Saturday, July 08, 2006

More on Linux

So what is all of this excitement about Linux really about anyway? I know that I am coming to the conversation late, but it for some reason I feel like this is something that I need to know and learn but I don’t have a really solid reason as to why yet. In recent years the Linux folks have advanced their operating systems by leaps and bounds, but upon closer inspection there is still a lot that needs doing before it really is the free answer to Windows and OSX. As a follow-up to the news that two influential Mac users were switching to Linux, John Gruber has written a couple of very thorough essays in which he tries to talk about why a person may choose one operating system over another, and I really agree with what he has had to say on the issues.

As I have thought about where I stand with the programs that I use at work, school and at home, I am not sure that there’s a strong basis for switching from my current Windows world. In my work world, it is all done in Windows.

At home I use Windows because that’s what’s there, and it isn’t as complex to manage as Linux, and is less expensive than Mac.

At work I use Windows because like most workplaces it is the standard, though I can see places where it would make a lot of sense for us to be using Linux. For example the servers that build our applications, host our version control, track our bugs and serve our apps to the company. But that’s another story, and I am sure that when they went with Windows they had some good reasons for doing what they did.

At school I am really at the mercy of the professor teaching the class. In most cases, the work we do there can be done in the Windows world quite comfortably. Sometimes it is even requisite, for example when we are writing programs specifically for Windows using Microsoft products. Where it gets blurry is when you get into the language and systems classes. Then there is more of a slant to the Linux world. Those professors may use Macs because of the Unix command line that they supply. This is when our assignments may be programmed in Java on a Windows machine, but for grading they had better work on the department’s Linux machines. As a result, I know enough about the Linux command line to build a basic project in C/C++/Java or whatever the language-du-jour may be, but I don’t know much more about the environment.

This is where my Linux fascination begins. I know that in reality, I will need to have a dual boot system because when work needs to be done in Windows, I’ll need windows to do it, but I think that personally having a strong background in Linux wouldn’t be a bad thing for a computer science major to have. The Operating Systems class that I am taking this fall will certainly all be Linux based, so it might not be a bad idea to become very comfortable in that area. I am confident however, that if I don’t try to use it exclusively for a little while that it will be like my attempt to learn Linux last year, which meant that I only used it when I absolutely had to.

I’ve done a lot of reading in the last couple of days. I even purchased a couple of Linux magazines at the bookstore today. There is so much information out there; the problem is finding the good and necessary stuff. How for example, am I to find and install the programs that I want/need? What communities are really the best for learning this stuff, or is it just every geek for his or her self? I am excited for what the future may hold, but there are still many unanswered questions.

Perhaps my approach should just be to dive in and go for it, but that brought on a lot of frustration last time. This round, I am going to try to get some education first before taking the plunge.


Unknown said...

Kubuntu dissapointment #1... no firefox. I thinkg Ununtu (using gnome) has firefox preinstalled. Perhaps the latest flavor of Suse is more worthwhile.

Joe said...

You seriously mean to tell me that you can't install firefox? Incidentally, I happen to know that it comes with the regular Ubuntu distro. Just learn how to install a program, or bag the KDE stuff.

I hardly think that one program should be enough to convince you to bail on an entire OS.