Time to Leave the Apple & Microsoft Plantations
Linux: Leaving the Digital Plantation
As a lifelong leftist Ive always found the idea of Linux irresistible. Like Windows and the Mac OS, Linux is a full-fledged computer operating system, meaning that it's a sort of master program that provides the resources and services all your other programs need to run. The big difference though, is that an enormous, greedy, soulless corporation named Microsoft owns Windows, and an equally rapacious corporate entity named Apple owns the Mac OS. Commercial software is “intellectual private property, theirs not yours. Linux is yours, mine,everybody's.
I could write a few paragraphs here about the rapacious business practices of Apple and Microsoft , how over the years they've squelched and stolen the work of independent developers and warped their own product development processes in the name of ever-increasing rent extraction, but others have written whole libraries on this.
Linux is “open source software” which means that property rights over it are exercised by nobody. A Finnish grad student named Linus Torvalds needed a version of Unix to run on his laptop, and spent a summer tinkering with it. Summer over, he uploaded his work to the net, and people have been expanding and improving upon it every since. Suppose you're a hotshot programmer and you need something that Mac or Windows OS won't do. Chances are you cannot do it the most efficient way because you can't look into the guts of the Windows or Mac OS code. That's private property and secret unless you sign a non-disclosure agreement. Not so with Linux. You can peep the source code yourself, write and test your application. After it's done you can sell it or give it away, upload its source to the net and thousands of hobbyists and engineers will try to break it. If they fail, it may be in the next version. You can put that on your resume and ask an extra $15 or $20 a year on your next contract gig.
Write that application for Windows or the Mac OS and if you're lotto-lucky they'll buy you out. If not, Microsoft and Apple will simply reverse-engineer its functionality, charge extra rent for the new feature, tweak their operating system so that it breaks when your version is used with it, and sue you. Ain't free enterprise wonderful?
You will pay a license fee for each and every computer you install your Apple or Microsoft operating system on, license fees for your word processing and spreadsheet and anti-virus software, a license fee for Photoshop if you use that, or Garage Band or Final Cut or Adobe Premiere or whatever. Most software built for the Linux operating system is, like Linux, free and/or open source. If you're connected to the internet you simply download and install the programs you want.
Flash and audio/video support are no problems, really. Install the latest version of Ubuntu on your box and Google “things to do after installing Ubuntu” and you'll find two dozen pages covering the same ground, telling you how to reach out over the net and get Open Office which does everything MS Office does and reads and writes MS Office files, Google Picasa, GIMP, which does everything Photoshop does and reads and writes Photoshop files, along with MP3, Flash and Quicktime support.
You can install these and hundreds more free applications with Mac and Windows-like graphical tools, or you can use simple commands to get the job done. Want ThatProgramOverThere? Open up a command window and type
sudo apt-get install thatprogramoverthere
and it's done. Can your Windows or Mac do that?
Linux is stable, it's mature, it's at least as pretty as Windows or the Mac, and it doesn't make a greedy corporation richer. Its graphical interfaces are enough like Windows and the Mac so that a thoughtful person who doesn't feel the need to stay on the plantation can work through it. Linux was a good idea in 1997 but it wasn't ready for ordinary desktop users. It was still a good idea in 2005 but not there yet. It's fully baked now.
You've been duly notified. Your cell doors are open and unlocked. All you gotta do is let Pharoah go. Yes, you'll have to learn some new stuff. That just proves you're not dead yet. Get over it.
Every PC you get at Best Buy or anyplace else has Windows already installed. Keep it. Your Ubuntu disk will walk you through dividing your hard drive, shrinking the Windows partition so that if you ever need it it's still there. This is called a “dual boot” arrangement, in which your computer every time it starts up gives you a choice, Windows or Linux. Really, you have to do this if you've got AT&T for your internet provider, because the first time you connect to them from your home they demand you use an Active X app for them to recognize your computer. Active X does NOT run on Linux. After you make the intial connection, you can go back to booting up in Linux. But if you ever need to call AT&T for tech support, you'll need Windows or they won't even talk to you without an astronomical hourly support fee.
Harriett Tubman used to say, recounting her experiences on the Underground Railroad, that she could have freed a lot more slaves but many had to be convinced first that they were indeed slaves. What's your excuse? Why are you still on the Windows/Mac plantation?