Saturday, 7 June 2008

Hardy Linux

Over the last couple of weeks I've had my fare share of Linux trouble. In general, I have spent quite a lot of my precious leisure time trying to get into the thick of things with Linux. And while I know it's rather odd to say so, I can say that having gone through the motions of problem solving I'm finally beginning to be a confident Linux user.

First it was the Asus Eee PC's turn to give me some trouble. Error messages started appearing and icons started disappearing. It didn't take much research to find the source of the trouble: software updates from Asus were causing more trouble than their worth.
So is that it? Am I now saying that the Eee PC is just as crap as Windows? Not on your life!
The solution to my problems was to clean the slate. On the Eee PC, such a thing is easy as: all you need to do is reboot while pressing F9, and the system updates itself to the way it was when you first turned it on. No hours and hours of Windows reinstallations while heavily crossing your fingers!
Then I did some software updates that I just had to do, for security reasons, but then I did the proper updates I should have done all along. I've installed Picasa, VLC, and more; and I've updated the user interface on my own, while getting my hands dirty in "old style" editing of text files. The result is that I now have an Eee PC that can rule the world, with everything backed up and all the setup procedures understood and well digested in my head.

On the Ubuntu front, I have upgraded to Hardy Heron (formerly known as Horny Hamster), the latest Ubuntu release. Again, it's all very simple, the exact opposite of the Windows affair: you just download the upgrade files, let the computer play with itself for a bit, and that's it - you're upgraded. Nothing gets trampled on the way; even your Firefox cookies remain exactly the way they were before the upgrade.
Still, it didn't go that smoothly. I left the computer to download the upgrade overnight so that the download would consume from my night time download quota. In the morning I saw this nice error message telling me the upgrade was aborted because a certain file was not found.
Naturally, I was thinking to myself: "Oh shit". By now I have all sorts of applications installed, enough to prevent me from reinstalling Ubuntu from scratch just for the sake of being on Hardy when Gutsy (the previous version) was not bad at all to begin with.
Yet I tried again the next night (having waited for the night again due to download quotas under the assumption that the system would download all the files yet again). Instead I saw the system downloading the one 2kb file it missed out on yesterday in less than a second, and a few minutes afterwards the upgrade was all over. Easy peasy!
I'm still trying to figure out what the benefis of Hardy are. There are small icon changes and lots of minor stuff; so far, the biggest change I could detect was the upgrade to Firefox 3, which improves an already excellent web browser mainly in the handling of favorites.

To conclude, I have two conclusions from this messing about:
The first is obvious: Unlike Windows, in Linux things just work; the exception is when you actively mess things up. And when things work, they work well.
The second is very comforting: With Linux, you never walk alone. You know the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" that Liverpool FC supporters sing? The same song applies to all Linux users. Between the Eee PC forums and the Ubuntu Forums, there's no problem left unanswered; and if you do manage to be original and find yourself a new problem, it would get an answer there within a couple of hours. Linux users take care of one another.
Which brings me back to the statement I have made at the beginning about having confidence as a Linux user. You see, I'm still very much a green ignorant Linux user; but with the available support and the ease with which it's acquired, you don't need much more than that.
It really is nice to see a community of independent people, totally unmotivated by money, that works so well in cooperation and harmony. Anarchy works!

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