“A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy”

Monday, December 7

8. Picking the Right One: Picking the OS

The final OS I'm going to discuss will be:


Now Linux isn't a company. It's not even a group of companies. It is more like a community. And like a lot of communities, it's a bit scary to move into at first because you don't know if the neighbors are nice or if anyone down the street has kids.

If Microsoft is a 70's Caddilac, and Apple is a Mercedes, Linux is a high-school shop project car. It may not be pretty. It was engineered by committee, but it's over-engineered from the word go (at least parts of it are).

Linux is a collective name for a group of operating systems that decended from Unix. Linux is like Cool-Aide in that it comes in many, many flavors. It can be terribly bewildering just considering the variety of Linux distrobutions (called distros) available. Almost all are free, and the ones that aren't are really inexpensive, even compared to Windows.

I bring up Linux because it's becoming more main-stream. You can actually buy computers pre-loaded with Linux straight from major manufacturers. This is a pretty big deal. It's only been happening for a couple of years.

Before, you had to purchase a computer, remove the pre-installed OS, and then install Linux on your own, find or write drivers for you hardware, and hope it all works. Now manufacturers are shipping computers all configured, setup, and ready to use with Linux on them.

Linux is not for everyone. I would rate it for moderate to advanced users. Why? One, it's not compatible with all the software on the market. Sure, there are Windows emulators for Linux, but they're not 100% and you might have to fool around to get your software to work correctly. Two, there is so much power with Linux, if you put your fingers where you shouldn't, you can really mess stuff up.
Linux does offer huge advantages over the other OS's. The primary one is cost. You can save yourself a bundle of money by having a computer shipped with Linux versus Windows in some cases.

Linux runs faster than any other OS on the market. Even pared down to the bare-bones, you can't make Windows run as quickly or effeciently. There's simply too much overhead with Windows.

The downsides of Linux though, is what makes me think it's not for everyone. Besides what I said above, getting help for Linux can be frustrating. Linux is for your do-it-yourself types. If you like carpentry, you'll probably love Linux. I recently spent two days getting a program to run correctly on Linux, and I've got a fairly good idea of what I'm doing!

Linux can also be quite confusing, especially if you are used to Windows or Apple's OS. Things don't work the way you expect them to, and there can be a bit of culture shock.

I don't want to disuade anyone from using Linux. I think the best way to learn about computers is to break them and then fix them yourself. You won't ever learn anything if you let the 12-year-old next door fix it everytime it breaks. If you've never tried Linux, there are ways to give it a go without marrying it. You could use a “live CD” to try it before you buy it. In fact, I recommend it.

I'm just saying I don't think it's for everyone.