To those who know me his will seem like a bit of a shock, but I have recently begun trying out the various distros of Linux. Well not all of them, there’s more Linux distros than you can shake a stick at. Just check out the list of them by doing a Google search for Linux distros and your head will start spinning. It’s daunting enough trying to figure out how to download and install even one iteration let alone trying to mine your way through every Linux distro known to man. No, I’m referring to the more popular distros used by ordinary computer freaks, with cool names like Ubuntu, Kubuntu, LinuxMint, openSUSE.
I know what you’re thinking.
Ok, no I don’t.
But I’m wondering myself how a guy that is a self-proclaimed Apple fan, owns an iMac, MacBook Air, iPhone, iMac work computer, Apple TV, why is this person dipping his feet into the Linux waters? Doesn’t he know that’s for programmers, geeks and guys with too much time on their hands? Not to mention all the hours learning terminal codes and tricking out the system so that it can even come close to matching what he has going on in his Mac environment. Seems like a fools errand, and a time-waster.
You have to understand that I’ve been a Mac-head dating back to 1988 when the recording studio I had with my partner was built around an old Macintosh, the one with two floppy drives (oh, floppies, I can’t say I miss you), one for the system files and one to save my files to. We were able to create all sorts sorts of great music (including some old Karaoke tapes for Mr. Entertainment) using that old system and a 16 track reel to reel.
Since then I’ve been hooked on Apple equipment, and have stuck with Apple even through the lean years before Steve Jobs returned in the late 90s to take the company back to it’s former glory and beyond. I was one of the ones that was aghast when Bill Gates appeared on a big screen to talk to Steve Jobs about Apple/Microsoft collaboration. Although I understood the move on a strategic level, I couldn’t help but be overcome with fear and disgust.
But while Apple was trying to recover from years of mismanagement there were some times when I struggled, making do with a Compaq computer and cursing Windows the whole time, pining all the while for my beloved Mac OS. And I had a brief moment of infatuation with Google’s first Android phone, the Nexus, which I enjoyed very much despite it’s propensity for freezing, crashing, and generally being buggy because I was waiting for Apple to get the wrinkles ironed out of their iPhone before jumping on that bandwagon with my first iPhone 4.
Suffice to say I’m died in the wool. Apple tattooed on my butt (figuratively, I assure you). Linux didn’t even make it on the radar for me, other than I vaguely understood that it was where all the cool development was going on and that most of the servers used Linux. I also somehow knew that my beloved Apple was basing their new OS (new in the late 90s that is) on a version of Unix which was brought over by Steve Jobs from his NeXT Computer project as part of the deal when he returned to Apple. So although Linux wasn’t really in my awareness at the time, I knew enough about it to know what I was dealing with upon my first Linux adventure.
Now allow me to backtrack to a time when I was faced with the necessity of requiring access to some files that were very key to something I was working on. The only problem was these files were on a hard drive that was originally connected to a Linux server. Yikes! That’s some pretty geeky stuff and probably not anything that I would be able to work out without taking a programming course. So instead I decided to try and find a Linux expert that could help me retrieve the files, which to me seemed it couldn’t be that difficult. I was wrong. I didn’t know enough about the system being used so when these guys asked me all the pertinent questions, I came up blank.
I proceeded to do the research. I knew that my MacBook at the time was loaded with Boot Camp which made it possible to boot a copy of Windows on the same computer as my Mac and still be able to keep my Mac OSX installed. Maybe there was a way to install Linux too? My first foray into the research proved successful. There were already geeks out there who had triple boots on their computers! Mac/Windows/Linux all running on their Mac!
And there started my obsession with Linux, and although it was a relatively short-lived relationship, I found that the platform fascinated me, despite the learning curve. I was able to find everything I needed to know on-line about how to partition the drives, install with the correct format, how to get my hardware to work with Linux. What initially seemed like a daunting task was actually a daunting task! I did learn a lot though, including what you use a terminal for, how to use Windows apps inside Linux (an app called Wine handles that) and best of all, achieved my final goal of accessing those long-lost files on the Linux hard drive!
One of the things I took away from that experience was that the free computer ecosystem is very well developed. There are a myriad of free applications that can take the place of highly priced software being sold on Windows and Mac platforms. Not that I begrudge these companies making their money, but there are many people out there that don’t have the means to invest that kind of money into an entire system like that. Whether they are using the computer to simply send and receive emails or if they are planning a big recording project, starting to get interested in digital photography, learning graphic design, or any of the myriad things you can do with a computer, much of the software is simply too expensive for many people to get a start.
That isn’t the case with Linux. For every graphic design or digital recording application that is available on Mac or Windows, there is a free alternative on Linux that will give someone a chance to get their projects started at minimal expense. And this is the impetus for my recent renewed interest in Linux; I want to write about how to use Linux for just those people that don’t have the means to use the other systems. I want to show people what can be done, the amazing work that can be accomplished.
So here I am, trying them out again, obsessing about Linux again until the wee hours of the morning, geeking out on this wonderful system. Truthfully, there’s nothing here that I can’t do on my Mac, and many things that only my Mac can do.
There’s also no small number of aggravations. I have to turn my Apple Wireless Keyboard on and off every time I reboot; for that matter I need to use a wired keyboard just to boot into the system I want to use when I fire up the computer. And forget it with my Apple Bluetooth Mouse; the same thing applies to powering it off and on when I boot back into the system, but even worse, it doesn’t scroll inside the Linux system.
Some of these systems are also extremely buggy, freezing up quite frequently, often times just performing the simplest of tasks. Fortunately there’s plenty of stable distros that will perform day in and day out with very few issues, other than user error of course. They are all extremely customizable, sometimes way too much so! I find myself wasting copious amounts of time trying out different themes, wallpapers, moving my docks around, installing docks, tweaks. It can really suck up a lot of time. But you finally sit down to do some work, it is extremely functional and pleasing to work on this platform.
So that kind of gives you an idea what I’ve been up to with this. In another blog post I’ll be sharing with you the one that I think is the absolute best Linux distro. See you then!