V-Day: Loving Linux - Most of the Time

I’ve been running mostly Ubuntu Linux for a few months now and am finally starting to feel comfortable with it. I can navigate around in the command line better than I used to in DOS, and after using vi a few times without getting stuck and unable to even close it, it doesn’t seem totally bizarre. I’ve decided that I much prefer KDE to Gnome, even though I initially liked Gnome better. I think just figuring out how to turn off single clicking opening crap in KDE helped a lot. Things that I like better than Windows

  • It’s faster. Booting is faster. Logging on is faster. Doing a lot of things from the command line is faster – once you get used to it.
  • Things are endlessly tinkerable (I’m sure that’s not really a word) and more transparent. Everything seems easy to explore and I have more control. There’s no windows warning telling you not to view files in the Windows folder. There’s no place where you can’t see how the pieces fit together if you spend enough time looking, even if upon deciding you would like to view the source code you’re hopelessly lost.
  • I have more choices for the most part. More choices in software, more choices in look and feel.
  • It’s free and open source. It’s a kind of freedom most people don’t even know is important yet.

I actually realize that the middle 2 things may not even be a positive for some people. I can understand that. Most people just want their computers to solve problems in other areas. They want important tools to be obvious and chosen for them without spending a lot of time learning them or tinkering with them. Sometimes that’s true for me as well, which brings me to my next list. Things I don’t like better

  • The wireless support sucks!. And people can’t just cop out and complain about driver makers not supporting Linux, cause even the UI is bad. It’s so much better than it was last time I tried it thanks to Network Manager, but it’s still somewhat painful. Even once you get Network Manager working properly, you have to type in your root password and either your WEP password or your keyring password every dang time you logon. And lately I have to log on to Gnome to get wireless running before I logon to KDE since something went wrong with KDE’s wireless utility, even after I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled it.
  • Tax software unavailable. I just realized this as I’ve started my taxes. Not Linux’s fault, but lame all the same. Most Windows software has a Linux alternative. I think the government should write an open source web based version anyway, but that’s for a different rant.
  • Cryptic file system. Most people take a long time to learn that there’s such a place as a Documents and Settings folder, or a Programs folder. Moving to Linux it’s home, and usr, or maybe opt or maybe somewhere else. Honestly, why hasn’t Linux come up with a file system naming scheme that’s a little easier to understand? Once you know your way around, which I’m just beginning to, I suppose having shorter folder names would be nice, but the command line autocomplete really renders that argument lame. How the hell do people look at folders with names like lib, proc, mnt, etc (and I mean the etc folder not etcetera) and know what in the world is in them! Rant done.
  • General unfamiliarity. This is getting better for me, but I know most people will consider this one of the biggest stumbling blocks.

I use Linux for between 80 and 90 % of everything computer related now, both at home and at work, switching back to windows occasionally to use Active Directory, Yahoo Music or do taxes and such. As much as I love the ideas of breaking Microsoft’s monopoly with free and open source software, I still just don’t see people having enough compelling reasons to switch. Even though Linux is easier to setup than ever before, and man do I mean easy even when compared to Windows, almost nobody installs Windows themselves! If Linux came preinstalled with some decent defaults, it would be a whole different story. The free price tag isn’t even a benefit for almost anyone because they’re going to pay for Windows anyway with almost every new computer.

I’m hoping to be without Windows by my next computer, except in the form of a virtual machine if necessary. Having switched over feels good now that I’m mostly done with the process, but the process isn’t easy or comfortable. Neither are a lot of other things that are good for you :–)