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Friday, November 4, 2011

Some personal musing on Linux...

Have been using Computers since early 80's old fond memories of chunky, springy old BBC micro keyboards back at school as small kids... staring at the small burning phosphor orange or green screens... it was all 'awe' and 'awesomeness' .. LOGO and turtle :D :D fun times.

Till early 90's I did not even own a personal computer... by mid-late when I did get one it costed an arm and leg. Had no idea about "free software"... back in the days one friend had a fast PC with the Pentium Pro chip ... we got hold of a Slackware CD via a popular computer mag.. booted with it and borked the windows 95 boot loader... I had to literately had to take the slack ;) for that... It was good I knew how to re-install Windows.

We had no Internet and support to speak of... First there was shell/acc (which was too expensive) and the dial up modems. I recall few people had heard of Linux/GNU in our circles. I once subscriber to a national level mailing list... as my software modem (sm56) would not work under Linux...  I was overwhelmed by the huge 
volumes of emails in my inbox. Over 300 mails in 2 days.. It did not make any sense too.. (to be true mostly flame wars and ego trips). Had to unsubscribe in just four days.  

I was given the typical RTFM treatment, and asked to grind the soft modem type advise... being on dial-up and raking up huge phone bills... where I was paying by the seconds did not help.. need less to say I was put off .... 
After a few years I did try Mandrake Linux and that did work with my dial up. I had to actually mail the maintainer of sm56 kernel module maintenance. He was kind enough to write out step by step commands. I did a actual compile of a custom kernel and module.. all without  realizing the depth or importance  of it. All I remember is that it took like three hours and forever.....  on my PIII :P

For years I did not look at Linux as a full time indulgence... things moved on the tech sphere.. was lucky to have indirect access to high speed Internet access via VSAT and ISDN via few government and research facilities. Saw them using Unix and Linux full time, the bug was on :)

A Indian tech mag had a big role in my trying Linux properly. There was a lot of useful discussion and proactive help. I even ended up been one of the unofficial beta tester for the distro they rolled out in '04, '05 and '06. After this there was a on and off spell of Linux Distro hopping ... Had a good run with the Sarge DVD... Fedora Core series. By now had seen all sorts of holy wars and flame wars on every thing under the sun from to call it GNU or not, KDE vs Genome, rpm vs apt vs yum, Windows vs rest of the to Open source world, happening/not happening Desktop Linux.  I had ADSL by this time, bills were reasonable now. 

Linux became main stream, at least usable for semi techie people. Lots of info on the Internet in the form of How-to, guides, web sites, and even videos. Major changes in hardware and better compatibly made things easy. Like all things tech ... things are moving at a rapid pace...  In all this my major observation is that the end user should have access to decent Internet speed. If he/she is driven enough the support and proper info can be found to make Linux work. Today points such as games/office suits/XYZ software on Linux is often mute. It works and works well indeed.
Major changes in hardware and virtualization technology, better and easy desktop environment, great hardware support in the latest stable kernels also made it easy for non *nix users to try out Linux and use it.  Now you do not have to a OS guru to install Linux. Don't want to install it just give a Live CD a try... it almost a non issue.

Now we are seeing a new wave of support issues, many places still don't have xDSL/cable or fiber. Many  people are on slow connections like GPRS, dial up even today. Many have just begun to taste the fruits of 3G wireless Internet. From what I have seen is 3G can be great enabler and can even used at places that do not have land-lines/xdsl. In this way my friends in the western countries are way better off.
For them it is just a matter of minutes or less then an hour at the maximum to try a new release DVD. On the other end for many of us it is still no fun to wait and keep downloading a DVD of around 4GB after several days. 
For what I see it is not some magical feature or the next killer app that helps in major Linux adaption, but it is rather the available of cheap data plans and faster Internet connection. Better hardware support for wireless devices like 3G HSDPA USB modems, pain less support for "tethering" with mobile phones. The Internet is "THE" medium of all types of content delivery , be it the all elusive killer cloud app or Linux adoption for the masses.    

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