Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A few notes on Linux

I've been doing Linux since late 1994 when I defected from FreeBSD. I tried RedHat, Debian, and Slackware. I settled into (not the same as settling for) Debian, and didn't really use any other distro until 2000 or so. I played with Gentoo and a host of others. I learned a great many things - expanded my horizons as they say. RedHat, no offense to their great work, never really did much for me. SuSE, on the other hand, seemed to really fit the bill and I've been using SuSE more or less exclusively since 9.1 or so. Like everybody, they've made some missteps but their openSUSE project, now at 10.3, shaped up very nicely. If you want to be really impressed, go look at their Build Service.

Some people get really passionate about their distros - I have certainly been one of them. These days, if you squint your eyes a bit, most of them do most of the same things mostly the same way. Most of the time. This, I think, is a great validation of the system. Proof, if you will, that mere hobbyists can do really great things. Somebody had an itch and it got scratched. Maybe all they could do was file a bug saying "I wish this thing worked better." and somebody else fixed it. Maybe they work on the kernel, or some bit of software, or whatever. The whole idea is that a jillion people doing one small thing really adds up.

I should say that "Hobbyists" is not intended to disparage the really outstanding work that many, many commercial entities have put into Linux, both front-stage and behind the curtain. Too many people conflate the perceived ideologies of Freedom-loving Folk with anti-commercial sentiments. I have nothing against commercial involvement in Linux or even *gasp* paying for boxed copies of Linux (or games or books or ...). True, I downloaded the isos like everybody else, and I'll probably never use those manuals that came with it, but I've put my money where I thought it would do some good.

The point is not to say "my OS is better than your OS" - not at all. That's like saying that my choice of iced cream is more valid than yours. However, Linux is more than a philosophical choice, it's also a practical one - I can get more done in less time with less "in my way" with the Linux distro of my choice than I could with anything else, and that results in less frustration (a happier Jon), more work done (yay!). Hopefully along the way I can do my bit, too.

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