February 16, 2019

Cruisin' with Linux

Penguins and Muscle Cars

  • October 29, 2007
  • By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

There's an enormous difference between your average PC consumer and the hardcore computer enthusiast. One of the key differences is how much time someone is willing to expend on a system.

It's easy to tell the difference between someone who's an aficionado and someone who just owns a PC--ask them how long they took to set it up. If you get a blank stare, you're talking to a user. If you get a three hours lecture about RAM timings and the pros and cons of running a RAID 0 array, you're talking to a fanatic.

But don't be fooled into thinking that there's only one kind of enthusiast. There's a whole spectrum, ranging from those who like to tinker to those rare types that live and breathe silicon. The hardest of hardcore abandon the mainstream world of Windows and Mac and have switched to a Linux distro.

The ideal home or office PC is one that doesn't require much in the way of effort to get it going--anything more involved than plugging it in and pressing the on switch is usually considered too much effort. Your average mass market PC (think of a Dell or an HP) is built to just work with the minimal of tinkering and maintenance, much like a modern car (except that most car owners understand the importance of maintaining a car, while few think that a PC deserves similar attention). Most people just want to slip the key into the ignition and be on their way.

But there are many hardcore computer devotees have opted to shun such simplicities and have chosen a more hands-on approach to computing. These are the classic car owners of the PC scene.

In case you're wondering, being a classic car owner has very little in common with regular car ownership. Sure, the vehicles might make use of an internal combustion engine, run on gasoline and have pedals and a steering arrangement that's familiar, but the similarities start to run dry at that point.

A main difference between a mass market PC (which will run Windows, because not even Mac has a big enough user base to have achieved critical mass) and one running Linux is how much knowledge you need to be able to survive. Even if someone knows nothing about their system and totally hoses it, if they're running Windows there's a good chance that they'll know someone who'll know just enough to be able to reload the OS and get things going again.

Run Linux and you're on your own. If you've got Internet access on a different PC then you can tap into the collective consciousness of the most excellent specialist Linux forums out there, but back in the real world, finding someone with any real knowledge about Linux is rare.

The same goes for classic cars. Things are fine when your classic pride and joy is working as expected and does all the right things, but once something goes wrong, things can get troublesome. Even paying for spares or a fix is tricky because you need to find someone who knows what they are doing or who can get you the right part.

You've chosen to take the road less traveled. And while you're not on your own, it can sure feel like it at times. Forget encountering serious problems; sometimes things that should be trivial--such as finding drivers--can be an odyssey for Linux at times. Sure, it's getting better but there are still no guarantees. If you're not happy trawling forums for answers and getting your hands dirty with the zeros and ones, you're better off paying the Microsoft tax and sticking with Windows.

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