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.
One of the complaints I often hear from users new to Linux is the seemingly endless choices available. I'll admit it is confusing when you are presented with 10 browsers, editors, or email programs. And wouldn't it be great if there were only one way to install applications across all distributions! With out a doubt, it would significantly increase the usability of Linux, in general, if everyone used a best of breed installation process.
However, as I've said before, so I'll say it again. These dreams of the one "whatever" to rule them all within Linux and open source will NEVER happen. In fact, I believe that this diversity is actually a BETTER model. Ultimately, Linux and open source will continue to expand and there will eventually be a small ratio between the number of users of a particular distribution or application and the number of developers of that software. With more choices, we increase the likelihood of one of the choices meeting best what we want from our software.
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'm still trying to recover from my week at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON). If you've never had the good fortune of attending OSCON, then I highly recommend trying to attend one in the future. It is the coolest collection of geeks, information, projects, and speakers under one roof. There is now even a free track that allows access to some sessions, OSCamp, the exhibition hall, and of course, one of the most important aspects of the convention, the hallway track. While there, however, there is a distinct feeling of being swept away in a whirlwind of interaction and information. At least for me, it takes a few days upon my return to gain enough perspective on the event.
This week I was speaking and working at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Portland Oregon. It was an amazing show with representation from some of the largest open source projects and dignitaries in the world. Rubbing elbows with them in the hallways, in sessions, and in parties really leaves me with a sense of hope for the future of software innovation. One theme that came through in several of the presentations was that things change. Open source is changing, software is changing, the people that make up the community are changing, but regardless of the changes it is important for the community to remain true to its ideals. This week we announced a major change for TUX, true to this OSCON theme, I want everyone to understand that regardless of this change, the magazine will remain true to its ideals.
Declare your independence from proprietary software (Or how to break the habit of proprietary software)
As we celebrate Independence Day here in the United States, it is a perfect time to ponder on the importance of words such as freedom and liberty. I find the passion and emotion most people feel about their computers (and the software they use) very interesting and confusing. We develop close relationships with our computers. He become accustomed to their idiosyncrasies as we would with any other person we might have in our lives. And once we get comfortable with them, we find it very difficult to let go of the habits we form with them.
So it is quite easy to get into the habit of using proprietary software and not realize how attached we become to that software. Some might feel we are fortunate and privileged when it comes to our computers. However, what some might feel is fortune and comfort, others might seem as control and abuse. Just as some back in 1770, might have seen the taxes enacted by the British as just and acceptable. For many I'm sure their lives were very comfortable and based on the easy way things were. However, thanks to leaders in the American revolution, they had the foresight to see where these habits and customs were leading and decided to revolt against the powers to be.
In my previous article I examined the first of two options available to people who currently use Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, or Windows Millennium and face a potentially tough decision following Microsoft's decision to retire these operating systems. In this continuation I set the stage for purchasing your new machine and encourage your consideration of buying a Linux computer when buying a newer more powerful machine.
Now before you rush off and order the hottest new model featured in all of the Dell advertisements, let me tell you why you should buy a new machine with Linux pre-installed at the supplier. We have covered many of the technical reasons why you should choose Linux, and I won't repeat them here. I'd like to focus instead on some reasons that are pertinent to Windows users that are considering the switch to Linux. One perspective you should seriously consider is committing completely to Linux with your new machine. Instead of considering a double boot configuration, consider switching completely and ordering a machine with Linux pre-installed.
In addition to my interest in Linux and all things Free and Open Source Software, I'm also interested in entrepreneurship. Over the last year I've been involved with a couple of failed start-ups. A start-up is a business that is in the initial planning, early development, or build-up phase to significant revenues. It is a time which is very stressful for the principals involved with the new business, and it is usually a time when the company typically doesn't have a lot of money laying around. This means that the few people involved in the business have to fill multiple hats. So while they might be the web master for the company web site, they might also maintain the web site, as well as provide support to all of the computers and networks in the company. It also means that there are many demands on the funds the company does have. So spending those funds wisely is often the difference between the fledgling company failing in bankruptcy or beating the odds and becoming a successful company. One area that I know could benefit more companies is by using free and open source software instead of purchasing proprietary software. Many entrepreneurship experts are already starting to recognize the significant reduction in cost for starting a business today as opposed to past eras, especially during the Internet boom. Linux and FOSS are at the core of the reasons why this significant reduction took place. Let's explore three ways Linux and FOSS make this possible.