Sunday, April 27, 2008

Linux Continues @ Home

I've been a Unix guy from many years ago, long before any 32 bit OS from Microsoft ever jammed itself into the world. Although when Windows NT came along I was temporarily lulled into putting up with it's massive complexity -- a legacy from a time when Win16 was the ruler of Dinosauria, which when mixed with Win32 NT, produced a Chimera called Windows 95/98 et all.

At least I could use native 32 bit addressing, arrays greater than 64K, and increasingly more full sized arithmetic operands in both integer and floating point right in Intel hardware. Yet, even when writing programs which would run identically on Unix and Windows (for the most part...), it became an increasingly more difficult chore to do this when things like .NET came along, which bastardized the C++ language to be something MS calls "CLI" Common Language Interface.

Now, with the advent of greater numbers of Linux systems that have bloomed into full scale Desktop systems that rival (but don't quite exceed) the experience of Windows XP or Vista. Of course, XP and Vista are not merely advanced forms of Unix GUI systems -- they are totally MS controlled, secret source based complexities beyond any hope of simplification. In fact, MS purposely makes things as complex as possible so there is no possible way for any kind of open source XP or Vista to ever happen. Any pretenders would simply be copies or reverse engineered mutations of XP or Vista.

Unix never had a fixed "look and feel" like Windows that would need to be copied exactly. There were many flavors of Unix -- SunOS, Solaris, Aix, Hpux, ScoUnix, and several others, each very different than the others. Some used Motif, some used straight X, some used the Sun Gui, etc. In those days there was hardly a thought about anything like Gnome or KDE for windowing systems.

However, Windows XP, Vista and Apple's MaxOs, OS-X and Sun's various systems all affected those who would later write the various layers of Linux GUIs. Linux also had to adapt to the same huge number of variations that made Windows so difficult -- a hodge podge of GPUs, CPUs, memory sizes, disk hardware, and so forth. There are still problems with some drivers.

On top of that there are various flavors of Linux -- openSUSE, Devian, RedHat, Ubuntu and Xandros, just to name a few. Each has a few little things different enough from the others that are sometimes nicer or not, sometimes prettier or not. Certainly they make for different documentation.

In some ways this is a good thing. Perhaps Windows XP would have been very much better if there was a Brand-X XP and a Brand-Y XP in addition to MS. Yes, there would have been duplication of efforts, and possible incompatibilities from one to another -- but perhaps XP would be everything that Vista pretends to be -- except about 5 years earlier.

Anyway, that never happened. What did happen, however, is that I have openSUSE and Ubuntu Linux systems on some of my home computers -- complete with Wireless Networking (a weakness in earlier versions...) Also, one of them is a modern Dell with fast hardware, lots of disk, memory. The other is on a older Toshiba with far less capable devices. But the both behave very decently under Linux.

I can mix them into the home Windows XP/Vista network, as well. Everyone can get to everyone else's shared network files.

Linux has made me young again. For this reason, I'm sure Linux will fail, and waste the last good years of my life. Perhaps I should merely step into the Vista brain-smasher and become a Microsoft Weenie for the remainder of my life -- like most good little programmers.

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