Reminiscing on Linux

I’ve been reading Unix in a Nutshell. I can’t remember where I got it, but it was probably at Half Price Books. That “nutshell” business is a joke; the book in paperback is nearly 2 inches thick. This makes my second time through the first part with the encyclopedia of commands on the CLI. Reviewing this stuff for the umpteenth time brings back memories.

It began with the old series of Red Hat 5.0 back in 1998 (before the enterprise editions). A few months later I got my hands on 5.1, which was a whole lot better. I recall using the desktop scripts on top of FVWM called “Another Level” — much easier to use that way. Once I moved up to Red Hat 5.2, that was about as good as it got in those days.

I read through several manuals, played with SuSE a bit, then got my hands on Linux in a Nutshell. It was a good bit smaller than the wider Unix reference. I read through two different editions, but lost my last copy somewhere.

That book confirmed my love for the command line. For once, I understood it and got to use it a good bit. Some years later I discovered FreeBSD and played with that a great deal from about 4.3 up through 7.0 before it went off on a different path. Still, I had learned even more CLI. These days, even if I’m forced to work with a Windows machine, I always install Cygwin — just the CLI portion — so I can use those comfortable tools. They work about the same on Windows, except the Lynx browser works even better.

In the old days, just getting the mouse to work on Linux was a major accomplishment. These days I could swear Linux is easier to use and works better than any version of Windows. Used to be any current version of Linux took much more RAM than the current version of Windows, but not any more. Current Linux distros are faster and lighter than Win7 and certainly faster than Win8.

I’m trying to make sure I’m as sharp as possible as I scan the shadowy horizon for the next mission. Yesterday a surprise intuition wandered out of the mists: I’ll most likely end up still doing a lot of Windows fixing even if I get some job ostensibly working with Linux. So I keep up with the latest security news for Windows, too.

It’s funny how being a serious MS engineer with all that training can keep you from being as quick to fix things. Most of us independent technicians are more narrowly focused on recovery and repair, so we aren’t distracted by all the official doctrines about how things ought to be. For the most part, we are interested only in what works. Aside from the seriously hard-headed clients who refuse to change truly awful computer habits, the things I fix tend to stay fixed. I specialize in helping the client understand what can and cannot be and how it works — at least they understand on some level. I don’t care why they do what they do with their computers; they need help staying out of trouble. For most people, it takes a handful of cleaners and locking tools to do that.

One of the smartest tools to come out in recent months is CryptoPrevent. I really wish more people would use this to lock down their Windows computers. It almost makes them on par with Linux for security. The only really dumb thing remains MS’s use of installer certificates. That’s where the installer program for something gains its own ghost administrator authority and you can’t counter it. You own the computer, but MS owns the OS and they can hand the keys to anyone they like. This is why software pirates flourish and thrive, and it’s why there will always be criminals producing new kinds of malware that takes advantage of the ghost admin powers.

Fifteen years. Once I managed to shed the fan-boy mentality, things got a whole lot easier using Linux. It’s not inherently superior to everything else, just best for what I do.

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
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