viernes, 3 de septiembre de 2010

Confessions from a Relatively New Linux User

I was a Windows user once. Well, I still am to a certain degree: in my work, I sometimes have to use the XP platform that, with iron claws, resists the burial services that Microsoft has sung in its memory more than twice.

I began my Windows experience with Windows 3.11, jumped to 95 (I still keep the upgrade CD that rendered my computer useless), bought my copy of 98, and even learned to coexist with the rather recurrent BSODs of Windows ME. During those days, my brother received a bonus CD that included promotional software. I remember seeing the word "Linux" there for the first time but, although I felt tempted to try it, I never did. This way, Linux became a distant toll of an unknown bell in my head. To be honest, Windows "Mistake Edition" had grown so dear to me that I stubbornly refused to abandon it to try XP. Yet, my determination failed with the purchase of a new computer and XP became my system of choice. Back then, Microsoft would still let me "choose" my OS...or so I thought.

As a plain user, I spent more than eleven years of my life mastering life-saving secrets to protect my Windows system. The peak of my learning took place during the XP dynasty; my brother, who has always been two steps ahead of me, gave me fine weaponry that included a zombie monitor, an antivirus solution, a firewall, a malware monitor, multiple vaccines for USB drives, programs for regaining browser control and many other third-party software solutions that supposedly transformed my Windows system into the desktop equivalent of an M1 Abrams. Yet, regardless of all protection, my computer was still vulnerable. Mysterious viruses would easily filter through cracks invisible to the untrained eye and nest in the untouchable brain tissue of the OS. Therefore, shamanic rituals were required to keep my desktop usable...some more aggressive forms of therapy, like formatting, had to be repeated once every three months to keep malware from growing and spreading.

Then, Vista came along with its bothersome "Are you sure you want to to this?" and virtually the same problems XP had. I began suspecting that there should be more to life than that never-ending sense of vulnerability.

Thanks to a netbook, I had contact with the Penguin again. This netbook was powered by Linux Xandros, an OS that I decided I loathed despite being invulnerable to well-known threats, so I replaced it with the familiar XP. It was a deadly mistake: because of the modest metrics of the netbook, XP would take five minutes to boot, menus would freeze, and XP ate disk space avidly...not to mention that I had not even installed the office suite! With Xandros, the computer was fast as a bullet (30 sec to boot), had enough disk space to work, and even received voice command! Thus, I decided that, if I was to use Linux, I had to find a Linux that I liked.

I knew nothing about Linux then, so my impractical (yet fun) plan was to download distributions at random and to test them one by one. Thus, I got Kubuntu first. I liked the way it looked, but there was a terrible flaw: it did not activate the wi-fi.

Hence, I downloaded Mandriva 2009. If it failed, my next choice was Linux Mint Gloria...but Mandriva picked up the wi-fi without my intervention. For me, that settled the matter and I installed Mandriva to the netbook. With it, the machine worked almost perfectly, except for a nuisance: one had to turn off the computer manually. "If I could live with viruses all this time, I can certainly overlook that problem", I said to myself. Nevertheless, I did not have to deal with that issue for long. In November 2009, Mandriva 2010 ("Adelie") was released and this new version took care of the shut down problem.

I cannot say that my journey with Linux was a rosy road. I have discovered that Mandriva has several flaws (the way of handling uninstallation of dependencies is, by far, its Achilles' heel). However, my determination not to go back to the world of viruses has pushed me into learning about Linux. Today, I'm using Mandriva 2010.1 ("Farman") and I'm the happiest camper.

Although my brother was reluctant to try Linux at first, he discovered SimplyMepis and fell for it. And, despite his somewhat tardy start, he is still two steps ahead of me.

Some weeks ago, he asked me if I remembered that almost-forgotten bonus CD with Linux. He said that he ran it to see which Linux distribution it contained.

"So, which distro was it?", I asked.
"Mandrake", he replied.

When the disciple is ready, the master will come.

5 comentarios:

  1. You say that the way Mandriva handles its repositories is the Achilles Heal? So, you think that having main, universe, multiverse, restricted, and then a ton of 3rd party repositories is better? Debian, and by extension all of it's offspring, have about the most confusing set of repositories ever devised... Suse is close behind with the ton of repositories it possesses, but it's far from the cluttered mess Debian users face.

    RPMDrake is pretty simple and straightforward. I, personally, prefer Synaptic and it's all encompassing feature set and don't care for RPMDrake's simplicity, but RPMDrake is an effective tool.

    I'm running Mandriva 2010.1 Spring now. It's running smooth as silk. I can't say that, as a KDE user particularly, any other distro does as good of a job, despite the gloomy outlook for cash-strapped Mandriva.

  2. @ ruel24,

    No, RPMDrake is plainly brilliant for new users. I meant dependencies. You see, when you uninstall, say, Amarok, the list of packages that must be uninstalled with it include Firefox, Plasma, Gimp, etc. In short, all the system. I do not know if that is a Mandriva problem or a RPM one.

    I changed the post to avoid confusions.


  3. I shifted from Windows to Linux in early 2009. After a brief honeymoon with Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distros like Mint and Crunchbang, I settled for Mandriva 2009 and thence 2009 Spring. My time with Mandriva has been very pleasant. I plan to revive my broken desktop rig and install Mandriva 2010 Spring for a reunion with this lovely distro. Peppermint OS stays on my netbook. So I get the best of both worlds.

  4. @ Barista Uno,

    Same goes for me. Mandriva 2010 "Adelie" was wonderful. Spring has been even better.

  5. It seems that some people are better tuned for certain distros than others. Had you worn Harry Potter's Sorting Hat, I'm positive it would have shouted "MANDRIVA!!!" instantly! :P