Let Me Tell You About Linux

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Let me tell you about Linux.  No, not Linus, that little “Peanuts” nebbish with a blanket.  Linux! That’s a free operating system that you can install all by yourself.  “And why would I want to do that?”” you may ask.  Well, here’s how I came to Linux, back in the 80s when it was just getting introduced to the general public:

I was fed up with my new Windows computer.  My Dell machine was all right, but the system software, Windows Millenium Edition, just stank.  It was slooooooow, and its frequent crashes made me nuts.  My geeky sons suggested a remedy.  “Linux, Dad. It’s sorta like Unix, but with a much shallower learning curve.” That sounded doable, so I took the plunge.  I downloaded a free Mandrake distribution of Linux (now called Mandriva), and with it partitioned my hard drive so that I could run either Linux or that detestable Millenium OS (just in case the Linux experience didn’t work out so well.)  It did, though.  It was so fabulous that I decided to rid myself of Windows completely. I reinstalled Mandrake, this time giving myself a whole drive to play with.  For two years I remained solely a Linux man, foreswearing a return to what Mac users were calling “the Dark Side,” but feeling even superior to them. For I was a free rider, you see, a graying, iconoclastic cyber explorer! Who needed a motor cycle?

Had it not been for becoming a Linux man I might never have discovered the open source software movement.  Wow, so much wonderful,free stuff there is out there!  All my life I had pastored small congregations struggling to keep the lights on.  Voila: cyber tools within their reach! Why, the whole nation of Brazil, keen to economize and develop, had adopted Linux.  It just made sense.

Alas, I have not remained solely a Linux man.  Windows did improve, and most of the world still uses that OS, so if I was to be a cyber-shepherd I needed to stay with Windows.  But I still have Linux installed in a dual-boot arrangement on my laptop and desktop PC.  Here’s why:

  • Linux is way more secure.  Ever hear of a Linux virus?  They’re scarce, probably for two reasons:  The Linux core code is very secure, and if there’s a security breach thousands of eager geeks labor without pay to patch the hole. Why?  Well, mostly for the fun of it, I guess, or maybe a hacker’s fame.
  • Linux runs fast, even on slower machines.  Why?  Partly because the code is lean, and partly because Linux doesn’t require security software to run all the time in the background.  Less memory needed for background stuff means more is available for the apps you want to run.
  • Linux is easier to update.  Man, do I hate the way Windows updates!  Sometimes the downloads are huge, and they take such a long time to install.  Have you ever had to leave your office pronto for an appointment but can’t because your Windows computer without warning starts an update and sternly warns you not to turn your computer off?  Linux isn’t like that.  There are no background downloads, no surprises. Updates are infrequent, speedy, and they take their orders from you.
  • Linux is free, and so are the updates!
  • The Linux terminal is awesome!  That’s where you get to enter commands to your computer via code.  The basic routines aren’t hard to learn, and as you learn the language you’ll discover how quickly you can accomplish complicated tasks.  Don’t let “speaking geek” scare you.  This isn’t required.  You can work with Linux entirely by way of a graphical interface if you wish.  This brings me to my favorite Linux distribution:

Linux Mint may have the best graphical interface of all.   The team at Mint have worked hard to perfect the Desktop.  The organization of applications and settings in Mint is very simple and intuitive.  While other operating systems are revamping their layouts to work better on smart phones and other small screen devices, Mint Linux is conserving the very best features for working on a larger screen.  Mint is stable, fast, and very easy to install.  You don’t even have to partition your hard drive.  More about that in a later post.

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