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The Thaddeus Gazette

Linux For Savages

6/2/10
Greetings, my loyal readers. I text to you this day from the desktop of my brand used Mac Mini Core 2 Duo, picked up from a friend of a friend cheaper than I'd expect (which is to say, cheap enough to actually afford) and just loaded with win. Compact, quiet and quick, it is, quiet, quick and compact. But that's not all, oh no precious. I'm running Linux.

Impressed? Don't be. All I did was push the little buttons. When I actually do some productive work with it, then you can be impressed. In the meantime, I'm just learning to use Control instead of Command (the Apple key), nowhere near as trivial as it seems given that I've used Command since about 1990.

Exactly why I'm running Linux, now, that's a longer story. Let's pull up the fire, put our feet out and chat a spell, shall we?

See, here's the deal: I really ain't much of a geek. I talk a good game, sure, but when it comes to the clinch, when the rubber meets the road, when the boots softly kiss the virgin soil and the bell tolls and the bus leaves and the bird flies and the inevitable finds its appointed hour, I prefer getting things done to playing with silicon bunkum. It's a failing, I admit, but I just want to make shit happen. If my computer was a car, it'd be a Dodge Dart, not a Shelby Cobra or a BMW or a vintage project car up on blocks back of the clothesline. Come to think of it, my car was a Dodge Dart once or twice.

I've been a junkyard Mac guy for a long time, principally for this exact reason. I'm perfectly content with last year's software and hardware, I can find my way through the morass of OS installation in my sleep, I can invoke features without the slightly queasy feeling I get from dealing with a real computer that could bite me or die at any moment, and I can get through any number of busy working days without once having to reach for a help file or an online tech note. Macs have ultra-efficient trainer wheels that prevent me from toppling off their happy velocipede, and I couldn't be more content to be coddled and babied and dumbed down to.

After all, I'm well aware of what real computing is like — back in school, I went thirty rounds with an IBM 1130 and walked away battered, grinning, covered with punch-card chads and triumphant. I can fix my own car, too, but like my pal Chumleigh sez, it's a sign of how prosperous you are when you can pay someone else do your car work. And like I just said, if my computer was a car...

And this is also precisely why I've avoided Linux. Linux has always presented, at least to me, as the free software seemingly worth every penny, the OS for people who need a life and can't get a date, a million .TAR files in search of a compiler, an infinity of binary spaghetti draping various corners of cyberspace in fecund splendor. Just as “free” and “Linux” seem destined to remain synonyms, “easy” and “Linux” seem forever to be in conflict. Or so I thought, anyway.

I dusted off and powered up my acquisition with all the joy of a ten year old on Yule morn. However, market forces being what they are, it came as no sick surprise to me to discover that the crunch and style of my groovy new toy came with a pricetag: upgrading every application I had to run on an Intel processor. Oh, and Leopard. Mustn't forget handy dandy Leopard. Now, I could deal with the processor thing most all apps come with universal installers. But jolly jolly Spot doth not come cheap either, and my young hottie had no install discs included. Oops. My misguided attempt to install a perfectly good version of Tiger ran afoul of the slight detail that it came from a G4 machine — sorta like trying to teach a Chinese kid mathematics in Swahili. Also, I didn't back anything up. Double oops. There I was, possessed of a stylish but brain-dead square box that would make a dandy kleenex dispenser but not much more.

All of a sudden, free-as-in-beer Linux started looking pretty darned attractive. Amazing what last call can do for your aesthetics. I downloaded the live CD for Ubuntu (surely the most user-friendly of Linux distributions) and stuffed it into my erstwhile tp rack. Presto hoocho and holy smog, up popped a desktop. Previous distributions of Leapin' Lizard or Friendly Frankenstein or Molesting Marsupial or whatever version it was for Mac had a habit of presenting cryptic requests in command line format and dying half way through startup, but this time all I had to do was hit Return twice and watch the pretty lights.

So here I am, steaming away in the free zone, master of my every impulse, king of my own cyber-country, and — what? Hold everything! How do I type a @#$@#% em-dash on this thing? Do I actually have to consult a help forum to learn how to enter a standard punctuation mark?

Wait right there.

****************************

Greetings, my loyal readers. I text to you this day from the desktop of my brand used Mac Mini Core 2 Duo. Compact, quiet and quick, it is, quiet, quick and compact. But that's not all, oh no precious. I'm running OS X. OS X 4.11, to be precise, purchased from kindly Apple Computer for a measly $35 and worth (sorta) every penny. Just for once, "Customer Service" turns out not to be a complete oxymoron.

Don't get me wrong — I also installed an Ubuntu partition. I can see the handwriting on the wall, and sure as inflation, Open Source Software is in my future. I'll have to start carving my own path through the wilderness sooner or later. Just not yet.

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