30 December 2005

A decade without MS-Windows!

As I was scanning the LXer article by Don Parris, A Year Without (MS) Windows: Completing the Conversion of a Windows User, when it dawned on me... I’ve been a Linux™ user since just before Christmas 1995, four scant years after the blessed Saint Linus the Benevolent uploaded his toy Unix to the University of Helsinki’s FTP server (should we start referring to the event as “The Diet of herring”? :-).

My first Linux system was SlackWare installed on an ancient laptop with a massive 2MB of memory and 200MB of hard disk (interesting coincidence, the workstation I’m typing this on has 2GB of memory and 200GB of hard disk). Word-processing consisted of vi and cat >/dev/lp0 where a salvaged dotmatrix printer (which happened to run on 12VDC) pounded it onto fanfold paper. It was pretty primitive, but it was to computing as Lego® or Meccano® is to toys: you could knock stuff together to do whatever you wanted — oh, and it didn't crash or randomly delete treasured files.

Back in the day, hardware support was pretty limited. Now, Mandriva 2006.0 drives some features of my TwinHead DuraBook laptop better than XP does. Then, when you said “Linux” people said “Uh?”; now, most of them have an opinion. Then, CD media was expensive; now, you can hand out three or four CDs in cases for the price of a cup of coffee and live distributions are legion — “Here, put this in your machine and boot it. It won’t touch the hard drive”. Then, the idea of supplanting death-on-wheels industry bully Microsoft seemed ludicrous, making Linus’ jokes about “world domination” quite light-hearted — now, it’s really happening (in some places, the tense is “happened”).

Until now, I have never dual-booted, but ironically enough I’m about to start because it makes supporting MS-Windows-using customers a lot easier. I’ve been getting by on that front through the kind graces of my mate John “JJ” Pengelley, who lets me RDP in to his MS-Windows 2003 server to walk through stuff and test it for customers.

For my own purposes, my day-to-day stuff, I simply don’t use MS-Windows. I find it difficult and clumsy to use and terribly limited in capability. Everywhere from swipe-and-middle-click to copy and paste something (and drag-and-drop actually working) on down to the ability to cobble up instant workarounds for customers, Linux wins, hah, hands down for usability.

The only places MS-Windows doesn’t get soundly trounced are specific applications (e.g. MS-Publisher, AutoCAD, vertical market applications) which are only targeted for it, and occasionally hardware support (but that’s far from one-sided). Now that Linux has well and truly hit most manufacturers’ radars, the latter has been improving rapidly. Natural (well, you know what I mean) Selection will take care of the former.

Why? Why has Linux been so successful?

It’s simple: no strings attached. More than that, it’s teflon-coated so that no strings can be attached. When people started to realise that Microsoft were dangerous even to Microsoft, they went looking for alternatives. For political reasons, OS/2 wasn’t it. Because they were all control-freaks (Sun appears to be learning about that), most of the Unices throttled their markets and “died” — became irrelevant — the premier example of how to sink your Unix company through greed and duplicity being the unloved bunch of random losers collectively known today as SCOX. The only man standing was Linux (and the BSDs, but that’s a different story).

So... ladies, gentlemen, ten years down the track now... I give you Linux, long life, and happiness! Hooraw!


M said...

It’s simple: no strings attached. More than that, it’s teflon-coated so that no strings can be attached.

or rather, there are no holes in it to put the string through -P

Leon Brooks said...

m: whereas if it had been written in C++, it would have strings builtin?