Pick a Free OS

A diary of a Linux bumpkin

Still, for a while, my interest in Linux languished. Unix, it turned out-at least the old-school console Unix I craved competence with-was hard. It reminded me of my first experiences mountain biking. I really, really liked the idea, but in practice it was a world of pain. Everything was unfamiliar and awkward. I'd concentrate so hard sometimes my hair would bleed! To no avail.

Rarely, in my early days of Linux interaction, could I ever get anything to work. It could be argued that the same holds true today. Yet, every 'no' gets me that much closer to a 'yes,' I hear myself saying, and so the struggles continue. Actually, I'm being a little melodramatic here. Maybe I just want you to think Linux is hard, to make my (very rudimentary) accomplishments seem the more impressive.

A crash course from Muster Learning Architects and diligent practice with John Muster's seminal Unix tutorial "Unix Made Easy" eased my plight somewhat. I subscribed to lots of Linux user newsgroups and make frequent references to the Linux Documentation Project.

Of all the Linux reference materials I found, perhaps the most helpful of all were the ones that came with my system. There they were, all along, the HOWTOs in the /usr/doc/ directory. What a shame it took me four months to discover them! And then another couple of days to learn how to read them without unstuffing them every time first! (zcat [file] | less).

As my Linux education progresses, I'm feeling less and less like I imagine my Mom felt trying to learn Windows 95. The first step for her was unlearning the typewriter. I had it slightly worse as I had to also unlearn Macintosh, Win 3.1 and Windows 95. That, plus I'm not as smart as she.

Luckily, I'm beginning to realize that Linux isn't really difficult; it's just a lot. It isn't easy, but it is really, really simple. I expect that once you know it, anything else would seem confusing and needlessly complex. Not to mention unstable.

It will be interesting to watch what happens in Linux land over the next ten years. Windows is certainly not going away any time soon. Perhaps the Mac, too, can survive. After all, newer technologies rarely replace older ones, unless like the 8-track tape they are fundamentally flawed in some huge way.