bashshell. My SUSE 8.0 system is now very, very stable. I have not had so much as a system slowdown in many weeks, much less a crash. All of my applications are working smoothly, and I want to list the programs I have settled on for now, as they might provide a good list for others to try.

First, though, let me mention two really good books. First, Learning the BASH Shell, by Cameron Newham and Billl Rosenblatt, an O'Reillly book, is highly recommended. All of the "hard" things that one must learn in order to do interesting things with modern Linux distributions involve using the BASH shell. Now, please do not get me wrong. It is perfectly possible to use Mandrake, SUSE, or Red Hat without really doing much with the BASH shell. These modern distributions all have KDE apps ready-installed that will do just about everything the average user of Windows systems would want to do. But the real power and fun involves doing things that Linux does better than Windows, and that involves the command line, and the BASH shell is simply the standard shell these days: don't bother learning the other shells, but do learn the BASH Shell; and Learning the BASH Shell is an easy and excellent way to do that; take my word for it ;-))).

My need for the shell was triggered by my interest in programming in Python. In order to install the programming tools I want, I needed to learn all about environment variables, paths, and how to install from source and rpm's from the command line with options. The good news is, none of this is difficult to learn. The bad news is, you must learn it before you will succeed, and you must learn the details. Get the book, Learning the BASH Shell. It's short and it's easy to read. Then you can do what you want with the BASH shell.

Second, I recommend the book The Linux Cookbook, by Michael Stutz for No Starch Press. This book is a good how-to for a good variety of interesting things you might want to do with a Linux box. This one is not as much of a must-have, in my opinion, as Learning the BASH Shell; but I enjoyed it and found it worthwhile.

Now, on to my status quo list of useful applications and programs.

I have standardized on Mozilla as my web browser, newsgroup reader, and I also create these Linux Chronicle files using Mozilla's Composer. The only drawback is that there is no built-in spell checker. But Mozilla does a great job with web browsing and usenet reading. I know that Opera works great also, so it is worth considering. But whatever you do, do not use the older Netscape Navigator browser; it was responsible for much of my earlier instabilities and crashes, I believe.

Next, I use Open Office for word processing. It is the "free version" of Star Office. I use Kedit as my simple text editor. I use cron to schedule my daily automatic programming events; it works fine now. Most of my problems in getting cron working were caused by my not using the crontab -e option, which is necessary to get changes to crontab files to take effect.

I use rpm -i to install rpm files. The one caveat is that, one must read the installation instructions for most rpm files; it is often (less than 50% of the time perhaps, but often enough to cause great frustration if you don't do it) necessary to use options with the rpm command; in other words. rpm -i may not do the job for a given installation.

Installing from source is harder because of dependencies. But is not really that hard, and I have been successsful in installing from source many times. It is even much more important to read the installation instructions when installing from source, because there are caveats, procedure variations, and the need to use options. But many times a simple three step procedure of ./configure, make, and make install will work fine!

I use wine to run an old Windows 3.1 cardfile program. My advice is this: Wine works fine, don't be afraid to use it! However, I found wine very difficult to install manually. I only really got it to work when my new SUSE 8.0 installed it during installation. Now, It's great!

Finally, I use the latest Python version, which installed without incident. I have tried many different programming tools for making GUI's for Python. Mostly, my difficulties stem from my lack of understanding of GUI programming, which is much harder than Pyhon command line programming. But I have found the installation of wxPython to be very difficult. However, I have installed PyQT and the commercial BlackAdder IDE, which I am now attempting to learn.

Linux now simply works for me, and it works well. It does everything Windows could do for me, just as easily. The only exception is in the programming tools area, where I have found it more difficult to install tools on Linux than I did on Windows; but once installed, they work even better, because Linux is made for programmers. The key is to learn the BASH shell well, if you want to become a power user.

Happy Linuxing!

More to come....