Migrating to GNU/Linux in the Good Old Days

I read an article from about the time I migrated to GNU/Linux. I used Caldera. The other guy used Suse. I had a tiny bit of trouble inputting sweep/synch frequencies for five different monitors; he had a dozen big problems which mostly stemmed from him wanting his PC to do things exactly the way it did things with that other OS.

It’s rather obvious that GNU/Linux is not that other OS but people seem to feel an OS that is not that other OS is somehow faulty. He wrote that it took him a year to get his system working as he wanted. It took me installation time. I think I installed five machines from scratch in two evenings. It was my first installation and the machines were ancient Pentium Pros. In 2000, they were slow, but I did not notice any of the problems the authour felt were important:

  • NO CRASHES – Amen. We both loved that. That’s what drove me to GNU/Linux and it was like entering the Garden of Eden. This feature alone justified the bit of adjustment required and returned blessing many-fold.
  • graphics – mine worked immediately with two lines changed in X11F86.conf (or something like that). His was faulty on a newer motherboard.
  • fonts – that other OS was using 800×600. GNU/Linux could do 1024×768 if I recall. He thought the fonts were “ugly”. I have no idea what he meant. Mine were fine.
  • Netscape e-mail files – Huh? I used a browser (Netscape and Opera?) to access e-mail. It was great.
  • StarOffice 5.2 – that’s what I used and it was smooth. He thought it was slow. His machine was about 5 years younger than mine, so this makes no sense. GNU/Linux was much faster than that other OS.
  • Calendaring and ToDo – I was a teacher and used chalk and pen marks in my Day Book. No problem for me. It was required by my boss. He wanted something else.
  • Instant messaging – Huh? We didn’t even have instant Internet (dial-up).

Well, there it is. I was able to do my job and my students were as well with a couple of minor tweaks and others found it totally unsatisfactory. Today, GNU/Linux is so much smoother and featureful than the good old days. I am sure people still find it wonderful and refreshing. Installation is much faster these days as hardware has improved so much. A few still seem to find fault but it’s the same as expecting every pretty person to be a carbon copy of your first love. It isn’t going to happen. Instead you find new and interesting things about computers and computing.

My wife has recently migrated to GNU/Linux and she is occasionally puzzled but, unlike that other OS, where she was helpless, she can solve problems on her own if I ignore her cries for help… 😉 Her problems today? How to save a file in a particular folder… something she has been doing poorly for twenty years. Also, she needed to dump her camera so she could take some more pictures. She could not find her USB cable to I SCPed them over from my machine. GNU/Linux is a tool for solving problems and it works.

In all the years since I first tried GNU/Linux I have introduced thousands and only had a tiny number of users who had any difficulty at all. It’s a GUI, for Pity’s sake! See something. Click on it. It works. Certainly no one needed a year to be comfortable with it. My (computer-)poor wife was able to do all the usual things in a day or so. If there’s an icon for it, she is OK.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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One Response to Migrating to GNU/Linux in the Good Old Days

  1. Richard Chapman says:

    I remember my first update. After it was finished I was staring blankly at the monitor. Nothing was happening. I was waiting to be told to reboot. It slowly dawned on me that no reboot was needed. Now that’s cool!

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