Why I Love Linux: Part 1
A brief history
I bought my first computer in 1998, a beige PowerMac G3. I was 42.
A year or so earlier I’d taken an adult education course on Intro to Computers at Brighton HS. It was an intro to Microsoft Windows, of course. All I remember is mucking about trying to get the hang of this ‘mouse’ thing and trying to create a slide show in PowerPoint. It seemed confusing and arcane and made me feel like I was doing something the creative part of my brain was totally unaccustomed to. Sort of like attempting to visualize the fourth dimension. My brain hurt a little afterwards, but it seemed kind of cool.
For a while I felt like computers were really not my cup of tea. I was an artist, and even though using computers to make art was the up-and-coming thing, I was reluctant. It seemed unnatural.
But then Michael, the husband of Stephanie’s friend Theresa, offered to make our wedding announcements and he showed me how he did it. I was enthralled! From a few photos and a scanner and Adobe Photoshop he created a CD (no, no, I think it was on floppy disk!) that we could have our invitations printed from. It was like magic! This was what you could do with a computer? And he did it with a Macintosh.
So later when I had the money and had done some research, I decided to buy a Mac. I was also able to get a discount, thanks to Michael.
Ah, those were heady times; that first year learning how to use a computer, late nights training my brain to think in ways it had never done before! My first tentative steps onto the infant Internet! Learning how to code my first crude website. Sometimes frustrating, mostly enlightening and exciting.
And later that year I went back to SUNY Brockport to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and got to take a few courses in Mac Art and Photoshop at Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester.
Fast forward to 2008: Since November 2002 I’d been using a snazzier Mirror Drive Door G4 Mac, but that too was becoming rather sluggish and outdated. We needed a new computer, but we really didn’t have the money for a new Mac. Even a refurbished one. So I began investigating the alternatives.
For several years I’d heard about Linux, this mysterious ‘other’ operating system for hardcore geeks and server administrators and high-tech nerds with pocket protectors (so it seemed). And I was also becoming familiar with Open Source Software and had installed the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), which is very similar to Photoshop, Open Office, a great replacement for Microsoft Office, and Inkscape, a vector graphics editor, similar to Adobe Illustrator. But instead of costing hundreds of dollars each, these programs are absolutely free! And I knew that Linux also cost nothing.
At this time I was seeing a lot on the Internet about Ubuntu Linux. So I checked it out. Ubuntu was (is) the most popular Linux-based operating system. And one of my favorite things about Linux operating systems (distributions or ‘distros’) is you can download an ISO image of the distro, burn it to a CD, and boot your computer from the CD to try it out without affecting anything on your hard drive. There are hundreds of different Linux distros and you can try most of them out with a ‘Live CD’ and then install it if you wish.
Now about the ‘geek’ comment above; although a majority of Internet servers that make the Web possible run Linux, even four or five years ago Linux was not for your average desktop computer user. But at the dawn of 2010 that’s no longer true. There are many desktop distros that are as easy to use as Mac OS or Windows (I would say easier) And all the software is absolutely free.
To wrap up this chapter; in October 2008 my friend Michael, computer administrator extraordinaire, helped me build a computer on which I installed Ubuntu. And something happened that I didn’t think possible. I enjoyed Ubuntu as much as I did Mac OSX! In 2008 I also got to play around with Windows XP on a laptop for about a week. I liked it more than I imagined I would. But it sure ain’t free. And I just don’t like Microsoft and many of it’s practices.
Last spring I installed Linux Mint on this machine, which is based on Ubuntu but which I like even better. And did I mention the OS and all software for it is FREE?
So that’s the end of my rant for today.
Tune in next for I Love Linux: Part 2