If Linux were an automobile

I was thinking today about why I’m doing this blog. It’s fun learning new things and I’ve learned many interesting things about using different Linux distros from many different on-line sources; like other people’s blogs, user forums and articles. So mostly I’d like to share information I’ve gleaned from using different Linux distros and from my daily surfing on the web. One of the cool things about Gnu/Linux operating systems is the continuous innovation and sharing of ideas; and also the whole international community that creates and supports Open Source Software: Cooperation as opposed to competition.

Another reason I want to do this blog is that there is a whole world of free software and computer operating systems available for anyone to use, that probably runs more efficiently on their hardware without having to worry about viruses and malware; yet the vast majority of the population (in America, at least) knows nothing about it! That’s just sad!

As a hypothetical example: Let’s say there were automobile manufacturers that produced numerous different car models that could be custom-designed by the owners. If you wanted to buy one of these cars you could decide what kind of motor it used; what kind of mileage it got; whether it used an internal combustion engine or electric or even hydrogen fusion! You could choose the interior layout of the car; the color; and what you wanted as standard equipment. And after you had driven that car for a while, say you wanted to change from standard to automatic transmission; you could do that. Want to add air conditioning or GPS? No problem! Maybe change your engine from four cylinder to eight; or test a new hybrid design; why not?! And if your car has a problem; something doesn’t work right; you get a flat tire – there are hundreds of mechanics available on-line to give you advice on how to fix your problem, for no charge. AND the manufacturers of these wonder cars are constantly working together, all over the world, on sharing design specifications and improving the performance of their automobiles, not every few years but every few months. Some of these designers work for companies that also provide paid business support, but most of them are small shops and independent manufacturers. And if you like tinkering under the hood, you could even build your own engine and share it with others!

Then imagine that this totally transmutable, user-configurable car that you could trade in any time you wanted for a different model also cost you absolutely nothing! (unless you felt inclined to send the manufacturers a donation for providing you with this wonderful vehicle). Most people would think that is pretty cool deal, don’t you think?

Now what if most people never heard of this wondrous automobile. They hardly advertised at all. And their products are so diverse, produced by hundreds of manufacturers; how would you go about advertising these free products? Not to mention the point of most advertising is to sell something. And for many, many years one corporation; let’s call it Tinysoft; a company that only made the engine for a single automobile that no-one but Tinysoft employees could design, had flooded the market with billions of dollars in advertising and had paid other car makers and retailers to only sell their vehicles with a Tinysoft engine. And Tinysoft (and another up-and-coming Fruit-named company) did their best to spread the word that the free products were somehow inferior?  Wouldn’t that seem a tad bit unfair?

Okay: enough with my heavy-handed and not-terribly-accurate analogies! I’m sure you get the idea. In this era of economic decline and individuals, businesses and even governments trying to get the most bang for their buck, the world needs to know more about Open Source! So SPREAD THE WORD!

I’d like to leave you with an excellent 3 minute video about what the Linux kernel is and what it’s used for today. Thanks to Chema Martin for this great post:



Open Source: Open Mind

Welcome to The Fearless Penguin!

For a wee bit of background, please check the link to the ‘About’ page above.

The reason I created this blog (thanks to WordPress) is to share my love (some may say ‘obsession’) with Linux Operating Systems and the amazing world of Free and Open Source Software. On the other blog that I made about two and a half years ago (DragonflyDreaming), I often reported on my experiences with Linux, among other interests and facets of life. My main reason for starting DragonflyDreaming was to get some practice with creative writing. But my blog posts that related to the Linux world were the ones that always got a lot of attention and still consistently get a steady amount of daily viewings. So I’ve decided that since I can’t stop exploring the ever-changing state of Linux/Open Source Software, and since there’s definitely a growing interest in this subject, I would make this separate blog to share in the Great Open Source Adventure!

I still remember the feeling a few years ago when I discovered this ‘thing’ called Linux. I had owned Macintosh computers up till that time, only dabbling with Windows a little bit. I loved the Mac and could not really understand why people chose to use computers with an Operating System that was continually prone to virus and malware attacks. Though Apple computers certainly cost a bit more; they were well-made and worked beautifully, for the most part.

Then I kept hearing on the internet about ‘Linux’ and ‘Gnome’ and ‘KDE’; different ‘Desktop Environments’ that were free to use and looked and worked a bit differently than OSX or WindowsXP. I soon became acquainted with Open Source computer applications like the free image-editing program GIMP, which did pretty much what Adobe Photoshop did, but could be downloaded and used on Macs, Windows and Linux without shelling our hundreds of dollars. And there was OpenOffice; the free version of Microsoft Word. And Macs had NeoOffice, too, at that time. Those and many other Open Source applications could be run any any computer platform, and they cost nothing! This was a revelation to me!

So after a while, I seriously began checking out what this ‘Linux’ stuff was all about. And I discovered Ubuntu 8.04: the ‘Hardy Heron’ was about to be released. At this time a friend who worked with computers at a school offered to help me build a computer with hardware that was no longer in use; and before I knew it I had a ‘new to me’ computer with a wiped hard drive awaiting an OS. I downloaded the Live CD ISO image that contained an entire, fully-functional Hardy Heron Operating System (hitherto referred to as a ‘Distro’), burned the ISO to a CD and booted my new generic desktop machine into Ubuntu. And my life, as they say, was changed forever!!

In the three years since, a lot has changed with Ubuntu and Linux on the desktop. With Ubuntu and the numerous distros based on Ubuntu, there’s a new release every six months; so the pace of new features and development is much quicker than with those other two major Operating Systems. Many distros have improved, some have faded, new ones are always popping up to fill a specific niche or to make things easier for the ‘average’ computer user. And today there are many more great distros available than just the ‘Buntus’. With Linux there are numerous distros for every level of user ability and need, from geeks to grandmas! The possibilities for customization and user control are endless.

That may be the greatest disadvantage when it comes to Linux; there’s no single brand or look with distros, though Ubuntu is the most visible one at the moment. There are hundreds of major Linux distributions and a growing number of different desktop environments/window managers, and the choices could be daunting for new users. When people have been used to only two different Operating Systems, the Linux universe might seem overwhelming! But it can actually be rather fun! I sometimes change distros on our different computers every few months. But choice is what Open Source is all about. And finding what works best for you.

I’d better stop for now. But I hope my explorations of the world of Linux can be informative or useful to someone out there. Please check back for links and information and news to guide your own exploration of the Open Source Frontier!