Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Transitions - part 3

Part one and two are here and here.

Things started to change when I installed Suse at home. I found myself using Linux more. No idea why but to me it was comfortable. It was nice.

Suse had a couple of show stoppers however, the most significant being package management - this was just plain broken. The Suse package manager always insisted that it's version of a package was the latest, even when I had installed one with a more recent version number from a different source (as was sometimes necessary, for example to fix the broken multimedia functionality). For software installation Yast cannot hold a candle to URPMI.

Anyway, Suse helped nudge me further in the direction of desktop Linux, but it had to go. In late 2003 I installed Debian (using the Testing repository) at home, and have barely used Windows since. I have since replaced Windows on my system at work with Debian (Ok, I have a win2k virtual machine - sometimes I do still have to develop software for Windows, using CBuilder). In fact the entire IT department now uses desktop Linux.

Reading this back to myself it sounds as though the changes in my usage have occured suddenly. Actually the change has been much more gradual. Mandrake was good, Suse was better, and Debian ... I could go on for hours about the goodness that is Debian.

So what has changed, such that I am now an almost-full-time GNU/Linux user? Sure Linux has improved significantly. I can point to countless technical reasons why Linux is way better than it used to be, and vastly superior to Windows - and I started to do exactly that. But that story is old an tired and has been done to death.

I am therefore going to give only two reasons why I now use Linux as my primary desktop:

Firstly, It feels right and comfortable. Yeah, that's vague.

Secondly - and I've cunningly failed to mention this until now so that you get the impression that Linux made it on my desktop purely on its own merits ... The second reason is called "Windows Product Activation". What's so bad about Product Activation?

By and large people will take a lot of shit, some more than others. However there comes a point when an individual cries "Enough. I will not relinquish another of my rights/freedoms." The proverbial straw, and all that. For a highly principled individual like Richard Stallman this point is very early on in the piece. For me it is Product Activation. There is no way I'll volunatarily submit to such measures. And this meant that as of the XP release in 2001, Windows was, and is, a dead end for me.

And since Windows was now a dead end this made it easier and easier for me to let it go. I mean, I won't use XP, Win2k is now five years old (which is like, a million years), and I don't need/want/can't afford a Mac, so what else can I use? The stellar advances of the last few years make the Linux desktop seriously rock, and Microsoft's policies make it the only viable option.

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