Practical Matters...

The Linux Chronicles, chapter two: Practical Matters...

Well, as a practical fact, I am getting by just fine using Linux exclusively at home. I want to document my initial impressions on how Linux stacks up.

KDE could almost fool a brain-dead Windows user into thinking that he was still using Windows. However, the visual fit and finish is still just a wee little bit less polished than the Microsoft operating system. Also, one is confronted with infinitely more choice.

First off, one must choose which browser to use. I primarily use Konqueror, which is as good as IE. I also use Netscape Navigator, because I use its mail and newsgroup tools just as I used Netscape tools under Windows. I like Opera well enough, and I know it gets rave reviews.

But, in the long run, I suspect I will switch to Mozilla. Mozilla, despite its indefinitely long development period, its history of poor reviews, and its lack of 1.0 status as I write, is a beauty. I like its fit and finish, its polish and also its sheer functionality. Could it be that the open source development model works after all?

As to plugins, well, I have had poor luck so far. I cannot get the Real Player 8 that came with my copy of Mandrake 8.1 to install; I get error messages.

And therein lies a tale. Installing new software from the web is both an adventure I was eagerly awaiting, and also an ordeal I was dreading. But the truth is, it isn't so bad at all, if you take the time to do it. However, if one is tired or lazy, or both, it can lead to procrastination, which is unfortunate.

I have downloaded packages and typed ./configure and then make at the command line, and it worked! I used gunzip to unzip files, tar to untar files, and also Mandrake's archive manager to unarchive files. It all works.

Most of the time. When it doesn't work, it can be mystifying. But typing man is not nearly as hard as it sounds ;-))). And typing less or more, and seeing text files spread out with ease and manipulated up and down with ease, is a joy.

In fact, anyone who used DOS will, in my opinion, pick up the command line relatively quickly. This was a pleasant surprise to me. The fact that the Bash shell command line is so much more powerful than DOS is certainly a plus, and I am happily using date, cal, ls, grep, find, w, whom, stty, crontab, etc. etc. etc. I am also using the tab key to complete lines.

Navigating the directory structure seemed odd for about two hours. Now, it makes infinitely more sense to use a real slash instead of a backslash, and other than that, navigating directories is so similar to DOS as to be trivial.

I like Star Office 5.2 well enough to replace Microsoft Office, although I look forward to the imminent release of Star Office 6.0 in order to get a simpler access to Star Word without pulling up the whole Star Office desktop. I thought I would solve that problem by using Open Office, but that was one of my installation failures.

Oh well, I just got lazy after the first Open Office installation failed.

But tomorrow is always another day in the open source world, and I look forward eagerly to further adventures ;-))))

Ron Stephens

Feb. 3, 2002

PS Yeah, who needs to watch the super bowl, when I have Linux ;-))))))