Hello to Everyone from The Linux Advocate
Hello. My name is Justin Flood. Im a professional graphic designer, and a begrudging Windows power user. Personally, I hate Windows. I hate that it crashes constantly, I hate that it monopolizes the software industry, I hate the fact that Windows Vista is going to require a ridiculous system just to run in full mode, and I ESPECIALLY hate that Vista Ultimate is rumored to cost in the $500 range. All of these facts have conspired together for me to become an advocate for the Open Source Community. My mission with this blog is to review and offer my opinion on new Linux Open Source projects and news. I will NOT hold back with my opinion. I am 100 percent NOT a linux apologist, and if there is something that I don't like, you will hear it. Personally, I think there are a LOT of ways that Linux can be improved right now, and I plan on posting a series of editorials on the subject.
I suppose I should tell a bit about my history as a computer user. My first pc was an IBM XT with an 8086 processor, 640K of RAM, and a 15 MEGABYTE hard drive, running DOS 3. Yeah. So I've been stuck using Microsoft software for a LONG time. I was a DOS power-user, reconfiguring my autoexec.bat and config.sys on a daily basis to run whatever game I wanted to play.
In 1995 I switched over to Windows when Windows 95 was released, and I wasn't 100% happy. Sure it was pretty to look at, but now most of my DOS games didn't work anymore, sure you could go exit to a dos prompt, but that was usually more trouble than it was worth. Not to mention it seemed to crash a lot. Eventually I moved to Windows 98, which seemed to be more stable than 95, and by that time, most of my software use had made the transition to Windows. This wasnt too bad at all, however, unfortunately I made the mistake of upgrading to Windows ME. This was an ATROCIOUS operating system. It crashed MULTIPLE times per day, slowed down to a crawl within a month or two of a clean install, and ate up RAM like a fat guy at a buffet ( and I'm a fat guy who likes a buffet, so i know EXACTLY how that is ). It was awful.
It was around this time that I had my first experience with Linux. My father brought home a magazine with a copy of Debian Linux on it. We both thought that the idea of a community built OS was really cool, so we decided to wipe ME off of one of our PCs and give it a try. Now keep in mind that my father worked for a computer hardware firm, and built and tested computers on a daily basis, and I was both a DOS and Windows power user. So we pop in the CD-Rom and attempted the install. The automated install program ( not sure what it was now ) formatted the hard drive, and installed Debian. Unfortunately it only installed the command line, and despite 15 HOURS of work from both of us, neither of us were able to get X to start so we could get a GUI. This was a huge dissapointment for the both of us, and we grudgingly returned to the hell that was Windows ME.
Approximately a year or so later, Microsoft released Windows XP Professional. This was EASILY the best OS to ever come out of the Gates camp. It was MUCH more stable, pretty to look at, and most importantly it seemed to run faster than ME did on the same machine. I was quite happily living in a Windows world until a new word entered my vocabulary. Spyware.
Yep. Spyware. The virus writers of the past had gotten smart and decided to market their skills to advertising companies. This was the ultimate downfall to Windows XP. People had to be careful downloading any program, going to any web page, for fear that Internet Explorer would let in some kind of pop-up creating, computer-slowing, toolbar-creating piece of trashware. At the worst point in the first barrage of the really bad spyware, my internet explorer had 15 toolbars attached to it, my search page was some spyware thing, and my computer ran like crap. It was at that time that I formed my friendship with Ad-Aware and Spybot. But even though those programs fought the good fight, I ended up having to format my hard drive, and start clean.
That was the year that I rekindled my interest in Open Source. My gateway to the community was my download of both Open Office and Firefox. Open Office because my computer had been bundled with Microsoft Office, but I was never given a disk for it so obviously when I formatted, it was gone, and Firefox because it was immune to spyware and viruses. I never looked back. These were two of the greatest pieces of software I had run in a long time, both as good, and in some ways better than thier commercial counterparts. It was then that i started to research again into Linux. I downloaded and burned god knows how many different distros to try them out. Fedora, Knoppix, SUSE, hell I even BOUGHT a copy of Linspire. But none of these really scratched my itch for whatever reason. I always had some sort of niggle that annoyed me about the distro, whether a file format didn't work, or software installation was annoying, or it didn't correctly configure my hardware. There always seemed to be something wrong. Until I found the distro that DID scratch my Linux itch.
Ubuntu. I had downloaded a copy of Hoary, and for the first time everything just worked the way I wanted it to. Sure I had to install my multimedia codecs, but at least there was a COMMUNITY at the ubuntuforums to help me out with anything I needed to do. I found FAQs and walkthroughs and I was able to get everything working that I wanted to have work. This was the first time I was using Linux and I wasnt missing Windows for one reason or another. I could do all my web-browsing, e-mail, typing, and even some of my graphics work all in Linux.
Since my introduction to Ubuntu, I've really been interested in keeping up with developments in the community. Checking Digg, Slashdot, OSnews and DistroWatch on a daily basis, and trying new LiveCD distros. I've read hundreds of articles about how this year is "the year of the Linux desktop" and I'm going to go against the group and tell you that it's not. While I'm not anywhere NEAR a Linux power user, I am more techically proficient than the average person. So while I personally had no problems getting Ubuntu up and running, I'm sure there are more than a few people who would.
That's why after almost a year of Linux living on my desktop pc, (Windows is unfortunately still on my laptop because I need it for work) I've decided to get up on my soapbox and tell the community what needs to be done to REALLY achieve the year of the Linux desktop. I know most of you dont want to pay the $500 for Windows Vista Ultimate, if and when it ever comes out, and I'm sure a lot of other people don't want to either. This is Linux's chance to steal the thunder from Microsoft and make a serious dent in marketshare. Most of the Linux pundits that will read this blog will not be happy with what I have to say, but most of what I say HAS to be done to make Linux accessible to the general public. And we wont get taken seriously by hardware and software makers until Linux is accepted at least to some level by the general public.
So I'd like you all to come back and keep up with what I have to say. Hopefully I'll be able to make a difference.
By the way, you will notice I haven't mentioned Apple in this article. Linux competing with Apple just isnt worth the effort. Mac fans are Mac fans. Most of them will be deathly loyal to Apple no matter what, so I will focus only on what it will take to bring Linux into the general knowledge of the average Windows user.