Archive for April 13th, 2008

Why I decided on one particular Linux flavour.

First of all, a very, very potted history of Linux. In the beginning there were mainframes, and many of them ran Unix, a text based operating system. Then micro computers came along and eventually IBM standardised Personal Computers and arranged with Bill Gates to deliver a text based operating system for their new personal computers, and PCDOS was born.

Then the nice Mr Linus developed a kernel which he called “Linux” and other people redesigned the Unix operating system around his kernel.

Meanwhile Microsoft experimented with Windows 1 which was pretty dismal and then he produced Windows 3.1 which worked after a fashion. The rest was history until XP However, with the introduction of Vista, Microsoft took a step backwards and have now announced that they are bringing the next version of Windows forward a year to compensate for all the stick they are receiving with Windows Vista.

In the interim, the Linux kernel was developing into a handy backdrop for many distros (distributions) of Linux all slightly different. A Linux distro is known as GNU Linux (GNU is a recursive acronym: GNU’s not Unix) but most people use the name of the kernel (Linux) to mean the whole kaboodle (kernel and operating system). A few years ago, the LSB (Linux Standard Base) which is part of the “Linux Foundation” was formed to ensure standards by delivering operability between applications and the Linux Operating System. Fortunately, most players in the market are signed up to the LSB. This has brought the Linux community a more stabilised product and a visit to their website will ensure you choose a distribution that is in the mainstream.

Over the years I have toyed with Linux, experimenting with various distros and it is only now that I have found one which I consider the best (for me that is).

The reason I chose Ubuntu, apart from Mark Shuttleworth (the Space Tourist who went up in a Russian Spaceship for over a week for $20,000,000) is a South African, is that he has wisdom far beyond his 35 years. He has proven successful by starting up a software company (Thawte) and then selling it to Verisign for $590,000,000. In addition, he has generated a Linux support company to handle his new distribution to ensure it gets taken up by the Corporates. And finally, has set up a trust fund of £5,000,000 to keep his distro going in the event that he gets knocked down by a bus. In other words, he is skilful, efficient and is capable of forward thinking.

Horror stories abound about Linux forums being unfriendly to beginners. Linux up to recently, has been a sort of “private club” and newcomers, especially non-technical newcomers were considered persona non grata.

Mr Shuttleworth, however, has changed all that with his Ubuntu forums. To be a “card carrying member” of the Ubuntu Fraternity you have to do something. Either in programming, marketing and design, or assisting people. To count your success in helping people on the forums he has introduced a “thank you” button and helpers on the forum vie with each other to get the most number of “thank you” tags. Some have thousands. This has produced a community who fall over each other to help you at all times.

As we would say in SA, he is a “clever ou” and a “smart cookie”.

Anyway, I am throwing myself into GNU Linux and will be making the move on the weekend beginning Saturday 10th May.

Before making the move there are many things I have to do in Windows: rescuing all my data which is scattered all over the place. Then I will load Linux onto a clean hard drive, download everything I need. I will load up Crossover, the parent of Wine, a program that runs Windows programs directly for Ameol, an off-line reader I need for Cix. I will also load VirtualBox that allows a copy of Windows to be run directly within Linux for one major program called LightRoom from Adobe. I will also load in CorelDraw, Photoshop and In-Design. However, there are Linux equivalents for these and I will only keep them until I master the alternatives. Although there is not an equivalent to LightRoom at the moment, there is an alternative in beta format and as soon as this comes out of beta I will remove LightRoom and Windows by deleting VirtualBox.

Whilst I attempt all this, I will keep copious notes of my experiences and what I do, step by step. I will give a drastically abridged account in a blog towards the end of May so that I can report on a couple of weeks without Windows. In addition, I will write up my notes in a PDF document to make it available for all who may be interested.



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