Debian, Defeat, and Denial of Service, Pt. I

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Well, this has been one heck of a week. I went to LinuxWorld, an annual software convention held in San Fransisco, for the third time in four years, and got tons of schwag! I got to rejoice over a long anticipated court ruling that more than likely will destroy a company that tried to sue Linux out of existence. The collaborative efforts of a couple of bloggers, fighting against blind unquestioning consensus, managed to turn the Rabid Doom and Gloom Anthropogenic Global Warming Alarmists on their ears (I helped, a little iency -wiency bit). I managed to complete two spa repairs that were vexing me for the last three weeks. And to top it all off, the Subaru WRX stereo I bought on eBay was delivered a lot sooner than I expected.

First things first. I want to talk a little bit about one of my favorite hobbies – messing around with Linux. If you’ve never heard of Linux based operating systems, you probably will in the next few years. It’s household use, though minuscule when compared to that of Windows XP, continues to increase rapidly.

What is Linux? I’ll try to explain as best I can without getting too technical, and the best way to introduce it is to compare and contrast it to something most computer users are familiar with, Microsoft’s XP operating system and their newest offering, Vista, or to Apple’s OS-X (X=10). XP, Vista, OS-X and Linux all do the same basic thing; they provide the instructions to the computer so that we can use the machines to do stuff like send e-mail, surf the web, store pictures and music, and type a post about Linux!

Linux is not actually an operating system itself, or OS as it is called; it’s a specific bundle of computer code and instructions that various OS’s are built upon. Think of it as the concrete and steel that is used to create a bridge or a building. Any operating system, like buildings, can be made from different types of materials, but still they functions as you would expect a building to. Apple, Microsoft, and Linux based OS’s all have different code within them, but they do the same things and provide the same functions that make your computer so darned useful.

About now you may be thinking “OK, these OS’s all do the same thing. Why make such a big deal about this Linux stuff, and why not just use Windows like everyone else”?

Here is a simple answer to your question – I’m a non-conforming non-conformist – by my nature, for good and bad, I generally avoid doing things like everyone else, and this includes computing!

Here is the better answer – I love to tinker with things. I was the kid who would grab a chair to stand on, open the clothes washing machine during a cycle, and try to figure out how it worked. When dad would change the tubes in the old TV, I was right there asking “What does this do?” or “How does that work?”. As an adult, I am still the same. I buy cars that don’t work and restore them back to life (have never made a car payment in my life – see, non-conformist), and I build and restore computers. This is where Linux proves to be superior to the products sold by Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft and Apple only sell one OS current, or up-to-date, version of their OS at a time. Right now the new offering from Microsoft is called Vista. Compared to XP, it is state of the art. Apple computers are currently using OS-X, which is quite a slick and beautiful OS to behold. Each product, for me, has a downside – product cost and contractual limitations. XP works very well, but I can only legally install it on one computer at a time. Same with the newer Vista. This is a problem for me because I usually have five or six working computers in the house at any given time (yes I’m a total geek), and to use XP or Vista , I would have to buy a separate system disk for each computer. How about Apple’s OS-X? I’d love to use that, but I can’t, as it is designed to operate exclusively on the more expensive Apple machines and doesn’t run on normal PC computers. I plan to get an Apple one of these days (like I said before, I’m a geek) but now is not the time for that expense. I can download Linux from the web, install it on any number of computers that I want, and I can do this… for free… LEGALLY!!!

There are more reasons to use Linux, but I’ve run out of blogging time and have to go to work now. Stay tuned for “Debian, Defeat, and Denial of Service”, Pt II