Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why Linux?

I'm well known among my friends as a power geek.  So they know I rant and rave about my new toys, no matter how geeky they may be (and they usually are!).   Lately I've been telling them about my new Linux computers.  And I invariably get the question, "but why?  What can you do with Linux?"

Well, first of all, you can do about anything with Linux that you'd do with Windows or a Mac--surf the web, check your e-mail, play games, and so on.  As a matter of fact, about the only thing you CAN'T do (at least not at the moment) is stream Netflix (what's up with that, Netflix?  Get with it!!).  There's just not a Linux version of their software.

So much for the what I can do--what about the "why?"  Putting aside the obvious "because I can" answer (which is valid!), there are several reasons to get into Linux.  First of all, you have to love the price--free.  I remember when I first heard of Linux and someone handed me a free CD back at Windows World in Chicago.  I thought I had heard wrong... a free OS?  Really?  But it is.  Of course, if you'd like to donate your time or money to the project, it would be greatly appreciated.

Secondly, it's stable and secure.  Frequent updates address security issues in short order.  I have yet to have it lock up on me, or random reboot.  Gotta like that.

Thirdly (and remember the power geek thing at the start), it's just FUN learning something new.  Better or not, it's different and I enjoy expanding my knowledge base. Some things are just as easy as Windows, some are not.  Some things are more powerful than Windows, some are not.  (Not to short the Apple fans out there--I have a Macbook, too.  It's just that I am more familiar with Windows, and so is most of the computing world)

So if you're looking for some grand, expansive reason for switching, I don't have it.   But I DO have a lot of fun, and you can too.

Penguin power to the people....

Friday, February 10, 2012

So what IS Linux?

Linux.  You've obviously heard of it (after all, you got here, didn't you?), but what is it, really?

First, a bit about how computers work.  There are two parts to a computer--the hardware and the software.  The hardware is the "pieces"--the monitor, the keyboard, the hard drives, the CPU, and so on.  The software is the set of instructions (or programs) that make the computer work.  Some programs, like Microsoft Office, or Firefox, or iTunes, are considered applications.  They're the part most of us think of as programs.  They are the software that lets us get stuff done.

Underneath the applications are the computer instructions that tell the computer how to work--how to access the disc drives.  How to put a window on the screen.  How to connect to the internet.  How to keep all the pieces working together, playing nice, and getting along.  These instructions are the operating system or OS.  Microsoft Windows (in all its flavors--Windows 7, XP, Vista, etc) and Mac OSX are two examples.  Linux is another.

Linux is based on a decades-old, tried-and-true operating system called Unix that goes back to the early days of computing.  It began as an operating system for big computers (we're talking room-sized here), but it's power and stability was attractive to users of small computers as well.  So, in 1983 a group of programmers created a "Unix-compatible" OS called Linux.

Linux runs on many different types of hardware, including personal computers, phones, network hardware (such as cable routers), and more.  The version we'll focus on in this blog is the personal computer version. 

Most computers today come with the OS pre-installed.  Unless of course, you build one yourself, or buy a bare-bones system without an OS.  So, if you have an OS already, why change to Linux?  The answer to that question is a blog post in itself--there are several reasons,  including a desire for better stability and security, better performance on less-powerful hardware,  or even just a desire to learn something new or try something different.

Whatever the reason for your interest in Linux, I think you're going to enjoy it.  The OS has come a long way in its history, and it is getting better all the time. 

Welcome to Linux for Mortals!

So you're not an ubergeek.  Welcome to Linux for the real world, for non-geeks, for us humans.... Linux is a great operating system (don't worry if you don't even really know what that is--we'll cover that) that's free, stable, and secure.  It's flexible.  It runs (well!) on hardware that Windows wouldn't give the time of day.

There is a lot of information out there on Linux, but most of it would glaze your eyes over the moment you look at it... shells, root privileges, sudo, bash.... even etc means something new and different! Have a look around--you'll find articles here that even mere mortals will understand and enjoy. 

Have questions about Linux?  Drop me a line.  I can't promise I'll have the answer (hey, I'm a mere mortal, too), but I'll do my best to find out.