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Microsoft Fears Linux

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I'm reluctant to republish the content of others (as so many sites already do), but .. I found it interesting & noteworthy that » Microsoft has acknowledged Linux as a threat .. especially since I spent so many hours in Linux these past few weeks (learning the Unix shell)

Linux PenguinCopy-n-paste snippet (minor Rad-editing for brevity):

"Microsoft acknowledges Linux as the first viable competitor to its Windows client business, due to the use of Linux on netbooks, which are rising in prominence as an alternative to full-sized notebooks.

Microsoft cited Red Hat and Canonical -- the latter of which maintains the Ubuntu Linux distribution -- as competitors to its client business, which includes the desktop version of its Windows OS." </snippet>

Notice how the article said » DESKTOP, and not server. Linux has long been a dominant force in the server market (.. if not the dominant force).

It's difficult to describe why Linux is so cool .. why using it feels so fresh & clean. But I think it has something to do with the good intentions .. that come from thousands of talented programmers donating their time & expertise .. to bring you (for free) an operating system they obviously believe in.

I might be imagining it, but I think you can actually feel these good intentions (while using Linux). Can you feel the difference (in intentions) between someone who genuinely loves you, and someone who is paid to love you?

Moreover, I feel our economy has a lot to do with the Linux threat to the Microsoft desktop. No matter how compelling the product, basic economics suggest it's hard to compete with free. (Which Windows is not.) And in these troubled economic times, free means more than it used to.

Learning the Unix Shell (bash)


Last month I mentioned a quest to learn the Unix shell .. specifically » bash (the Bourne Again SHell). Almost done. Currently ~80% complete .. enough to feel reasonably confident at a terminal.

Linux shell terminalThe 'shell' is simply a program that lets you interact with the operating system (actually the kernel, to be more precise) ..

.. by taking your (text-based) commands and passing them on to the kernel. In my case, this kernel happens to be » Linux (which is but one variant of Unix).

The term 'shell' comes from the notion that this software acts like a 'layer' that sits between you and the operating system .. similar to the way an egg-shell sits between you and your hard-boiled breakfast.

The shell can be intimidating, cuz it uses a (text-based) command-line interface (CLI). No intuitive GUI to help you along. You either know the commands or you don't.

Didn't take me long to realize the CLI was where Linux's true power resides. When we upgraded the site, for example, to a Virtual Private Server, the support-techs who helped me with the move all used the command-line to work their mojo.

Most Linux distros do indeed come with an excellent GUI (usually either KDE or Gnome). But (but!) the Rad VPS does not. Which is why it became necessary to learn the Unix shell. (Something I tried to avoid.)

The Rad VPS is based on CentOS (Community ENTerprise Operating System), an off-shoot of Red Hat, which is probably the most popular of all enterprise Linux distros (.. and now a new member of the S&P 500, a development you may find telling).

GUIs (such as KDE or Gnome) require lots of memory/RAM. My laptop, for example, has 2-gigs, but the Rad VPS comes with an allotment of only 512-MB (.. upgraded from 384 just today).

With that limited amount, I need to run not only all the standard web applications .. such as Apache (web server), MySQL (database), Perl (scripting language), etc. but also cPanel/WHM.

So there's not much RAM left to run a GUI. [ Don't think I didn't inquire about installing a GUI. =) ]

Bottom line » if you wanna administer your own VPS, you need to learn the Shell. So that's what I'm doing. (Of course, there have been distractions, making progress uneven.)

Woke at midnight .. to a disturbing dream. (Didn't get back to sleep 'til 3:30.) Like any artist familiar with affliction, I didn't wanna let good angst go to waste. So I fired up the laptop and resumed my study of the UNIX shell.

The Art of Unix ProgrammingSomewhere 'round 2AM I stumbled upon » The Art of Unix Programmingbook at, by Eric Steven Raymond. (Tho I can't recall how I got there.) He's the guy who wrote How to Become a Hacker, which I quote from time to time.

In his treatment of Unix Programming, ESR uses words like culture & philosophy .. which caught my attention .. cuz I've always been fascinated by other cultures .. not so much for the better/worse comparative aspects, but rather for the mind-expanding effect one gets from truly seeing the world from another's perspective. Plus he writes well (or has a good editor), which I appreciate. Couldn't stop reading.

Here are 10 statements/ideas I found particularly interesting and revealing. Perhaps you might also. (Minor Rad editing for brevity.)

  • Unix was born in 1969. That's several geologic eras by computer-industry standards -- older than the PC or workstations or microprocessors or even video display terminals.

  • Few software technologies have proved durable enough to evolve strong technical cultures, transmitted across generations of engineers. Unix is one. The Internet is another. Arguably they're one and the same.

  • Unix has supported more computing than all other systems combined. It has found use on a wider variety of machines than any other operating system - from supercomputers to handhelds & embedded networking hardware, through workstations & servers, PCs & minicomputers. In its present avatars as Linux, BSD, MacOS X & a half-dozen other variants, Unix today seems stronger than ever.

  • Unix's durability & adaptability have been astonishing. Other technologies come and go like mayflies. Machines have increased in power a thousandfold, languages have mutated, industry practice has gone through multiple revolutions. Still, Unix hangs in there, producing, paying the bills, and commanding loyalty from the best and brightest software minds on the planet.

Been learning the UNIX Shell, which uses a command-line interface (from a terminal) .. something I've wanted to do ever since we upgraded to the Virtual Private Server last year. (Linux is a variant of UNIX.)

Linux shell terminalEven basic knowledge of (how to use) the Linux command line makes life administering a VPS much easier.

The Shell is simply a program that allows users (like me) to interact with the operating system (sometimes termed the 'kernel'). It can be conceived of as a 'layer' sitting between you and the operating system .. hence the term » shell.

Several shells exist, but nearly all Linux distributions come with » bash (Bourne Again Shell) .. cuz it's free, powerful and easy to use.

On my laptop I have installed a copy of Ubuntu Linux that I use to learn the shell (practice). Before jumping into learning the Shell, I figured this was a good time to upgrade my 'installation' of Ubuntu .. to the latest release (» v9.04, 'Jaunty Jackalope').

So I downloaded » this virtual machine (1.1 gig, using uTorrent). Had trouble getting it connected to the Internet, but that was due to my own inexperience with VMware, and not due to any short-comings of Ubuntu.

Anyway, I am really digging learning the Shell, cuz it's something I can use right away. For example, yesterday I upgraded the blogging software we use here at Radified (Movable Type) to the latest version (» 4.26). Something that used to take hours to accomplish was done in minutes .. (using a series of Shell commands). Beautiful.

Regulars might recall when I installed a copy of Ubuntu Linux last summer .. an operation I prepared for by creating a separate 20-gig partition (on my new hard drive), which I formatted as EXT3.

VMware Workstation

Somebody in the forums (Nigel, I think) suggested using VMware (.. either the freebie 'Player' or full-boat 'Workstation' ..) to run a 'virtualized' installation.

I initially balked at the idea .. cuz I didn't grok how virtualization works. But you don't need to understand how an automobile works in order to benefit from driving one. Same goes for virtualization. And the benefits are substantial.

The coolest thing about 'virtualizing' a Linux installation .. is that you can run it from (within) Windows .. just like you can run Photoshop (from Windows) .. or any other Windows-program for that matter .. multitasking all of them at the same time.

I found that .. if you can only use/access Linux by booting into it (and thus leaving Windows behind), you're less likely to use it (.. or so it has been my experience).

So last week I deleted my EXT3 partition, and reformatted it as NTFS .. where I installed a virtual machine containing Ubuntu 8.10 'Intrepid Ibex'.

Intrepid even found my wireless adapter upon initial boot-up. (Woo-hoo!) No more having to troubleshoot wireless connections and installing proprietary drivers just to get internet access.

The only drawback I've found is that you can't copy-n-paste info/text (such as passwords, etc.) between programs running in Windows and those running in (virtualized) Linux. (Tho I wonder if this might help.)

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