Pitfalls for the Brave Newbies to be aware of...
by jakem14 - 10/13/05 9:41 PM
Pitfalls for the Brave Newbies Coming to Linux to Keep in Mind
(A Sober look at the realities, and choices that do exist.)
A lot of the new Linux users are asking questions and asking for assistance in dealing with their Linux experience but have problems getting straight answers on top of the problems that they are having with Linux itself.
The first thing you must know is that if you are interested in becoming a geek, you have come to the right fork on the road-Linux. It is much harder to work with than, say, Windows is and it is optimized for server services (where things are set and left to function without much human intervention.) It is not optimized for the general home user. Why not? Because when it comes to desktop implementations it is not a user friendly computing environment. All of the Linux implementations are still in a very primitive stage when it comes to addressing the home users needs. This is most evident especially when it comes to multimedia, applications management, and productive ease of use. There is only one distribution (distro) right now trying to address this situation: Xandros OS (http://madpenguin.org/cms/?m=show&id=4419)
It is ahead of the pack when it comes to making the user more productive and better able to work with the existing Windows installed infrastructure. It has wisely adopted the foreign-to-Linux philosophy of Less is More. But, as it is typical of Linux, this distro is the easiest and perhaps the most productive distro for newbies to seriously work with provided that you stay, upgrade, and function within this distro.
Also, remember that consistency in Linux is not something that is being strived for, that freedom in Linux means freedom from Microsoft not freedom to install and manage resources and applications when you want to, how you want to, or where you want to. That is why applications are provided for you in what is called a "package." This package will install a set of standard applications and some that you don't even need, or this package will install a set of specialized applications depending on the type of work that you plan to use Linux for.
Linux is not an operating system but a central management station called a kernel. It is a specialized piece of software through which processes, users, and other software have to go through in order to interact with the system's hardware and other central functions. It is a UNIX derived skeleton on which anyone, I said anyone, with little overseeing can clothe with extra code, and functionality and call it a distribution. That is why Linux is all over the place and why you can not mix and match the programs that come in different distro packages. This causes them to brake down and not work properly or not work at all. When Linux experts vow for Linux stability, they are not talking about Linux applications instabilities.
The most obvious problem here is what is called "The Linux Dependency Hell." This is a frustrating situation where you can never seem to install, upgrade, or adjust an application because there is always something missing. For example, you need a driver for a device, so, you painfully search for and download that driver. Then you find out that that driver needs an extra file or and adjustment that needs an extra file to work properly, so, you search for and download that file. Then, you find out that that file needs another file...and so on down the line. Sort of like a "Catch 22." That is because at each step there are what are called dependencies of each file missing. These dependencies are not managed well at all under Linux and the Linux community has become used to accepting this as a normal function of their platform. This is something that newbies just wont understand. Also, if you have everything set up the way you want it within a distribution and an updated kernel is put out, you have to be careful that you don't willy-nilly just install it over your older kernel. To do so, might mean making a lot of your installed applications obsolete or having to reinstall the whole distribution all over again. You will get many headaches here, even if you are a programmer.
The vocal Linux community has not been successful at addressing these problems. It spends too much of its time, egged on by its creator, and like the old Mac community did and failed, trying to decapitate Microsoft and its Windowses instead of proactively fixing its own inadequacies. It has received the admonition If you dont contribute to Linux, step aside, in other words, no criticism, a la Steve Jobs. No wonder that the Linux community seems sterile in implementing new needed changes in many areas. They are just like a child that has been given a very sweet candy bar which can not be taken away to prevent overindulgence. It is just too happy to tweak away
and marvel at the intricacies, and flexibility and at the almost totally free and chaotic interactions permitted with this UNIX variant. Aside from the corporate vultures that have taken over the drivers seat, It is not a well-disciplined computing community and it is not helping Linux acquire the status that it should have by now under the incredible amount of exposure that it has received. So, Linux has reached a point where there are too, too many hands in the cookie jar, too many hands stirring the pot, but only one fallible chef making the final decisions. The big commercial entities have all taken what they need from Linux and given back little to open source community. The rest is being cannibalized by an undisciplined crowd. Because of all this and in spite of the (LSB) standards for compatibility among Linux distros and in spite of how popular it has become, it is the least secured, the least stable, and the least rigorous of all the UNIX variants.
You will find that when it comes to Linux, its community knows how to promote its interests, but not how to explain its problems to potential users. These are the users that it needs to attract in order to continue and sustain its growth. Dont be disappointed, though, because your perseverance is what will help you discover the power provided by Linux. Thus, most Linux home users spend their time tweaking instead of being productive. So, if tweaking is your thing and you don't mind crying in the
Linux wilderness and then having others mock your state of Linux ignorance (an attitude a la classic Mac community) go ahead, pick any distro.
My suggestion is that you dont depend too much on finding answers on forums, but that your first choice be to acquire a good set of literature to learn from. For this, check out resources such as: (http://www.oreilly.com/), and sites such as: (http://distrowatch.com/),
(http://www.linuxquestions.org/), (http://linux-newbie.sunsite.dk/), (http://new.linuxjournal.com/), (http://www.justlinux.com/ ). Also, download and try what are called Live Linux CDROM installations which allow you to try a distro without making any significant changes to your hard drive and your existing OS installation. Most of all, dont depend too much on asking Linux forum moderators and experts on line blank newbie questions because most of the time you will be met with a snob and derision-a computing culture of experts-texperts impatience. A newbie might want to consider first getting a general idea of the most popular Unices .)
Of course, there are other Unices to choose from which might be also problematic for newbies, but which provide a better organized front to learning the Unices, for example, there is the BSD family. One popular one is "FreeBSD" (FreeBSD.org) which unlike Linux, is an operating system without many of the problems, pitfalls and undisciplined implementations associated with Linux. It is a better overseen and administered implementation of a UNIX variant. In fact it runs most of the applications written for Linux and many time faster than Linux. You can, if you wish, also check (PCBSD.org) to see an example of this option implemented under a friendly graphical setting.
Now, we have the Unices coming to the forefront: Mac OSX (based on FreeBSD), The Linuces, Sun's Open Solaris, ant the BSD family (NetBSD, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, PCBSD, etc.)
They are all about Unix, and if you care about how a chunk of your life-computing-is going to be invested, you would choose carefully.
So, you see, even under Unix, you have a lot of choices and options. Welcome to the rock solid, secured world of Unix. Good luck.