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The Voice of Groklaw - page 2

The Scope of Groklaw

  • December 31, 2003
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

LinuxPlanet: What route did you take (educationally and professionally) toward becoming a paralegal? When did you decide to get into the paralegal field, and why?

Jones: I went back to school in '89 and got my paralegal certificate because I thought it'd be a good field for someone who wanted to work part-time. I am basically an ambition-free person. I never wanted to be rich or famous or powerful. I just wanted some way to pay a simple life's bills and have as much time as possible for other things that I enjoy doing. I have for years been involved in volunteer work, and I wanted to support myself in a pleasant enough way where I could work hours of my choosing, which I have, so as to be free for that. That life choice is what eventually made it possible to do Groklaw.

LinuxPlanet: Please describe your transformation into a Linux enthusiast.

Jones: A relative of mine was a programmer/analyst and he taught me how to use Windows in the beginning, when I was working with a small law firm that was just starting to shift to computers. Lots of lawyers are still in the digital stone age, you know. Anyway, he taught me everything I needed to get on the horse and start riding. Then, he gave me his lovely Dell computer, with Red Hat 7 something on one side and Windows 98 on the other and that was my start with Linux. I think my love for computers has a lot to do with his patient training, because at first I simply hated computers, because nothing worked for me and I felt frustrated and stupid, but he encouraged me not to give up. After I had the basics mastered, my learning style was to just try something and see what happened, which he found horrifying, because you do break things that way. I did spend many hours reinstalling operating systems, no doubt about it, but I enjoy learning that way. I have yet to read a manual I enjoy.

I was the only one in the law office who could do a thing on the new computers, so I had to train everyone else. It was all Windows, so that meant troubles galore, viruses, blue screens of death, odd things nobody could explain or fix, no one to call at Microsoft, because we were too small a firm to be able to afford it. Happily, we had bought from Gateway. What a great company they were for support. It was up to me to call them and work through the issues. I found it interesting and I learned. Gateway really trained me in more depth on Windows, and I got interested in security, because there was no one but me to protect us in the office. One tech guy came to the office one day to fix a hardware problem and he saw I was interested, so he took the time to explain what he was doing and gave me a manual. I still have it. I found out that I liked the hardware too. I loved to spend an afternoon learning how to install a second hard drive, for example, or whatever.

After a while, though, the Windows problems were getting annoying. I found out that in Linux you can see the Windows side in a dual boot. I realized I could see things that are well hidden in Windows. I wasn't so crazy about what I saw. Shutting down all the doors and windows left open in a default Windows 98 configuration was illuminating. Somewhere I heard about Knoppix. Now, when things went wrong, I could fix it. And it was portable. If I got a virus, and couldn't boot into Windows, I could pop in the Knoppix CD and fix whatever the problem was. I kind of lost my taste for Windows from all of that and really, really fell in love with GNU/Linux software. Knoppix is Debian, as you know, and it's lovely to work with it without having to pass the can-you-install-Debian test. I love seeing what is happening in the software, instead of just pushing on an icon and hoping for the best. It's the difference between sitting in coach as a passenger and flying your own little airplane. When Microsoft changed its licensing scheme, that was the last straw for me, and I decided I'd rather not upgrade. Not ever. Not on those terms.

LinuxPlanet: You're a Mandrake user. Why?

Jones: Sheer loyalty. I always recommend people start with Mandrake or Knoppix. Mandrake is what made it possible for me to do Linux when I first started. It's GUI'd to the max and Mandrake considers newbies important. You can learn your commands but meanwhile you can start enjoying the software safely right away.

A GUI is just handholding, after all. It's someone's idea of what they think you will want to do, and they've put this picture layer on top of the commands you'd type if you just knew them. Once I realized that, I understand that no one can anticipate my every wish perfectly and then I started to learn the commands.

I also appreciate that Mandrake is good for desktop users, not just enterprise users. By that I mean, they don't assume you have a sys admin handy. They build in a firewall with a GUI interface and then also tell you to learn more and fortify yourself better as you learn. Mandrake helped me to love the software because things went right. I could function as if still in Windows while I learned more.

Someone just sent me a SUSE evaluation CD, and I love the elegant look, by the way. I'll try anything. A Groklaw regular teases that whoever dies with the most software wins. But I stay with Mandrake out of appreciation for helping me get started and because I like them as a company.

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