Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ubuntu/Linux: User-To-User #1

    My first entry in my blog was a tough thing to come up with. I'm not too terribly interesting of a person to blog about things. Just some joe in Minnesota, no journalism degree, no actual experience in any popular media. Except for being a freelance illustrator I really have nothing to say that any day-to-day non-blogging individual has to say.

Except for one thing.

   I am totally into Ubuntu/Linux. So much so that I'd say that I'm addicted. As much as a non-programmer end user can be. It reminds me of the time I was totally addicted to Macs back in the pre-Jobsian second coming Apple era. I subscribed to MacAddict, I played Marathon, I devoured anything I could on the Mac short of trying to learn how to program. And trust me, I did try to program for the Mac. It just wasn't for me. I guess because I'm impatient. But now, after years of using Windows XP after Mac OS 8.6, I'm moving on to something very interesting. A total open source replacement of that old Mac religion.
   Now, I have been playing with Linux on and off for the last 10 or so years. It started with an old 486 computer with 32MB of memory and Red Hat. Not sure what version, but it was my introduction to Linux. Red Hat was Linux to me back then. The idea of distros came later for me. And on and off I've been playing with Linux of all types. Interestingly enough I was introduced to Linux through MacAddict (now Mac|Life). I think it was YellowDog or some mac68k *nix (BSD?). And I was also introduced to other OSes as well. This was during Apple's Copland and Rhapsody days when Mac users were abuzz about the possibilities of which OS would replace the classic Mac OS. Around this time i got interested in themes and skinning as well (RIP, Kaleidoscope).
   After all these years I've settled on Ubuntu/Linux. Or more precisely Gnome and the package Canonical has put together. I've used Ubuntu long enough that I seem to have a little bit of confidence in helping people out in setting up Ubuntu. At least with respect to GUI solutions. Admittedly, I'm not that much of an expert in basic Linux to offer any type of technical help under the hood, but I'll do my best. And I will be the first to say "I don't know." when I truly don't know. There seems to be a hostility in the Linux enthusiast community towards people who don't know Linux inside and out attempting to help for fear that either the "n00bs" will get it wrong or not offer an efficient enough or stripped down solution that takes advantage of the most esoteric knowledge of Linux (you know, just to show off).

I hope to help people as I learn as an end user. I think the Linux community needs something like this. Someone who isn't so invested in the high level knowledge of Linux that he can't talk to the layman in plain English. I believe that that's the main problem with Linux being available to the masses. Linux is still seen as the OS by programmers for programmers, by IT for IT and oftentimes when I hear reference to "user" or "end user" in the Linux community it is often assumed the user is not grandma or mom and pop. User is assumed to be a person who is involved neck deep in the minutia and intricacies of Linux and open source. One who knows how to debug, report to bug report sites and who know how to contribute code to projects or at least have the motivation and interest in doing those things. It's not enough to simply be a user. Well, I say bull. It's enough to be a user and new users need just as much representation in the Linux community as established experts.

So my hope with this is to help new users and end users who just want to use Linux at a very street level... uh... level. Do you want to install Linux (yes, even Ubuntu) and be able to play DVDs, watch Hulu, play games and not have to see the terminal for more than occasionally installing from source or occasionally editing config files (brrrr)? Stay tuned. As I learn, so will you. And I'll try to keep it as un-insultingly simple as I can. This is why it feels so much like discovering the Mac again. I remember unpacking that Macintosh IIsi and seeing that thick users guide and seeing how easy it was to follow and how complete it was from using a mouse to setting up AppleTalk. It should be that simple again. The Linux community, in spirit, should take up that task. This blog might not be as in depth and technical as some higher level blogs or podacsts out there, but it's not supposed to be. So don't expect it to be. Taking the inspiration from the Lab Rats podcast this is how I've come to start this blog. I hope to present Linux, Ubuntu/Linux, as the Linux for the rest of us, not just the few of them. And I'll do it with Ubuntu. After all, Ubuntu is Linux For Human Beings. :-)
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