Thursday, August 21, 2008

My first month with Linux


I have spent half my life working on computers, and for as long as I can remember, I've heard people intone their revulsion for Windows because it is a closed platform while heaping platitudes on Linux and lauding its purported "openness". My initial experience with Linux hasn't been very positive. People around me are certified Linux fanbois, yet they shudder to think of tinkering with their current machine configurations. It's not uncommon for folks to spend a solid Man-Week configuring and tweaking their Linux installations so that their peripherals work as expected, and that their development environment allows them to actually build code. As for me, I can't remember the last time I spent two whole days trying to "unsuccessfully" install the same application on Windows. What is even more telling is that the application in question is the widely used system benchmarking tool - sysbench.

You must wonder if the fault lies in me, and you wouldn't be wrong to assume that. I don't think too highly of my Linux skills either. If you did know me at all though, you would realize that I hate being stuck, and I am the first one to ask for help when I am stuck. Ask for help I did - every Linux geek on my floor hasn't been able to succeed at installing this application, and I've trawled the Internet for information on how I can make forward progress. Nothing!

Being of level temperament, I didn't want to dismiss the folks that leveled so much hate at Microsoft for the choices it made and how it embraced standards, et al. My first impression from being outside the confines of the "Walled Garden" is that the Open Seas aren't all that people make them out to be. The seas are governed by byzantine rules, and the navigational tools aren't quite there yet. Everything needs to be hand configured, and some things plain don't work - I can't use the back/forward keys on my mouse, my video driver can't be configured to display images at the maximum resolution supported by my monitor, and those are but two of my problems. I'm already getting sick of hearing, "Hey, why don't you look at that file in /etc/ or /var/log or /proc/foo/ to get your information". Don't believe what you read in the news - Linux distributions have a ways to go before they can meet the requirements of the Average Joe.

As the title says, this is my first month, and I've not let the frustration get to me yet. It's as if every cryptic error message I get from the system strengthens my resolve to tame the wild stallion. As I get a firmer grip on the reins, I hope to become a more productive software developer on Linux. By chronicling my experiences, I hope that others like me that come into Linux's fold will be aided by the bread crumbs I drop along the way. Finally, a positive thought that will help me make peace with the status quo; it's time I rode this A-ha moment into La-la land...

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