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the daily banana

A Happy Penguin? Not Here.

07.28.2003

Not in love with Linux yet

Last week I read this article on how Linux will probably hurt Apple computer more than Microsoft.

Linux takes the low road, price-wise. It's not pretty, but it's free, plus it's lean and fast enough to run on a yellowed old PC from the storage room if you're willing to spend a few hours getting the software installed and running. Or, for $248, you can buy a brand new, ready-to-use Linux desktop computer from Wal-mart.com. The bargain-basement price is possible because Torvalds and other Linux programmers don't demand license fees. They either work on their software for free outside their day jobs, or they've convinced their employers to let them donate their work. As a brand, Linux is anti-corporate and anti-consumerist, but skip the neo-Marxist gift economy theories that have sprung up around Torvalds. He's more like the Crazy Eddie of software: His prices are insaaane! Linux is fast, cheap, and reliable, in defiance of the old engineer's adage that you can only have two out of three.

While it's true that most computer shoppers look at general features first, price often drives the final purchase. Going on price alone, a Linux system can't be beat. At my office when our file server was being replaced the new OS choice was between Linux and Microsoft Server. Since we weren't really using all of the features of what a typical server might require, picking Linux was a no-brainer. However, that's where the no-brainers end with Linux, because once you start tinkering with the OS and installing packages and compliling software through the terminal you start to feel like your in the old days of DOS. After being spoiled with GUI's that hide the "guts", having to work with the guts isn't so great. If your Linux box is pre-configured and works fine, then it's not a big deal to work with.

What I think will happen with a lot of people buying Linux boxes from Walmart they will never upgrade anything on the computer or get rid of it when they see how much a pain in a butt Linux can be. What's interesting is Apple is more of the Mercedes or BMW of the computer industry. They don't try to push the low-cost aspect of their systems. They push the quality and ease of use of theirs. Microsoft is somewhere in-between, but most people seem to just think "Must have Microsoft, because everyone else does". So, where do all these systems fit in? Mac's for the graphic, multimedia and power home user crowd. Windows' PCs for offices, general consumers and gamers. Linux is for business and server applications and some consumers who like to be known as power users (hackers, geeks, etc...). I find it very odd that anyone frustrated or confused with Windows would find Linux any easier to use. Thie is especially true of someone going from a Macintosh system to Linux. Sure, Mac OS X has Unix in it, but you don't have to touch it unless you really want to.

My Linux experience is limited to the one server at work. Recently I'm trying to upgrade the system from a single drive to a RAID system. I started the process with using a new drive and installing Linux fresh on that drive. I'm using a Red Hat distrubution that's pretty easy to install, or so it seems. On my first pass I knew I wanted to install newer versions of Samba and Apache than were on the install CD. So when the installation program asked me about installing those packages, I didn't install them. When I later downloaded the newer versions and moved foward with installing them, the system told me I have missing dependencies. Great. After trying to figure out how to get these somewhat obscure (to me atleast) libraries I tried to download a package called RPMfind. When i installed that it also had missing dependencies. Oh crap. I decided to go back to the install CDs and go back and install all the extra features I passed on the first time. Now it had the default Samba and HTTPD installed. They weren't running so I thought if I installed the new versions they would run. Not the case. After playing with the Samba config file for a while, I had a somewhat functional server. It took a while to get the Windows 2000 machines to be able to connect, but after they connected, the Windows 98 machines wouldn't. The temporary server I had set up to allow working on the main file server decided that it's power supply wanted to kick the bucket. That basically forced me to switch the server drive back to the older version and give up for the day. I don't consider myself a computer genius, but no one in the office can come close to touching my computer skills. I start to wonder if I have this much trouble with simple aspects of a Linux system, what would the average Walmart computer shopper experience?
Posted by monkeyinabox ::: |