Mother May I...

Linux Chronicles, chapter 3; Mother May I...

I suppose that my largest obstacle over the first three weeks of Linux use has been permissions. I'm not saying it's that big an obstacle, but more often then not, a missing permission adds just the tad more confusion that causes me to stub my toe. I suspect many brain dead newbies to Linux may have similar experiences.

The bright side is that it is so very easy to handle the whole permission and ownership issue. The command line tools such as chmod and chown aren't so bad, and on top of that KDE makes it really easy to change permissions and ownership of files with just a few clicks of the mouse, using the Konqueror file browser. We need to talk this up and let the world know that the heightened security inherent in the Unix way does not need to be an undue burden.

Of course it is a small burden, a little extra overhead. But it makes me take my software tools just a little more seriously; and that's a good feeling. Instead of slopping all over the place, I have to think just a little. I like it.

I read that Lindows will require folks to run as root, since that's the only way they can make the wine-based Windows compatibility work. I can understand their problem, and on top of that running as root will make it easier for their target audience to switch from Windows.

Essentially, running Lindows as root may not be that much more worrisome that running Windows anyway. And I have no bone to pick with the Lindows folks for their decisions.

I looked at some new Apple imacs and also some ibooks at the computer store yesterday, all running Mac OS/X. I must say the imacs were stunning looking machines, much better than I expected. The flat panel monitor and holding structure were much more sturdy than I imagined; nothing like a lamp at all except functionally. I like them.

Variety is the spice of life. I like Lindows for some, Mac OS/X for some (in fact Mac OS/X looks great).

But as for me, give me Linux, an all open-source operating system. Its mine to use, freely, forever. Just like with my natural mother, I do not have to give her back in two years, or when I get a new house. I did not pay her to be my mother. My mother is an unconditional sort of thing, and no one can take her away from me, in a spiritual sense anyway.

And one more thing; my mother gave me my genes at birth, and I cherish them. I want my genes and every living thing's genes to remain forever free, and open source. The idea of patenting human genetic codes is immoral, not to mention retrogressive in the since that it would ultimately stymie innovation.

Getting back to the point, just as I didn't always like having to ask my mom for permission to cross the street to play with the neighbors in the park, I may find it irritating at times to need to play by the rules set up to help create a more secure and stable computing environment.

But the penalties for taking short cuts, for having the hubris to think we're above all that, is ultimately way too high to pay.

When we let loose the "me" generation (that's me folks, baby boomer ron) and told 'em anything goes, greed is good, and do your own thing, well, we got Enron, and I'm betting a hundred more business explosions like Enron.

I consider it a sure bet.

Ron Stephens

February 4, 2002