plethora of answers. Surprisingly, anti-Microsoft sentiment had less to do with the choice than one might imagine. Linux stands on its own merits. Anti-Microsoft sentiment comes from Microsoft's paranoia, which results in quotes like the one that had Bill Gates saying he'd put Linux in the Computer museum like he has other competitors." A respondent quote from the article: "It took me about a year to switch from W2K to Linux. The timing in the development of all of the Desktop elements has obviously been critical. If I'd tried any sooner, the whole thing would never have come together. Improved hardware support and equivalent apps have been a big part of the successful transition, and, I owe thanks to many in the Linux community for making that happen at an astounding rate and giving me my functional Desktop OS." Why do you think folks switch?
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Why Do People Switch To Linux?

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  • Simple answer (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:25AM (#13896725)
    THEY DON'T!!!!!!
  • Tired of pirating? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:26AM (#13896739)
    Who really WANTS to pirate software? I know that the more properly licensed software I use, the better I feel.

  • Why I switched.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ride Jib ( 879374 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:28AM (#13896769) Journal
    I switched because of morals. I felt guilty stealing software that people were trying to sell. I can't afford much of the software I used in Windows, and I felt better about myself using free software in Linux. That and, well, the stability, customization, etc that comes with the territory.
  • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:30AM (#13896781) Journal
    They posted the question in a forum and gathered the responses.'re talking self-selected responses, which pretty well guarantees a non-representative sample, even if the responses are interesting. I wish they'd done a real live survey.
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:33AM (#13896809)
    Power is the biggest factor it seems. No, not speed. Power over the system, flexibility. For all that Windows is easy, it comes at the price of limiting your freedom to mess around with stuff.
    When asked can I do blah with Linux, the answer's pretty much yes out of the box. With Windows the answer's yes if you buy X, Y and Z.
  • I like Pain (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 8400_RPM ( 716968 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:33AM (#13896812)
    I've been using linux for a few years on my home laptop just to stay ahead of the curve. I'm a windows Sys Admin, and I want to be ready.

    I'm not a huge fan though. I cant play half the videos I download, wireless in suse sucks. Fedora stoped loading KDE completely one day for no apparent reason.

    IMO, linux is still 10 years behind microsoft.

  • Re:Bloat (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alexhs ( 877055 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:33AM (#13896816) Homepage Journal
    What about evilwm [] or 9wm [] as a window manager ?

    And why do you need a bloated X server at all if you only need mutt and pork ? ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:34AM (#13896822)
    I don't know why somebody would switch to Linux with Mac OS X being so beautiful and having BSD underneat the hood.
  • Re:LaTeX (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aconbere ( 802137 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:35AM (#13896842)
    This is an excelent reason to move over, I find latex support in windows to be abismal, and only slightly better in OS X. But most of the people I know have moved to Linux becuase it's easier (for us). It's easier to install applications, easier to keep them update, and easier to make changes than in Windows. I also got fed up with breaking things in windows and having no way to figure out what had happened or how to fix it. I've found that everytime I break something in linux I can head to my favorite IRC channel, or Forum and have a clear answer in a couple hours if not minutes.

    Clearly this isn't the case for everyone, but Linux/Unix just clicked with me, all the way to make config changes the applications and the underlying architecture. And this is not to expound upon the fun I have tinkering which just isn't available in the windows platform.

  • by Ucklak ( 755284 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:36AM (#13896845)
    • My Access Database and forced upgrades
    • Hated having to reinstall every 8 months for performance related issues when defragging and general cleanup didn't help
    • Hated the reinstalling process where upgrades take the better half of a day (I've just cleaned up some 2002 OEM machines that we have upgraded from and are selling to the public. The upgrade process DOES take a better half of a day)
    • Really liked learning another OS that didn't have 'hidden' features - (You have to buy a book on how to hack the registry and even books on the market aren't complete)
    • Uptime
    • Stability
    • Linux has the latest and greatest and experiemental stuff whereas Windows is at least 5 years behind (Windows still requires defragging of the hard drive, Mac and Linux don't)
  • by wangotango ( 711037 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:36AM (#13896847)
    Most users don't switch to Linux. Most users have never heard of Linux, and don't really care to have anyone tell them about it either.
  • Re:My story. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Trolling4Columbine ( 679367 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:36AM (#13896848)
    Now if only something as trivial as a USB sound card could be installed and operational in under 7 hours.
  • Cost and more (Score:5, Insightful)

    by I_am_Rambi ( 536614 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:37AM (#13896850) Homepage
    As a college student, funds are tight. Migrating to Linux I found a plethra of free software that was very useable and worked well. I also found Linux to be easily used on old hardware, which I have alot of. That, and the lack of viruses, and spyware helped in the migration. I don't have to worry about keeping virus definitions upto date, nor spyware definition. I don't even have to worry about a registry! All the tools that I need are available for Linux, and very customizable. Linux supports everything that I need and more. And then customizing the kernel, and compile flags. Linux is the way I want, not the way someone else wants.
  • by raju ( 225812 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:38AM (#13896859) Homepage
    No one switches for just the operating system. It is the applications that run atop it that make the difference. In your case it was Asterisk. Glad to hear that you have crossed the bridge.
  • by Flounder ( 42112 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @11:52AM (#13897002)
    I was a Mac user for a long time, only switching to Windows for financial reasons (cheaper to build a cheap PC than buy a cheap Mac).
    I tried Linux off and on the past few years, finally moving to Linux full-time a year ago. First with Mandrake 10.1, now with SUSE 9.3 (probably upgrade to OpenSUSE 10 in the near future).
    I switched for three reasons. First and foremost, I got tired of spending more time dealing with spyware and viruses than actually working. Second, I'm developing a Java3d-based web game, and wanted to ensure cross-platform compatability. And, third, the free-as-in-beer software eliminates the guilt due to pirated software (Office and Photoshop are frigging expensive).
    About the only thing I miss is game compatability. If a native Linux client ever comes out for Civ3, Civ4, BF2 or GTA:SA, I'm screwed productivity-wise.
  • I call BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jdgreen7 ( 524066 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:01PM (#13897093) Homepage
    Saying anything works "flawlessly" once installed in absolute BS. I've had plenty of "flaws" on my "Linux" sytems. I've had kernels crap out while compiling a module, daemons mysteriously shut off without leaving a log trail, one of my monitors in a dual monitor (Xinerama) setup come up with goofy vertical lines after a reboot which worked "flawlessly" before I shut down the system and with no xorg.conf changes whatsoever, only to reappear perfectly fine after another reboot... The list goes on.

    There will ALWAYS be flaws in a complex system. It's just part of the game. However, the goal is to minimize the downtime due to those flaws. Windows "flaws" tend to be easy to fix because so many people use Windows and you can do a quick search to find 8 million other people who've had the same problem. Linux has a lot of that, too, but you have to know where to go to get the right answers sometimes. What makes Linux nice is that it comes free with a plethora of debugging aids and the source code as well.

    I'm tired of seeing the "Linux works flawlessly" argument. NONE of the major OS's run without a problem. OpenBSD has only had 1 remote vulnerability, but then again, it comes out of the box with basically NO services running. The more services you introduce into the system, the more flaws you expose.
  • Re:My story. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slavemowgli ( 585321 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:04PM (#13897108) Homepage

    I think it's time that many OSS developers stop trying to play catchup with MS; you're already there.

    Ah, but nobody actually *is* trying to play catch-up with MS - at least not as far as most of the high-profile projects I've looked into (such as the Linux kernel itself, KDE, Mozilla etc.) are concerned. I don't think I've ever seen anyone saying "Windows does this and that, we have to, too" on lkml, for example, with the possible exception of noobs who just got Linux yesterday and subscribed to the list today, and even those are few and far between. Generally, the focus is not on being better than anything else; the focus is just on being *good*. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why Linux is actually successful, but MS still doesn't understand it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:10PM (#13897179)
    Ha Ha, but you're pretty close to the point here. Way fewer people would use Windows if they actually _had_ to pay for the software they were using. Then the cost factor would outweigh the usability factor pretty quick. But people steal software like crazy, especially Windows software. Gates tolerates (actually, likes) this because it gets the Windows hooks into people, and he can make up the losses with corporate sales from companies terrified of the BSA.

    As a matter of fact, I'm someone Bill Gates should love; I don't steal his software (I happen to use FreeBSD). Instead he views me with contempt and derision. Says one thing and does another. What a loser.
  • I trust the code (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chulo ( 711610 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:11PM (#13897190)
    I appreciate *nix because it's built from the bottom up with science in mind. M$ builds their windows from the top down with business in mind. Also, I like the Open Source Ideology in terms of Philosophy, it's comparable to organizing everything into a standard and putting the methods used straight into a science book for all to see. It encourages collaboration and standards. I doubt M$ could ever open up enough of their code (without being embarrassed) to actually get some real programmers excited about contributing their time towards some sort of betterment for them.
  • Re:My story. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spacejock ( 727523 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:14PM (#13897224) Homepage
    A couple of years ago I was all fired up about converting my computer-owning relatives to Linux. (None of them are interested in gaming, other than solitaire-type time wasters.) Over time I've moved on from the cold-turkey method to the boiled frogs plan. One by one I switched them to Firefox, Thunderbird and a single app at a time. A couple more years and all their vital data will be in nice portable files, and when their Windows partition requires yet another fresh install I'll be able to pop a linux DVD in instead.
  • Re:Why use Linux? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:20PM (#13897285)

    A week ago I installed Mandrake 10.1 on my box.

    You do know that there are two newer releases of Mandriva, don't you? 2005 (10.2) and 2006 (10.3) are out. Why not install a current version, one that you can get updates for?

    Anyway, I use Mandriva heavily (currently 2005/10.2) and never have problems with it recognizing USB devices. If I plug in my camera it shows up in /mnt as does my USB hard drive, and recorder. It sometimes takes up to 30 seconds to show up, but it never fails.

    I installed Windows the next day.

    Did you install a current Windows like XP or did you go with an older like 98? Just wondering since you tried to install an old version of Linux..

    I prefer that I don't have to configure everything in Windows

    Hmm. I currently maintain over 200 Mandriva 2005 machines, all of which I've barely had to configure anything. In fact, I have to do more configuration for my Windows machines.

  • by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:27PM (#13897362) Homepage Journal

    1.a.) Why are you using access for a database for anything but the simplest information?
    1.b.) No one is holding a gun to your head and making you buy a new copy of office. You like what you've got? Keep using it.

    2.) Get windows XP SP2, and stop downloading spyware. Plus, it's only the power users that notice it. Most of my clients when I was consulting had their origional install of windows XP and it was running slightly slower than it used to, but they didn't really care. Also: try using linux as a desktop for 2 years and see if it doesn't start slowing down when you install a new program once every week or two, new hardware every 6 months, and new graphics drivers and security patches once a month. Most people that use linux on the desktop are careful about how they treat it, but on the windows side, most of us punish our OS. In the past week, I've installed DivX 6, Tivo Desktop, Quake 4, video lan client, and WinDVD. Do this enough and it bogs down.

    3.) What? What takes half a day on windows that doesn't take half a day in Linux? The things that take a long time in windows (copying files to the hard drive for install) must be done in linux, too. Installing Linux (especially things like ubuntu and Fedora) have gotten easier, by a good bit, but it's still not as easy as windows.

    4.) Hidden features? Dude, Windows Registry == Linux /etc. Config files have to go somewhere. Yes, you can get to them easier in linux, and yes I prefer it that way, but if programs are coded properly, there shouldn't be a need to go poking around in the windows registry, ever. Everything should be adjustable from inside the program, or shouldn't need user adjusting. The only thing you can say here is Linux lets you try and clean up bad programs' config files easier than windows, but I mean... that's hardly something Microsoft can be blamed for.

    5.) Get Windows XP SP2, or Windows server 2003.

    6.) Get Windows XP SP2, or Windows server 2003.

    7.) Yeah, Windows is 5 years behind. Except... gaming. Oh, and desktop usability (For the LOVE OF GOD, can someone create a universal clipboard for ANY linux windowing system? ALL I EVER WANTED was to cut and paste between apps). And hardware support. Also: Linux and Mac both defrag in the background, as does Windows XP and Server2003.

    God. I use linux, and I use windows, and there are things that both are suited for. Linux = any internet service. Windows = user and computer management, gaming. Do whatever suits you; use whatever you're comfortable with, but let's not make shit up.

  • Surprising? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by going_the_2Rpi_way ( 818355 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:35PM (#13897440) Homepage
    Surprisingly, anti-Microsoft sentiment had less to do with the choice than one might imagine. Linux stands on its own merits. Anti-Microsoft sentiment comes from Microsoft's paranoia, which results in quotes like the one that had Bill Gates saying he'd put Linux in the Computer museum like he has other competitors.

    I don't find this surprising at all. You don't run a business on emotion -- you run it on what works. Linux works. And well. And I can do things with it I can't do with MS.

    Linux proponents do themselves a huge disservice by posting "M$ sux" posts everywhere. The whole '[they] doth protest too much' thing comes to mind.

    I choose Linux for Linux, not as a slap in the face to Mr. Gates.
  • The point that I was making, was that there wasn't a make or break software package that made me choose linux over windows. Everything that I would use on wondows, I have a comparable item on linux. The difference is that Microsoft's operating system makes it much easier to hide exactly what is going on. I have very little control over what is going on with the system. There really isn't a way for me to just sit down without any third party tools and tell you exactly what is going on. Linux' coreutils package gives me that. I trust my linux box. I don't trust my MS box.
  • by marcus ( 1916 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:42PM (#13897496) Journal
    I *run* Linux because I want to run Linux.
    I *use* Linux because I want to use Linux.
    I don't advocate Linux unless someone asks me.
    I don't bash WinXX unless someone asks me.

    I *bash* WinXX because people are always calling me asking: "Can you fix this?" "I've got a problem with my computer..." "My PC crashed..." "I opened this email and now my PC is so slow..." "My Internet is..." "I can't ..."

    So, while fixing, or more frequently of late telling them to get someone else to fix it, I bash. If they ask for advice, then I advocate.

    So far, I have seen two 100% converts thanks to live/demo CDs and application maturity. Both are happy and don't *ever* call to tell me their PCs are broken anymore.

    'Nuff said, just do it!

  • by indifferent children ( 842621 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:58PM (#13897664)
    I don't advocate Linux unless someone asks me.

    I advocate Linux because if Linux is more popular, not only will *everyone* benefit from reduced malware and vendor lock-in, but I will benefit from having my platform supported by hardware and software manufacturers. I don't bash WinXX unless someone asks me.

    If I see someone drowning, I try to help whether they are shouting for help or not. A few of them are amazing swimmers who want to spend several minutes floating face-down, but most of them could use the help. If you are the kind of visionary who could see (say in 1880), the automobile rising to dominance, then it would be a kindness to tell your friends at the buggywhip factory that it might be time for some cross-training.

  • Re:LaTeX (Score:2, Insightful)

    by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:08PM (#13897793)
    "Let's get real here. As much as I love TeX/LaTeX, it's not widely used."

    OK, let's get real then. *He* was talking about why *he* choiced Linux. You, on the other hand, are just talking about your opinions regarding how *others* will go.

    "As a reason for switching, it [LaTeX integration] probably ranks below toe fungus"

    I bet it ranks a bit higher for those (like the parent poster) that *do* use LaTeX.
  • Re:LaTeX (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aconbere ( 802137 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:27PM (#13897981)
    The Question is not whether or not it works, we all know the programs like winedt and MikTex exist. It's a question of the full breadth of support, the ease of use/installation, and the availability of the tools that is being called into question. At least with winedt there are crippling issues with it's shareware implimentation. And while you indeed may love working with LaTeX on windows there are some serious qualms I have with the integration of all the tools in an effective manner. Poor CLI tools support is just the least of these problems.

  • by joeljkp ( 254783 ) <joeljkparker@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:34PM (#13898056)
    Pushing Linux to someone it's not right for, or who's not ready for it, is a good way to turn them off of it for a lot longer than they would be if you hadn't said anything at all. Tact and timing plays an important part in advocacy.

  • Re:My story. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:39PM (#13898116)
    How much does a commercial PBX cost? Is that a one time, or continued?
    I'm guessing it's likely a bit more then say $400 (8 hours @ $50/hour).

    And a commercial solution probably would have still cost him 8+ hours between installing, the aquisition process, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:45PM (#13898162)
    now i use all open source software and do my (pathetically small) bit by submitting detailled bug reports

    No! It's you are playing an importand role! It's not small at all. Seriously, just think that in software development business there's a lot of people being paid to do just that.

    Even if you just email the author saying that his software is useful to you, it's already a valueable contribution.
  • Double standards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MarkByers ( 770551 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:51PM (#13898222) Homepage Journal

    LaTeX is not limited to Linux. LaTeX is NOT a reason to switch.

    So... wanting to use Latex is not a good reason to switch to Linux because similar applications are available for Windows...

    ...but wanting to use Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer is a good reason to stick with Windows even though similar applications exist for Linux?

    Double-standards anyone?

  • by rcbarnes ( 875915 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @02:23PM (#13898471) Homepage
    I switched, not because I had any idea how incredible using a well-designed, mature (excepting some areas of drivers), and customizable Operating Environment (to give credit to the authors of GNU tools and all the other software that makes my system worth using) because I, like most people, was content with 'good enough,' and not willing to put the time in to switch the underlying method of doing every single task I perform on my computer. I certainly appreciate the strengths of Linux now, and can't imagine living without them, but I didn't choose for that reason.

    I switched for the same reason a lot of people switch: One single issue with Windows (or MacOS) was so completly crippling to my experience, I was willing to put up with any other flaws to resolve. For me, it was a crippling terror of trusted computing (obligatory wikipedia article at: []) invading my work, which, as a CS major, will exist primarily on computers. My dad is chomping at the bit to get Linux on his work machine for much the same reason.
  • Re:Mod up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by justsomebody ( 525308 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @02:58PM (#13898737) Journal
    and only a tiny minority don't dual-boot with Windows.

    Yeah, I admit it is (or it was) true. But as soon as person buys PS2 or other game console, the only reason for windows to exist on desktop dissapears. 99% of dual booting is just to play games.

    I really don't see the use for personal desktop in Windows. What can it do? (and no, viruses I don't need. If I get virus better that I got it by sex, while spyware position is already taken by my annoying neighboors. All other jobs are much better performed with linux)

    p.s. What would be Unixy app? Some Gay-MS-Word spellchecker result?
  • Advocacy etc. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SandiConoverJones ( 821221 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @03:16PM (#13898876)
    It didn't take much to make me switch from MS to Linux.

    In college I used Unix, DOS, and Mac. (I was ok with using DOS when it came packaged with GW basic to do your repetitive tasks in a quick and dirty way. When they removed that, it was a rip-off.) I have never had any partiality toward any MS product, but damn many experiences pushing me away from them. I college I studied C in a Unix environment. It worked. That's a good thing to my mind. When I went on to take a second semester of C, the school had switched to MS Quick C. I had used Boorland's Turbo C, and it was fine. I had used the C compiler with the Unix install that we had. Then I had the most bug ridden piece of crap that I had ever seen land in my lap. The examples in the Official MS manual would not compile! I had never before seen such a dreadful piece of software in my life. That soured me against MS, the company a bit.

    In that same era, if I wanted a word processor, I headed to the Mac labs, not the MS based labs. If I needed to program a robot, and directly control I/O, I was in the MS realm, because control of RS232 was well documented, and part of my curriculum.

    Fast forward many years. My husband and I were buying computers. (Plural, as we don't play well with others...) He got a 60 MHz Intel box, I got a 60 MHz Mac. (Yes, I know, ancient history here, but we are leading somewhere here, I promise!) We had our machines set up. My Mac just worked. I used it. I worked, I played, and it simply worked. My husband is far more geeky that I could ever be, but he could never get his MS box to do quite what he wanted it to do. He extolled the virtues of his more documented software and hardware, but still his machine had failure after failure. It lead to my anti-Windows saying, "It's Sunday, time to reload Windows!"

    My husband kept incrementally upgrading hardware on his Intel box, not a luxury that I had on my Mac. I held on to that 60 MHz machine until it was way out of date. I started using some of his discarded hardware for some kids software. Eventually my old Mac was put out to pasture, and I was migrated to faster hardware, and buggier software. But, as I couldn't afford the Apple upgrade path, I considered myself lucky for having been able to use a stable OS in my own home for as long as I could. (In all of the time that I used my Mac, I never caught anything. There may be Mac viruses, but they weren't prevalent on the BBS's and later the Internet. I have no first hand experience with them.) Once I was using MS for daily use, I cursed the BSOD multiple times per day. I dreaded the bloody thing. When I was offered a FREE version of *nix, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I was rid of the MS nonsense.

    Fast forward a few more years. I was editing a print media newsletter for a 300+ family home schooling group. (As this is a group with many educators, there was a disproportionately high percentage of Mac users. Our group was roughly split 50/50) Despite the submission guidelines that always specified plain text email, people routinely submitted from whatever they had, be it from MS Word for Win, MS Word for Mac, or any other word processor that they had lying about. The previous editors all warned me of this. I was using Star Office. It was great for importing from other formats. Though in theory Word for Win was supposed to open in Word for Mac, and the reverse, in that era, it did not in fact work. Whereas, here I sat with Sun's Star Office, and I could read both. That really made for a positive experience with the Linux world for me. It didn't matter what the data was, or where it came from, I could read it.

    Fast forward a few more years. The kids needed Windows software for some educational software. (They had to log in to the system with IE running under Windows.) Take into account that they had a machine far newer and faster than mine. I am not a computer user, I am a computer abuser. Normally on my Linux box, desktop #
  • I don't switch... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fitten ( 521191 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @03:16PM (#13898877)
    I just add to my collection of tools. I have several boxes and run more than one OS on them. I use the tool that fits the job rather than waste my time trying to make the tool fit the job or making the job fit the tool. I have no OS religion and all OSs are lacking in some area or another.
  • Re:LaTeX (Score:2, Insightful)

    by skyshock21 ( 764958 ) on Friday October 28, 2005 @04:13PM (#13899329)
    I've found quite the opposite to be true regarding system issues. With Microsofts HUGE userbase the chances of me finding an answer to a problem with my microsoft system are infinitely more than the chances of me finding an answer to a problem with my Linux box. It took me about two weeks worth of searching to find out why my CD burner wasn't working (problem with the old 2.6.8 kernel). Whereas if I ever have a problem with my windows box, I can google an answer in under 2 minutes.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie