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Wednesday, August 14 12:01 AM EST

Feels Like the First Time Again

By Brian Briggs

Sadly my experiences with Linux / Unix over the years have been limited to old BBS sessions and some command line stuff. I've been following the development of Linux, but had never installed the new fun GUI Linux on any of my systems - until now. Now, I can hear all the experts out there groaning "not another newbie story please!" Yeah, it's another newbie story, but I think newbie stories are good exposure for Windows users who have thought about tinkering and for experts who can solve some of the problems with Linux to make it better.

I downloaded and burned the ISOs for Mandrake 8.2 from LinuxISO. While I have heard that Linux has gotten just as easy as Windows I was still skeptical. Installation went much more smoothly than I expected. I booted from the CD and away it went. I have a spare 20 GB hard drive that I stopped using because it started getting some bad sectors, but I figured it would work fine for playing with Linux. Since I had the extra hard drive I decided not to play around with partitioning my Windows drive for dual bootification, so I'll just leave the case open and swap the IDE cable when necessary.

I didn't know which desktop to use so I installed all of them (typical noob I know). When it was finally done installing and rebooted (once as opposed to the 15 times for Windows) I logged on to KDE. Of course the first thing I did was go to BBspot.com using one of the many browsers (having a choice was refreshing). Then I spent time surfing around with three browsers just to check out the differences (Konqueror, Galeon and Mozilla). It took me some time to figure out how to install the Flash plug-in for Mozilla (finding the right directories and having to log in as root), and when I first tried it the sound didn't work, but I didn't try any other sites. I sent an e-mail to a friend proclaiming my newly acquired title of Lord of the Geeks.

First annoyance and first item I'll start researching for a fix is the addictive scroll wheel on my mouse. I functioned fine without it for years on my computers, but now every time I got to a computer without one I find my finger straying to the phantom wheel.

Next challenge will be getting the printer to work. Due to the arrangement of the office the HP LaserJet 5P is connected to my wife's Windows 98 box across the room. I'm guessing it'll take some effort to get that to function properly.

I also tried Gnome desktop just to check it out and in my cursory exploration I didn't find any major differences. Evolution looks like a really nice package and I sent another e-mail further cementing my status as Lord of the Geeks.

Now, I haven't tried to install any new programs or adjust any hardware settings yet so I don't know how easy or difficult that will be, but installing Linux did give me feelings I had forgotten about (no not those kind of feelings sicko) The kind of feelings I had when I was using my Tandy Color Computer 2 many years ago. The feelings of excitement and newness and freshness of using a computer. I really did feel a sense of freedom in shirking off the banality of Windows.

I doubt I'll make the complete switch anytime soon, but my first experience definitely makes it a consideration. I'll need to make a list of applications that I use on a daily basis and try to search out a Linux counterpart. Fortunately that process is a bit easier for me since I use Mozilla as my browser and OpenOffice.org as my office suite. I foresee that I'll slowly make the transition. First, I'll play around with this install to gain some familiarity. Next I'll set up a dual boot system. As I become more familiar and the Linux apps improve I'll slowly but surely start spending more time in Linux than I do in Windows.

I would encourage anyone who has become bored with the Windows life to take a stab at installing Linux on a spare box you've got laying around. It might not become your system of choice, but it might rekindle some long lost excitement and curiosity in your computing experience.

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