I have been at least playing with computers for over 40 years and earning my living from them for over 35. Yeah, that statement scared me as much as it probably scared you but my point is that I have seen a lot of computing and a lot of changes over the years.
As for the *ix/*ux world, I have been using Unix-like systems for 25 years and Linux for half of that. So I guess I have a bit of Linux-specific experience. But, for most of my Linux life, Linux has been a programming environment, a tool to send and receive email, run applications used in my business or just generally do, pardon the four letter word, work.
Google mail, gmail, is a web-based email system. I have hated web-based email systems for many, many years. That said, I am going to confess that I actually like gmail. No, I don't love it but I do like it.
Most web mail applications are pretty much the same. You see some message titles and from addresses, you can view, delete, respond or save in another folder. You have some limited amount of storage for your messages and when you run out you need to clean up your mess.
Some are prettier, some allow you to do things to multiple message at a time and some are more configurable. But, they just don't present anything radically different. In fact, they convinced me there really wasn't room for anything radically different until I started using gmail.
I was cleaning up my officea euphemism for moving the junk around but never getting rid of anythingyesterday and ran across my old laptop bag. Ok, let's be honestit's a backpack. It has padding on one side that is about the size of my current laptop.
My friend Alan sent me a very interesing link. I don't think it was inspired by my "Looking Back 25 Years" article but it certainly fits in. The link is to Blinkenlights Archaeological Institute's pop quiz titled "What Was the First Personal Computer".
While there is nothing out there that would have run Linux (and many of the items were built before Linus Torvalds was born), it is an interesting look back in history. It's a little scary to be that I remember most of the "wrong answers". For many, I expect you will find some surprises.
Ok, why? Because I have had quite a few people who aren't programmers ask me about learning to program. So, here is my typical answer. In English. I suppose I can then just let Babblefish (or Babel Fish) translate the answer to Spanish as the majority of the people asking me recently don't speak English.
There are really two questions here:
- What programming language should I learn?
- Where can I get the software I need?
Let me answer the second one first. The answer is almost universally "it comes with most Linux distributions". This tends to be a shock for the non-Linux people asking me but it also offers a lot of them the incentive to give Linux a try.
More interesting to us was the software side of the story. IBM wanted to sell hardware and found a Harvard drop-out named Bill Gates that said he could supply the operating system on the required timeline. Gates bought the software from a local Seattle company and then customized it to meet the needs of IBM.
Which of the following systems cannot run Linux:
- IBM mainframe
- Mac G4
- Nokia 770 Internet Tablet
- Sharp Zaurus PDA
- Linksys WRT54G router
If you said none of them, you were right. Beyond that, the last four do run Linux as they come from the factory. And this is just a small sample. My point is that while Linux isn't everywhere it is in places you may not expect and, well, it could be everywhere.
Today I decided to install Kubuntu Dapper Drake from scratch. While I have been running versions for months this is my first full install of the final release.
I downloaded and burned the DVD version. I booted it up on my old IBM T20 ThinkPad. My first surprise was that it was taking a long time to start up. Eventually, I understood why. It is really a live CD that gets itself up and running with no user questions. That surprised me but what surprised me more was the Install icon on the desktop. Ok, I get it now.
An announcement about the Venezuelan government offering free software classes was posted a mailing list I am on. It was reproduced from a government web site and said that Open Source Software courses were to begin on Monday.