<CT> Re: Linux

  • From: "Martin B. Brilliant" <mbrilliant@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: calmira_tips@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 19 May 2001 07:52:49 -0400

On Fri, 18 May 2001 15:41:34 -0500 (EST), calmira_tips Digest V2 #100 
had a lot of arguments about Linux, and whether it could replace MS 
Windows, MS-DOS, or anything else.

Linux is on its way to desktop dominance. It's more stable than 
anything Microsoft has ever released, and once you've got it 
installed and learned how it works it's just as easy to use. But it 
has to grow in some ways and shrink in others. Based on my own 
frustrated experience, I see a few reasons why it isn't replacing MS 
Windows yet.

First is its configurability - less is more. There's usually a 
tradeoff between flexibility and ease of use: the more a system can 
do, the more you have to learn about it before you can use it. But 
systems can be designed so that most of their power and flexibility 
is hidden until you need it. The UNIX/Linux shells are like that: you 
can use them like COMMAND.COM until you are ready to do more. The 
window managers are not: bring up a menu and you get a list of 
choices that don't mean anything to a beginner.

Second is hardware compatibility. Linux software system is free or 
cheap, but cheap hardware won't support it. Cheap hardware these days 
is MS-Windows-only Plug-and-Play. Linux-compatible hardware costs 
more and is harder to find. A total Linux system costs a lot more (in 
time and money) than a prepackaged computer with MS-Windows already 

Third is software. I concede that Linux has more application software 
now than it did just a few years ago. But there is a lot of software 
available for MS-Windows that isn't available for Linux. Just as one 
example: here in New Jersey, the state provides free state income tax 
software, but only for MS-Windows.

Brian says "I don't think there's anything in the world wrong with 
having to think about your computer and understand what's going on  
with it and why. Knowledge is good, embrace it." I agree with the 
second part, but not the first part. Thinking is OK, but having to 
think for days or weeks before you can use your system is not OK. MS-
Windows may be harder to keep running, but it's much easier to get 
running to begin with.

I don't know what this has to do with Calmira, except that this is 
now (as I understand it) a general Win3.x list, and we're asking 
where do we go from here when MS drops support for Win3.x. Maybe this 
means that the Calmira team might want to work on developing a basic 
Linux distribution that a novice can install in an MS-Windows-
compatible Plug-and-Play box without having to go anywhere else for 
hardware or software fixes. That shouldn't be too hard :-)  

Martin B. Brilliant at home in Holmdel, NJ
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