To Sink Or Swim In Linux's Waters? - InformationWeek

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2/1/2008
10:47 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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To Sink Or Swim In Linux's Waters?

I've been running Ubuntu Linux on my notebook, a Sony VAIO TX model, for some time now.  I'm impressed with how stable it's been and how a whole raft of features like action-key support (for things like dimming the display) are available directly out of the box, without having to install additional stuff that I needed to download from Sony's site.  But because getting used to Linux itself can be jarring for Windows folks, I decided not to just dive in and hope I'm able to swim. 

I've been running Ubuntu Linux on my notebook, a Sony VAIO TX model, for some time now.  I'm impressed with how stable it's been and how a whole raft of features like action-key support (for things like dimming the display) are available directly out of the box, without having to install additional stuff that I needed to download from Sony's site.  But because getting used to Linux itself can be jarring for Windows folks, I decided not to just dive in and hope I'm able to swim.  Instead, I'm using a gradual approach: I take it to bed with me.

OK, wipe that smirk off your face.  I'll explain.

I typically spend about an hour before bedtime getting caught up with favorite blogs, Web sites and whatnot by sitting up in bed with my notebook.  When I first bought the notebook, I did this with Windows, but now I do this with Linux.  Doesn't sound like much, but just working with Linux in that much of a "nonjudgmental" way has been a huge help in allowing me to get used to it.

"Nonjudgmental" in this case means that I'm not doing anything mission-critical yet on that machine, but the more stuff I do casually with it, the easier it becomes for me to do more important things later on.  If I start with easy stuff like reading (and writing) blogs, then I'm generally working with applications and functions that have easy equivalents in Linux -- Firefox, for instance.  Even something as familiar as Firefox can be a bit thorny, though: installing the Gnash (open-source Flash player) plugin required a little more work than I expected.

Some people cling instinctively to the way certain things work, even if they don't realize it.  Friends of mine have tried to make the switch to Linux, only to be stopped because of one or two deal-breaking details that they didn't see going in.  I think the "cold turkey switch" approach may be at least partly responsible for this -- that the better approach for such folks might be to run Linux in tandem whenever possible, and to do less demanding things with it using apps people are already familiar with in other incarnations.  (Firefox and OpenOffice.org are two of the biggest and most obvious examples.)

Unfortunately, this isn't always that easy to pull off, either.  Many people don't have both a desktop and a notebook machine, are gun-shy of setting up a dual-boot, don't have the resources for a virtual machine, and so on.  And booting from a live CD or DVD has its own issues -- mainly speed.

Still, any habitual use, however you can get it, is better than none.  And, ultimately, it's easier to swim in Linux's waters when you've had a chance to wade rather than simply dunk your head and hold your breath.

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