Pick a Free OS

From behind the bifocals: An alternate view of Linux

First of all, to briefly identify myself to my audience, I will be 59 years of age very soon. I was first introduced to computers in 1985 while employed by IBM Corporation. I still have a fondness for DOS and I never cared too much for Windows from its beginning. I discovered Linux about the same time the beta release of Windows 95 (Chicago) came out. I couldn't do anything with Linux then, but my dislike of what Microsoft had to offer kept me coming back for another look. Finally, I think, around 1998 I successfully got a distribution of Slackware up and running on a 386 SX25. Oh yes, one last thing, I am neither a programmer nor an expert.

Since that first successful installation, Linux has been my sole operating system up until just before Christmas of this past year (2004). I mainly stayed with Slackware, but I have also tried several of the other popular distributions. My main reason for writing this article is to simply offer another view of Linux from the eyes of someone who is fairly computer literate, but definitely not in the category of being a programmer or expert, and I'm not young anymore.

The current opinions, statements, and raves about Linux being stable are true. Linux is rock-solid stable, period! However, the claims about ease of installation, ease of use, etc. for new users are totally wrong and, in my opinion, not only border on false advertising, are false advertising. Linux is not friendly to new users, never has been, and has a heck of a long way to go to even become reasonably sociable to those with little or no computer background. If one of the GUI (graphical user interface) programs fails, the new user is basically stranded.

Like anything else, after getting used to it, running and maintaining the Linux operating system is fairly easy and straight forward. However, upgrading or adding a new software package can become another story altogether. It has been my experience that normally the software packages included on a CD distribution will, for the most part, work fine with that distribution. It's when you decide to start upgrading some of the packages that the problems begin. The hassle of hunting for software, finding the correct library files to go with the software, and tracking down all the other dependencies that should be included in a software package will very quickly take the glamour away from being a Linux user.