Linux: Why here? Why now? Why at all? (1999)

            Linux: Why here? Why now? Why at all?
             by George Edw Seymour & Joe Crawford
                        July 29, 1999

  This is a report about the monthly AIP meeting held
  on Tuesday evening, July 27, off Kearny Villa Road in San
  Diego. The speaker's goal was to demonstrate how easy it
  is to load Linux on a PC to make a dual boot system.

  Computers cannot operate without instructions, and those 
  instructions are called an operating system (OS). 

  Every computer needs an operating system that coordinates 
  all the functions that computers are capable of doing. For 
  example, all computer operating systems "read" various kinds 
  of input, like from a keyboard, and then control how your work 
  (called the output) is made usable, like to a screen so you 
  can see it, or to a printer so you can hand it to someone, or 
  to a disk so you can save it. Operating systems really don't 
  accomplish any work in the way you think about it, but they 
  are quite busy allowing you to accomplish your fine art work,
  or textual magnum opus, or homepage masterpiece.

  At first, operating systems were crude and hard to work with. 
  And like rabbits, they tended to proliferate:
  Of course, the most popular operating systems on work and home
  desktops today are Windows and MacOS. 
  Together they account for the lion's portion of personal computer
  OSs.  However, if you will notice at that Lycos site above, 
  Linux, a variant of UNIX, has more links than both Windows and MAC
  combined.  For slightly more information about each of the major
  operating systems, visit:

  So, the buzzword today is Linux. Why? That was the purpose of 
  the meeting.  The meeting consisted mainly of a preliminary and
  animated statement about a computer movie that was just being
  completed about evil hackers being discovered and taken into
  custody by the US Navy.  That was followed by a demonstration of
  loading the Caldera Linux operating system:
  on a portable PC along side Windows 95.  The intended installation
  would operate in a workstation mode, rather than as a server.

  Having installed Caldera once before, the speaker taught us that 
  you should NOT use the Dynamic Drive Overlay, and that it is a good
  idea to defrag your hard drive first, as well as take an inventory 
  of your computer before starting.  The local users group Kernel-Panic
  has a page on recommended preparations for installing Linux:

  There are many versions of Linux, including the very popular Red
  Hat <>, but that version costs almost three
  times as much as Caldera retail. (Note: a "distribution" itself is
  free - when you pay your extra money to RedHat or any Linux company,
  you're buying a manual and support). Linux is, indeed, free. RedHat
  is reported to be somewhat more complicated to install. (Joe Crawford
  Note: attempted this a while back and failed miserably). Actually the
  Caldera install uses the familiar Windows install boxes. Overall, it
  took slightly more than an hour to install.

  The advantages of Linux over Windows and other operating systems are:
        (a) it is open source: What is open source?
        (b) stability (critical for servers)
        (c) cost
        (d) true multitasking.

  Open source is great for two reasons. First, no company can match 
  the resources of hundreds or thousands of people working to improve
  some software.  Thus, Linux is being improved daily, and almost all
  of the improvements are free or very low cost. The second reason is
  that lots of people understand it, and thus can answer your questions
  online. This theory of how to create software is discussed in an
  excellent essay entitled "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" by Eric S.

  Next, stability. Windows does not like to run continuously. After a
  while the "temp" files tend to expand, and memory tends to "drift."
  Unix, including Linux, computers were designed to run and run and run
  for months and months. Once you get a UNIX flavored system like Linux
  working well, it is a pleasure to behold.  And when it needs
  fixing, you can do it from anywhere.

  Also mentioned were the various desktop environments available for
  Linux - KDE and the GNOME are the current hits turning commands like
  ls, grep, cat, man, and cd into things one can do with a mouse.
  For more on operating systems, GUIs and such see: "In the Beginning
  was the Command Line" - an article by Neal Stephenson:

  Third, the cost of the Linux OS system that was installed was $29.00.
  That consisted of 982 files including software applications and
  utilities.  Popular software from Corel like WordPerfect and others
  was included. Read the CD for more information. You are also free to
  install Linux on as many machines as you like, versus the cost-
  per-seat charges typical of the other major OSes.

  Finally, it is true multitasking.  You can have up to 16 desktops all
  working at the same time.

  Linux reportedly runs with 8 MB of RAM on a 133 machine, or less.
  There are three options for installation, and the full install
  requires 780 MB.  It uses a friendly KDE interface. There are 
  versions of Linux that will fit comfortably in 4 MB or RAM with 
  a 486 Processor. There are ports of Linux to nearly every major
  processor architecture.

  Linux International: <> .

  Downsides? Sure. The MAC people at the meeting were less impressed
  than the PC people because everything seemed too complex. They 
  called it "geek stuff."  For PC users however, it is more like
  installing Office 97.  Also, most commercial software (about 90
  percent) is written for the PC community, and thus you will not be
  able to get the latest and greatest software being pushed for PC
  users.  Finally, you will have to learn the UNIX philosophy
  about how OSs work. That will take some time, and ideally, a mentor
  or mentors.

  All in all, it was an interesting and informative Linux meeting.
  Only disappointment was the total absence of The Penguin. (The 
  penguin is named "Tux" and is the mascot of Linux. He was apparently
  chosen by Linus Torvalds because he "looked contented"
  and was first created by Larry Ewing:
  Here is an animated Tux
  Incidentally, Linux has a specific pronunciation.


  Before the meeting ended, someone spoke about the "rebirth" of 
  Amiga <>  and its association with Transmeta.
  You really need to see this:

  Anyway, convincing rumor described a great new (RISC-like) processor
  coupled with a new architecture that will allow any device in your
  home (TV, radio, phone, etc.) to communicate with all of the others,
  including whatever brand of computer you like.  All of this would be
  hard to grasp except that Sun (Jini) Microsystems and Linux are
  involved. Could be a millennium eye opener. Stay tuned.

  Related News:

  1. Oracle's outspoken CEO, Larry Ellison, promises $150, Linux-based
     computer <> .
  2. And here is a SD Linux User-Group:
     <> .
  3. Minnie's Homepage
     <> will take you to some UNIX sites.
  4. The Nationally recognized VA Linux Systems
  5. A great history of Linux and GNOME
  6. More than you want to read about Linux:

  Regards, George  <in the Search Zone>  and surfing from

  & Joe <list-owner, WebSanDiego> 

           copyright © 1999 George Edw. Seymour & Joe Crawford