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Diary Of A Linux Newbie: The First Year - page 2

From FUD to Fandom

  • April 5, 2010
  • By Emery Fletcher
I started looking around at once for another computer, one on which I could make all the mistakes I needed to without endangering my original box, and soon got the eMachine. And here's the measure of my lack of sophistication at the time: the machine had been wiped, and I was suddenly aware I didn't know how to do anything at all with it. I did know I couldn't even get the DVD into it unless the power was on, so I pushed the button.

Almost from that moment on, there was little doubt what to do next.

Success!

Find the machine's BIOS boot order, choose DVD drive, let it do its thing. Don't hesitate, choose Install to Hard Drive, and answer some simple questions (go ahead, use the whole drive), then bite my nails while the drive grinds and whirs, incomprehensible messages appear and vanish, and a great blackness descends. I know to wait (I've read the books, I know it takes a while), and suddenly there it is! Ubuntu 8.10! I installed it! Well, it really installed itself, I just sort of facilitated it a bit.

For the next few days I explored the rich stew of programs that were either installed or offered via the Synaptic Package Manager and I even -- gingerly -- my toes in the waters of the terminal. Not to DO anything at first, just to read some man pages, but it gave me the sense of how to get into and out of that powerful area. It all went so smoothly, at first I was almost disappointed at the lack of challenges. Of course those came along in due time, but fortunately not until I was better prepared to face them.

FUDcast Backfires

I'd not been at it very long when I came across an article by Lance Ulanoff titled Diary of a Linux Virgin. I am really glad I had already done my own installation, because I might otherwise never have done it at all.

You see, Mr. Ulanoff was apparently intent on generating FUD in support of his publication's proprietary-system advertisers like Microsoft and Apple. He described his experience at installing Ubuntu 8.10 as if it were the most computer-threatening, nerve-wracking, brain-challenging experience of his life. Zapped computer. Several required reinstalls of Windows XP Pro (which he made sure to say he tossed off quickly with his indominatble expertise). Finally, with a lot of help from experts both in his office and online, he heroically managed to get it up and running. There was no account of what he actually DID with it.

And here's a thing for all Linux fans to take into account: the working (read "paid") reviewers derive their income from corporations that advertise in the publications for which they write. How likely is it for them to heap praise on a system that offers a viable, inexpensive, and sometimes superior product to the ones which are the ultimate source of their pay?

Most of us know this already. We gripe a bit, grumble, comment prolifically on their articles, and let it go at that. But what about all the people who haven't yet tried Linux -- or even heard of it? Is their only source of information the Fudcasts of the advertising-driven press? And to put it in the bluntest possible terms, how the heck is Linux going to grow additional market share if it doesn't quit preaching to the choir and start marketing to The Public? That means writing about Linux in a way that assumes the reader is a very intelligent but severely underinformed user of a computer who is interested in learning more about it. I'll probably get flamed for the following, but even offering Linux as simply an inexpensive potential hobby could bring a whole lot of people close enough that they'd soon be won over.

Herd of Linuxes

Okay, I lied in the title of this article, to compare it to the Ulanoff piece. I didn't say much about my first year. What the whole year really amounted to is that right now I'm up to three computers running a bunch of distros to see which I like best in the long run.

At the moment I have Ubuntus 9.04 and 9.10, openSUSE 11.2, and Mandriva 2010 on computers, with Knoppix 6.2 on a thumbdrive and DSL and a beta of TinyMe on CDs. Windows XP remains in double-boot on my original Compaq, but has been permanently disconnected from the internet to serve, for the present, as my version of clod storage (no, I didn't misspell that). I am an unabashed Linux fan, still a beginner but learning fast. I've had my share of temporary disasters and unbootable systems, but nothing my well-used CD of Parted Magic didn't get me out of. I compare that to what it would have been like if I were still a standard Windows victim way off in my remote little mountainside home!

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