Let me start of by explaining the title there. Eric S. Raymond is credited with the idea that Linux use is pretty much a free-for-all in coding terms1, and that all users should strive to contribute something back into their community. That may have been true back in the early nineties, when Linux was basically a coder’s toy-box and you had to have decent skills to even install it. However times have changed, and as technology becomes ever more present in our lives, clearly this definition is outdated at best. Along comes a chap called MrBen, who basically re-imagined how it should work.2
1. Users – these are people that use the software. They want help when it breaks, but they don’t necessarily want to interact at any other point.
2. Community members – people that are actively involved in the community around the software, but are generally reactive – they reports bugs as they find them, and might answer questions on a forum/mailing list.
3. Community contributors – the developers, documenters, etc. People who pro-actively produce something that benefits the project.
So what’s it really like, using Linux over a Macintosh or Windows? Sometimes it can be frustrating – you want a particular bit of hardware? You have to check it’s compatible. You want to run games? It might work under WINE. If you pray to the gods of computing. Windows and Mac fanbois can asses, and basic programmes like browsers and office suits work the same.
But the rest of the time it’s damn awesome.
Script kiddies don’t understand it, and can’t hack you. No one bothers writing malwear for it, so you’re less likely to get an infection. You can do what you like with out some ass-hat corporation restricting your moments within the system. It’s incredibly powerful for the paranoid among us, but can also be made really easy for more stupid. But the main argument for Linux is there is so much choice. A quick look at Distro Watch shows there are 320 separate versions, or distributions, of Linux, while xwinman reports that there are around 100 window managers available.
Currently I use Ubuntu Lucid Lynx with XFCE as my window manager, with GnomeDo and XBindKeys to work most everything, but I’ve been using Linux in some form or another for about ten years now. I have yet to break into level 2 territory however, hovering somewhere between a simple user and an active community member. For example, I can work the command line for simple stuff, mostly starting or stopping programmes, and I’ve attended events and conferences. But when it comes to the hard-core stuff, or understanding how something works, I have to turn to Dark, my Geek in Shining Armour (level 3 or above). This is mostly laziness on my part, that and more exciting things coming along (such as a little monster called G3 Radio ;)) that distract me.
But though it can be difficuklt, and a little daunting, I think everyone should give it a go, in much the same way one should at least try lamb’s liver. Even if it’s only a little taste and you never go back, at least you can say you tried it. Oh, did I mention it’s free? So what are you waiting for? Try it today