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September 21, 2002

Penguin Time

Penguin Time...it's like Goonie Time, but without the pirate ship and the Truffle Shuffle.

When I made the switch to Linux last month, I said that I hoped to someday become the world's number one Linux cheerleader. This was sort of misquoted, and I've read in numerous places that I proclaimed myself "The world's number one Linux cheerleader," which has caused me a little bit of grief...I mean, I can't consider myself the world's number 6000 Linux cheerleader if I haven't even recompiled a kernel yet, or built a LAN...but I'm working on it. =]

Anyway, I'm going to spend a little time this morning cheerlead^H^H^H^H^H^H^H talking about my adventures in Linux, thus far, so if you're here for the nude pictures, you should head elsewhere today.

When I made the switch to Linux about a month ago, I knew that I was entering a Brave New World, and I did it with a little bit of trepidation, but a great sense of excitement, as well. As I wrote back then, "The Open Source movement really appeals to my anarchistic and individualistic tendencies, and everyone I know who uses Linux tells me that I won't miss Windows at all. I don't really use any software that's windows-specific, except Dreamweaver, and I'm told that I can run that under WINE, or find a comparable OS editor."

Since then, I've discovered both the Quanta and Screem editors, which have shown themselves to be fine replacements for Dreamweaver, and the only time I ever miss Windows is when I get the urge to play some games...but a quick trip to the PS2 takes care of that, until I can upgrade this machine with more RAM and a big old video card so I can run WineX 2.1.

Oh, I should have warned earlier: this article will be a little propeller-headed, so if you're not into that, again, you should really go play somewhere else today.

Before I get to the details, I should address something that I think everyone who makes the switch feels: Fear.

We feel afraid, because even though we're pretty sure that everything is going to work out fine, we've existed on a steady diet of FUD for many years. Maybe we tried to install a distro a few years ago, when Linux wasn't as newbie-friendly as it is now. Maybe we're just a bunch of pussies.

I'll admit it: I was nervous.

Nervous that I was going to do this install, and my magical connection to the largest library of free porn on the planet would cease to exist. I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to use a word processor that was as reliable as MS Word had always been.

I was nervous, but also excited.

Excited that I was taking the first step towards joining a global movement based on ideals with which I strongly agreed. I was excited because I know that lots of people read this lame website, and if a lameass like me could make Linux work, that would dispell a great deal of FUD, and maybe empower some people who, like me, suspected that they could live MS-free, but weren't sure if they could hack it. ("Hack it." Har.) I was excited because I felt like I was taking a chance, accepting a risk, and anticipating great rewards.

And I had a hole-card. If I managed to completely break everything, I knew that I would be able to format the drive, reinstall the old OS, and wait for a LUG install party.

Grab a cookie...here we go!

The install was shockingly simple: Open the CDROM, shut down the machine, turnthe machine back on, wait for the Mandrake screen to appear, hit return, watch the fun.

This nice, friendly, graphical install is perfect for newbies. Mandrake asked me if I wanted to use an existing partition, or wipe the whole drive. I opted to format the whole drive, let Mandrake build the partitions for me, and get on with the install. A few minutes later, I got a screen where I was asked what packages I wanted to install.

I was presented with a very easy to understand screen, where I could select options like "Game Station," "Server," "Office," and the like. I was asked if I wanted to run services like ftp, ssh, and a firewall. Finally, I was given the opportunity to choose which desktop environment I wanted. I chose both KDE and Gnome, because I knew from previous experience that there were apps from both environments that I liked.

After selecting my packages, I swapped some CDs, added some users, set some passwords, and got to the part that really had me the most afraid: configuring the network so I could get online.

The last time I tried Linux, it was Red Hat 5.2 and I was on dial-up. Getting that bastard to connect was about as easy as getting laid in a convent. There were all these config files I had to edit, and all these strange text commands I had to type in, just to get the modem to turn on...getting it to connect was another problem entirely. For someone who was coming from Windows 95, this song-and-dance to get connected was simply unacceptable, and ultimately it was the main factor which drove me back to Windows.

Boy have we come a long way, baby! Mandrake did this super-cool autodetection, where it found my NIC, used dhcp to get my IP address, and built my network connection for me. This entire process took about 3 minutes.

Somewhere in there Mandrake autodetected my printer, too. The only thing I had to tell it on my own was that my mouse had a wheel!

Finally, I got to a screen where I was asked if I wanted to check for updates to the packages I'd installed. I said "yes," and walked away to get a drink of water. When I came back a few minutes later, nothing had changed...so I sat down to play some GTA3 while it continued downloading. About 30 minutes later, nothing had changed, and my hard disk had spun down.

This wasn't a good sign. All that excitement I'd been feeling was completely overwhelmed by the nervousness I'd had, and I felt some panic beginning to rise.

I cursed, kicked, gnashed and paced.

I decided to start over, and when I got to the "do you want to upgrade?" part, I said no. The install finished perfectly this time. I restarted the machine, and was logged into Gnome in about 2 minutes.

First Time
I was immediately impressed with the spiffy desktop. It was enough like Windows to give a sense of familiarity without making me feel like I was running some oddball derivative of W2K.

I poked around the menus for a little bit, and was drawn to a menu which said, "What to do?"

What a great question! This was exactlky what I was wondering, and here was a friendly menu to help me out. It contained sub-menus like, "Enjoy Music and Video," and "Use Office Tools." There was aslo "Use the Internet," and "Administer Your System."

I thought, "Hmmm...'Administer Your System,' eh? Okay, I'll take a look."

Sitting in that menu were options like "Add or remove programs, Configure Gnome," and "Download and install Mandrake security updates."

Ah-hah! I clicked on "Download Mandrake security updates," and followed the prompts. This started a really cool "Mandrake Update" utility, which is sort of like a non-intrusive version of Windows Update. I was presented with three options: bug fixes, normal updates, and security updates. I selected all three, and clicked "install," eager to watch...the damn thing spin.

I realized that the reason the install had hung the first time was related to this spinning...the default update site wasn't responding. I guess there was no timeout set for the normal Mandrake install, which is why it hung before. Far be it from me to tell Mandrake how to do things, but this seems pretty silly to me. A simple "Site isn't available now, but here's your system anyway, Jerky." message would have been nice. Fortunately this time I was able to just cancel the connection, define a different source, and about 20 minutes later my system was up to date.

I spent the rest of the next hour or so exploring the system.

Getting Comfortable
I was eager to make the switch to Linux because mostly I use my computer for 3 things:

  • Internet
  • Email
  • Word Processing

I had done lots of research about Linux, and the impression I had gotten was that if your primary computer use was for these three things, the only thing you'd miss about Windows was the daily reboot.

Let's take a look.

The browser that ships with Gnome 1.4 is called "Galeon." It's based on Gecko, from Mozilla, and it's really, really cool. I mentioned the other day that I'm using the latest Mozilla build more and more, but as soon as Galeon catches up with Moz, I'll probably be back with Galeon, for the bookmark editing alone! Although many people's experiences with Linux will surely vary, I can say without a doubt that once you use Galeon or Mozilla, you'll be stunned that you ever liked IE. The KDE desktop has it's own browser also, called Konqueror, but I really don't like it as much as I like Galeon or Mozilla...but anything is better than IE, and you can quote me on that.

Back when I was new to the internet, and I was getting dial-up shell access from netcom, there wasn't such a thing as the World Wide Web, unless you were on a connection fast enough to use NCSA Mosaic. Since the 'net was just text back then, I used it for MUDding (just say no, people!) ircing (mmm...floodbots) and email. The email client I used was called PINE, and it still ships with Linux. I really liked PINE. It was easy to understand and use, even if you were a lamer like me, and I still use it from time to time today.

However, since the Internet is bigger and badder these days, people want bigger and badder email clients, and Linux is happy to oblige. When I was running Windows, I used Eudora, because I hated Outlook's interface, and I've always felt that Outlook's handling of email is secondary to it's primary purpose: spreading worms and virii. Now look, I'm not cracking on Outlook users, okay? As a matter of fact, I wrote a great new game just for Outlook users! It is my first try. I wish you would like it.

Seriously, if you like Outlook, you can use a Linux client called "Evolution" from Ximian. It has all of the things you like about Outlook, a better summary screen, and a really cool calendar. It will interface with your Pilot, and it won't spread worms and virii like Outlook. You can even set up the summary page to load headlines from WWDN, and see if I've gotten off my lazy ass to update the site recently.

Personally, I use KMail, which is part of the KDE desktop. Although I am primarily a Gnome user, KDE has numerous features I like, including the calendar, the tea-timer (a silly little applet that sits in your panel, which is the Linux equivalent of the taskbar,) and KMail. KMail is a mail client which is much lighter than Evolution. KMail looks and feels a lot like Eudora to me, handles filters the same way, and deals with different accounts and protocalls nicely.

Both solutions are very, very easy to install and configure, and if you know things like your POP server, SMTP server and stuff, it's certainly no more difficult than the other clients available for Windows or Mac.

Mozilla also has it's own email client, but I haven't used it. I'm sure that, just like everything else Mozilla does, it's really cool.

This is a place where the FUD really has a firm hold. They'd have you believe that things you author on Linux won't be readable by Word, with the converse also being true.

Well, it's simply not true. At G4, everything is written using Word. I do most of my writing from home because it's easier to concentrate in my quiet home office, and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to send files to work if I authored them under Linux. Well, I haven't had a single problem. I have written 6 episodes since making the switch, and turned in countless rewrites, and the conversion from OpenOffice to Word is seamless.

Mandrake ships with StarOffice, which is put out by Sun Microsystems. It's a very nice alternative to Word. Each time I looked, StarOffice had the familiar Word command, or it's equivalent. The only thing I had trouble with was tables. It was grumpy about having a table wrap to the next page, a problem I also encountered in OpenOffice. A few tweaks in the preferences solved this mildly annoying problem.

Having said all that about StarOffice, I don't use it. I prefer OpenOffice, from OpenOffice.org. In my experience, it loads faster than StarOffice, and I just like the interface better. It doesn't come standard with Mandrake 8.2, but it's easily downlaoded and installed, and can be set as a default word processing application with minimal effort. Update:OpenOffice.org does come with Mandrake 8.2. It didn't install as part of my default installation, or at least I didn't see it, so I assumed it wasn't there. Thank you to everyone who pointed out this amazingly lame error.

Freedom of Choice
These three examples bring up a very important distinction which sets Linux apart from Windows: You are not limited to one word processor, or one desktop environment, or a small set of applications. Linux is all about choice, and putting the power to make decisions about the computing experience into the hands of the users. If you're anything like me, you'll live the all the defaults for about 2 weeks...and then the tewaking of things will begin: the adding and removing of things from the panel...the moving of the panel...the downloading of things from freshmeat and sourceforge...and the inevitable breaking of something. Here is the only real "advice" I'm going to give the reader: If you like to mess with the nuts and bolts of your computer, and you like to try out all kinds of new programs and toys which are still technically "beta," do yourself a favor and set up a "development" box. This means investing 50 bucks or so in another drive, and putting Linux on it, and doing all of your fixing und breaking in it, while keeping your main install safe and reliable.

Day to day use
Some people will suggest new users do what's called a "dual boot" system, where you keep your Windows environment on one partition, and run your Linux partition on another. The advantage of this is that if you mess something up in Linux, you can use your Windows install to get online and get help. It also means that you can access some Windows features through Linux, which is important for some people. The disadvantage of this is that having the "crutch" of Windows will prevent many users from fully enjoying everything Linux has to offer.

When I switched, I did it 100%, and I haven't looked back since. I am really glad that I did it this way, because I've learned something new each day, and grown more secure in my abilities to administer my system. I'd suggest that, unless you're a hardcore gamer, you do the same.

Which Distro is best?
There are numerous holy wars about Gnome v. KDE, Mandrake v. Red Hat, Red Hat v. Debian, Debian v. Slackware...it goes on and on, and I won't take a side in these wars. Instead, I will say what I always say about computers: The operating system for you is the one that works best for you. If that's Windows, or Mac, or even an Atari 800, go nuts. I think that this holds true for Linux, as well. The distro which is "best" is the one that works best for you. Over time, what is "best" for you will probably change, and maybe you'll want to change your distro. Right now, I'm using Mandrake 8.2, and I'm excitedly looking forward to 9.0, which should be out very soon. Maybe someday I'll switch to something else...but that's the beauty of Linux...you get to choose for yourself what you want to use, instead of having The Borg choose for you.

Okay! I'll switch! Get off my back! Now what?
Well, for the Newbies, I suggest something with a very easy install, and good community support. I have found this in both Red Hat and Mandrake, which is not to say that it doesn't exist elsewhere. I just know about the support for Mandrake and Red Hat first hand.

Once you're up and running, join a Linux User Group, where you can get help with problems, answers to questions, and a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from being around people who are nerdier than you are. You will also learn very quickly to love the O'Reilly publishing company. Their Linux books are nothing less than required reading for getting the most out of your system.

There is a lot of specific information I've left out here...after all, I would like to spend some of Saturday with my family...I didn't talk about games because I don't play games on this box. I didn't talk about Spreadsheets because I don't use them, either. But I know that you can do both under Linux. Try Google for some examples. There is also a really cool desktop environment which Ximian makes, built on top of Gnome. I've used it, and found it to be really, really cool.

I have had a few problems, which I try to view as challenges. Most notably, I couldn't get audio to work on this machine...but a quick call for help online yielded the answer to the challenge in about 15 minutes. I currently can't get this box to see my router, but I'm closing in on a solution to that problem daily.

One of us
I will close with what I think is the best benefit from running Linux: when you run Linux, you join a community which is global, and ever-growing. This community is self-sustaining, nurturing, and always welcoming in new members. How much you get out of this community depends on how much you put into it, and it is very rewarding, indeed.

Come on in...there's always room for one more.

Posted by wil at September 21, 2002 11:55 AM
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well this is another long one, i'll think i'll go and read it now

Posted by: Kordith at September 21, 2002 02:24 PM

Thats really way too long. Im sure its a gret like all the rest.

Posted by: Sheldon at September 21, 2002 02:29 PM

there's no such thing as OpenOffice. there's OpenOffice.org from openoffice.org *grin* sorry, I thought that was kinda funny when I installed openoffice.org on my XP machine, they actually had a screen or something that said "This product is called Openoffice.org. not openoffice. openoffice.org" which I thought was moderately amusing. Congrats on the leap; I do the same thing within the month. I'm gonna puss out and dual-boot, because I'm a Diablo II and Starcraft freak.

Posted by: buckthorn at September 21, 2002 02:34 PM

Yesterday was my first day as a working teacher in a working high school...first thing one of the students complained that he couldn't do the assignment because he didn't have internet. I told him that in my day we didn't use the internet. When asked if the internet didn't exist, I had to tell him that it did, but it was only in text, and it wasn't available to me until I got to univeristy...he wanted to know how we saw porn sites if it was only in text...ah inquiring minds.....

Posted by: tanyak at September 21, 2002 02:42 PM

I was going to start a Linux for Wheaton grass roots campain but you beat me to the punch and switched before I could

Posted by: Jacob Metcalf at September 21, 2002 03:00 PM

What does "distro" mean? I know it's short for "distribution," but I can't quite get the context.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at September 21, 2002 03:06 PM

New record for longest post ever. I always knew you'd make it to the Guinness Book...

I'll read it when I have a spare hour. :~)

Posted by: NickW at September 21, 2002 03:08 PM

the penguin haunts me...he's evil.

Posted by: chicadee at September 21, 2002 03:25 PM

Wow...I so didn't expect that link to actually go to a porn site.

Posted by: Drew at September 21, 2002 03:26 PM

What do you mean by "the box can't see my router"?
You can't ping your router?
You can't get onto the net?
What do you get when you type "route" ? (or route -n)


Posted by: Marcus at September 21, 2002 03:32 PM

Distro (distribution) means the "brand" of Linux you're using. It's all the Linux kernel/OS, but the whole package (distribution) is made by Red Hat, Mandrake, SUSE, Debian, etc. So Wil's using the Mandrake Distro.

Posted by: mr_rangr at September 21, 2002 03:52 PM

for buckthorn - theres a diablo II linux howto for us linux users - try google.com:)
wil, nice to see you having fun, welcome to another propellerhead penguin:)
distros dont matter - newbies should, imho, start with redhat, mandrake, or other pretty gui installs. you'll get eager to explore other distros later...
and arent you lucky to be in the linux community, so you CAN have choice?:)
scratch that. t'aint luck. smart. hoopy cool and frood even.

Posted by: romana at September 21, 2002 04:11 PM

Dearest Wil,

I love you, I want to tinker with your Linux box all nite long. Pls reciprocate my love ASAP.

Posted by: Brianrietta at September 21, 2002 04:19 PM

LOL! Yeah, I remember the days before the Internet...days before I spent an entire afternoon, or evening, online. Started out learning Dos as a kid, back in the 80's when Windows was still the newest thing since sliced bread. There were only cheesy computer games back then, and Star Trek: TNG wasn't even on TV then. There were only classic Trek reruns, which I had gotten into at the time. Still like 'em once in a while, but I'd rather watch Enterprise.

I just got a new laptop, and am seriously converting my XP box to Linux, or at least partitioning a hard drive so I can play with it.
I'm trying to decide between Red Hat & Mandrake and am leaning toward Mandrake. Wonderfully informative article, Wil. I do understand the technobabble, but I have a computer programming degree. :)

Posted by: Emily at September 21, 2002 04:44 PM


WoW a really informative article on Linux. I was thinking about switching,but I am a die hard gamer so I think i'll stick with Windows ME. Thanks for your informative article.

Best to you and your family,
Until your next post......


Posted by: matt at September 21, 2002 05:09 PM

w00t w00t!

When I first read that you had switched to Linux, I did a little happy dance... that rocks! As you so nicely illustrated today, it's not really hard at all. If you know your way around Windows, you can use Linux -- especially if you're adventurous and enjoy tweaking things. Even if you don't, it's still (IMNSHO) a *much* better system.

I use Gentoo, which is NOT a newbie distro, but which is much cleaner, sleeker, and smoother than RH or Mandrake (my previous favorite). I'm also using Fluxbox as my window manager (although I have Gnome 2.0 and KDE 3.1 both installed, so I can use their apps).

Take a look at some screenshots:

My desktop:

Listening to some music:

(Sorry about the filesize on that one...)

And from the sublime... to the ridiculous:


Posted by: Da Schmiz at September 21, 2002 05:51 PM

I've been trying to work up the nerve to switch. I just don't know if my machine can handle running WineX for my crack gaming habit.

FUD is the path to the dark side...
FUD leads to crashes...
Crashes lead to lost data...
Lost data leads to... Suffering.

Posted by: Random_Tangent at September 21, 2002 07:04 PM

Abiword is a decent alternative word processor.

Also WINE has come a long way.. I remember playing Starcraft about 3-5 years ago (can't remember the exact year) using WINE under linux and it ran -faster- than it did in Windows. Crazy.

Posted by: Daniel at September 21, 2002 07:04 PM

Ok, so I read about half of that and realized I have NO idea what you were talking about. It sounded positive, though, so you keep on pimpin' Linux's shit.

Posted by: Alexis at September 21, 2002 07:10 PM

DEAR SIR, IT IS "VIRUSES" NOT "VIRII" THE LATTER BEING A LAME H@> http://www.perl.com/language/misc/virus.html

Posted by: P000 at September 21, 2002 07:12 PM

Hey, Wil,

Nice to see that you're having fun with Linux. It's not worth it if you're not having fun. Well-written and informative article, too. You're going to have to sharpen your pencil and get in to the Linux journalism scene. :)

Note to buckthorn: romana said it first, but I'll chime in - Diablo2 and Starcraft both run under Linux. No problems. Check out http://www.transgaming.com for help.

Note on Word Processors: I just downloaded Koffice 1.2 and the importation of MS Word docs has improved a lot since 1.1 - haven't tested it with tables yet, tho.

Posted by: Bolverk at September 21, 2002 07:24 PM

You know what the best thing about galeon is? Tabs, man! Tabs are the best. And you can open links in *new* tabs behind the screen your reading, so you don't get interrupted.

Seriously, wil, I was a bit disappointed by the spelling this time around. I *know* Mandrake ships with a spellchecker. Rock on, man; keep living on the bleeding edge.

But you can't beat those tabs.

Posted by: mmmsoap at September 21, 2002 08:02 PM

I can't wait to switch to Linux myself. I hate windows more and more every day...although I do plan to keep a Windows machine around so I can play stuff like Mafia, GTA3, and other PC games.

Wil: Have you ever considered looking into Lindows?

Posted by: Bryan Gilchrist at September 21, 2002 08:28 PM

Hey... maybe you should make a Linux "Switch" commercial, like Apple's switch commercials :)

I've always been both a Mac & Unix geek, which is why I love OSX - it's like having the best of both worlds. I even have X11 running along with native apps.

Posted by: Mike Cohen at September 21, 2002 08:30 PM

I've had Redhat or Mandrake partition on my for last 3 or 4 years, but your right my Win98 partition is a cruch that I should rid myself of. Currently I have Redhat 7.3 and I'm looking forward to installing whatever Redhat's beta(NULL) becomes.
This is a little off topic but I was wondering what other punk bands you listen to.

Posted by: sick at September 21, 2002 08:31 PM

Was the spelling really that bad?

I wrote the whole thing in MT's composer window, so I din't use the speelcheckers.

You know that Moz 1.2a has tabs, right? Tabs, type-ahead find, and mouse gestures.

So until I compile the new Galeon build, I'm sticking with Mozilla.

And not having a speellcheckert.

Posted by: wil at September 21, 2002 08:31 PM

Spellcheckers don't catch those pesky "its" "it's" errors though. :)

I like the term virii... same as I like to say penii. I ~know~ it's not correct, but it's darned fun to say.

My honey caught me reading this blog entry and immediately started in on the "let's switch to Linux" spiel. Damn you Wil Wheaton and the penguin you rode in on!

Posted by: mandy at September 21, 2002 08:39 PM

Well I think you have me sold on this Linux switch. And Mike Cohen was right, you should do a commercial on it, you're that good. :) I could easily read and understand what you were talking about. And your little personal comments made it that more interesting. Not that I knew all the programs you listed not being that into programstotally myself. But I do just basically the same thing you do on my computer. The problem is, the people I have around to help me get it and install it, as I do need a major upgrade to my computer, are all diehard windows xp fans. I think they might fall over in a faint if I said I wanted something different. And these are all guys so that would be pretty funny. But it is definitely something I am going to possibly change over to in the near future. Thanks Wil! :) *remembers to mark this entry for reference*

Posted by: Melissa at September 21, 2002 09:35 PM

FYI for all of those interesting in Mandrake, 9.0 will probably be released next week. If you thought 8.2 was nice, just wait until you try 9.0. It ROCKS. I'm using beta4 of it now (they've already done 4 betas, and three release candidates, but beta4 worked good enough for me until the final release).

Course, you'll probably have to wait a week after the fact to download it since the FTP sites tend to get hammered with new releases. :) They plan on having boxed copies in stores in October.

I've used Mandrake since 7.0... and will never use anything else. :)

Posted by: Paul Cox at September 21, 2002 09:40 PM


Posted by: P000 at September 21, 2002 09:52 PM

Wil, thanks for taking so much time and effort to make an unapproachable subject more approachable. I probably qualify as a geek, but I'm pretty user oriented when it comes to computers. Having a bigger geek (in the good sense) chart the path is a real help. Best, Rob

Posted by: Rob at September 21, 2002 10:30 PM

Great post Wil,

I'm happy you make the switch, and from the sounds of it, it is suiting you well. I haven't used windows at home for quite some time now, and as far as work goes, nearly two years. Yeah, I got lucky and work for a company that doesn't use windows.

Hovever, one small correction, OpenOffice.org is functionally equivalent to StarOffice. Just like Netscape 6.x/7.x is functionally equivalent to Mozilla. One just happens to be open sourced, the other happens to be commerical software. Sharing documents between openoffice and staroffice is easy, same format, and I haven't encoutered any problems, and then of course sharing files with the MS Office crowd works well also.

Posted by: Doctor_D at September 21, 2002 11:24 PM

Wil hunny you use to many big words for my mind to register!! I love your site and it is fun to read, but this one was just way to confuseing for me to read all the way through!! Love ya!!!

Posted by: ericka at September 21, 2002 11:28 PM

This is definitely a good sign!
Enjoy Linux Wil!

Posted by: Rob at September 21, 2002 11:43 PM

Penguin Time
The next time you header that, you'd better be in Pittsburgh... watching hockey!
I've been on the fence for a few weeks about a new OS. My 'ole rig died a few weeks ago, and i've been doing nothing but getting Win set back up ever since. Grass looks greener over there...
(anyone care to do a parody of the apple/switch commecials starring Wil?)

Posted by: Jato at September 22, 2002 01:51 AM

Another log technical boring post that says nothing about you. Big deal. Some writer. ;-/

Posted by: Angelwwolf at September 22, 2002 02:04 AM

Hey Wil,

nice post! I'd really love to see you as a spokesperson for the movement -- besides Linus (who doesn't say much), the figureheads aren't really very charismatic. But you'll need a thick skin for this job, there's a lot of zealots on both sides. Then again, nothing probably beats the experience of being Wesley Crusher.

Speaking of zealots, I'm afraid your closing statement is a little misleading: "This community is self-sustaining, nurturing, and always welcoming in new members." Have you ever been to one of the popular Linux IRC channels? Well, I have. And I know how they "welcome" newbies. It's like one of those Klingon painstick rituals. "Read the damn manual!" "You're too stupid!" "You'll never learn!" You see, there are all those emotionally and sexually repressed geeks who are using this as an outlet to deal with aggression they suffered as high school kids. Note to other readers who consider switching -- don't let this get you down. Just stick to the official support (if you pay, you get it) or one of the forums explicitly labeled as newbie-friendly.

Which makes me wonder whether one could build a more friendly mutual tech-help community, the basic rule being: "We don't care how much you know -- if you behave like a jackass, you're out." I see some business potential there.

Heh. Maybe we'll see you in IBM's or Sun's version of "Switch" commercials once the desktop wave really gets rolling.

Anyway, you may want to start thinking about whether you want this to be part of your regular blog, as you're bound to alienate readers with all the tech talk (it's like those Trek episodes where they were only talking about how to convert those damn subspace transmitters in order to fluctuate the ion wave emitting from the warp drive to reduce the impact of the tachyon emissions .. er, sorry, got carried away there). Besides, you deserve to have a copyeditor for your rants :-)

Posted by: Erik at September 22, 2002 02:24 AM

This article has me strongly considering LINUX (for the first time). I had been hating Windows for quite some time now until XP and since have been pretty happy.

Though you make it sound as if I could be happier.

BTW, what is LUG install party? I would assume that it's when everyone gets together to install Linux at once but it sounds almost silly.

Posted by: WilliamKnight at September 22, 2002 02:26 AM

I like linux more and more, but i did not install it so far.

Instead i am using knoppix a Linux Live File System. You have just download the leatest iso image burn on a CD, restart your machine and
3 minutes later you have Linux runing with KDE the browser Konqueror pops up.

It is not some kind of an joke it is real. It based from an Debian distribution, so Gimp, Mozilla, OpenOffice.org, plus many more programs and even Gnome are ready for use.

I think there is no need to make the big swicht as the first steep. I can evaluate Linux, get familiar what is behind Linux without to change

What, it should not be one for gamers ? Linux/Unix is the biggest text advanture of man kind. ;-)

related url www.knoppix.de

Posted by: Thomas_K at September 22, 2002 02:54 AM

* Erik: " Which makes me wonder whether one could build a more friendly mutual tech-help community, the basic rule being: "We don't care how much you know -- if you behave like a jackass, you're out." "

The Mandrake Linux mailing lists ( http://www.linux-mandrake.com/en/flists.php3 ) are very much like that. They are great for both newbies and experts alike. Also check out http://www.pclinuxonline.com :)

* WilliamKnight: " BTW, what is LUG install party? "

A LUG is a Linux User Group. There is probably one in your area. Take a look at http://www.linux.org/groups/index.html

Posted by: Yama at September 22, 2002 03:21 AM

I'm one of those that got burned trying to make the switch from Windows to Linux - mainly due to difficulties getting my printer and internet connections to work. Today, the software that my ISP uses for my cable internet connection will only ever survive under Windows. >_

However, that hasn't stopped me from dreaming of setting up Linux some time in the future. I'm all for anything that releases free, easy-to-use software (coming, as I do, from a region where software and video piracy is practically a cottage industry!); and the chance to tweak one's machine to spec.

I'm bookmarking this page (waves Mozilla banners), and going off to do some more research on Linux. I guess the day I discover Adobe software can run under Linux, will be the day I take the plunge; and end up leaving Windows in the comp to handle the frigging internet connection (unless by some miracle, I discover that *that* will run under Linux, too)!!!

Posted by: Starshadow Rivaulx at September 22, 2002 04:12 AM

wow, i could read all of that and managed to understand at least half of it! Wil, thanks for such a newbie friendly and still supergeeky entry... :)

maybe i too will someday switch to linux... i'm kinda bored with Windows.

Posted by: suzy at September 22, 2002 04:24 AM

Congrats on the switch to Linux! Glad you enjoy it over here on the dark side. I'm in the process of helping my brother switch using Debian -- I like the ease of upgrading between versions -- but as it's all being done over the phone (he's many miles away) and Debian can't seem to find his network card, I may have to try out Mandrake.

I am now blessing your hard drive...

Posted by: St Aardvark the Carpeted at September 22, 2002 07:01 AM

stop it. this is too geeky. back to life stories. no more computer stories. pleeeeease.

Posted by: coffey at September 22, 2002 08:07 AM

About the 'checking for updates' part:

The utility it uses (Mandrake Update) doesn't usually work very well. There's a couple other update utilities for RPM updating (rpm-get, errr, I forget the other). Maybe try one of those.

Good luck.

- Ben

Posted by: Ben Hearsum at September 22, 2002 08:23 AM

Whoa. LINUX warp bubble, and we're all trapped inside with Wil.

I'd know more about Linux if more easier "distros" were available for my ol' PPC604e Mac Clone. I haven't had enough free time to switch my shaman's headdress (I use that when I keep all the Macs in the agency in line) for my old, dusty propellor hat (after BASIC in 1982, I learned 6802, Z80, and 6809 assembly, so high-level languages like Pascal just seemed too luxuriant) to download an old distribution and "make" it work. It would be really cool to see Linux run on an old, old box like PCjr, or an Apple IIg. Breathe life into the dragon, ya little penguin.

If a LUG has an install party at a French cafe, is it called a "bistro distro"?

If "Linux" is for boys, is "Lucyx" for girls?

Is the Linux community held together by die-hards called "LUG Nuts"? Does this help explain the reliability of Windows, as it must be held together by "Wing Nuts" that just keep flying off?

You know I was admiring Steve Jobs and the UNIX underpinnings of Mac OS X the other day. I never thought I'd see the day when graphic designers would be comfortable typing "sudo chown root:wheel Hevetic*" into the command-line.


Posted by: Drakensykh at September 22, 2002 08:41 AM

The Latest version of Unreal Tournament 2003 is shipping with the Linux version on the 3 CD set with the windows version. I tried Redhat 6.x about a year ago on dual boot With win2k.I had a 1 GHZ Amd t-bird
with 512MB ram.it ran like a 200MHZ with 64 megs.
(deadly slow)at the time I also had a usb based dsl modem that wasn't supported under linux.
it was an abortive attempt.
I've since upgraded my modem so it connects thru ethernet.
I have heard good things about the Mandrake distro from others as well, and you've convinced me to make that one my next attempt.
in order to dual boot (in my job I occasionally support window users from home)I'll have to install a floppy drive in my new machine, a feature I left out when I built it as I was leaving behind "legacy" technology.
Wil, I don't know if you are a pentium user or AMD
but you get more bang for the buck from amd.
I can get you a wholesale account with my local supplier if you like, they save me an average of 70$-150$ on processors and similar savings on other components.it's handy for me to check their price online before I make a purchase because they usually have it cheaper.shoot me an email if you wanna check this out,I'll give you my login so you can see what I mean.

Posted by: Mark Wadsworth at September 22, 2002 09:13 AM

Starshadow said "the software that my ISP uses for my cable internet connection will only ever survive under Windows."

I doubt it. I use cable, and they handed me this big packet when I signed up. I pulled out the specsheet and threw the rest away. I've never had any trouble getting it to work under Linux. Really.

It's probably a DHCP-based system, so config is a breeze. If you're using RoadRunner or some other proprietary login-based system, there are lots of people who have gotten that to work as well; check Google for details.

Drakensykh says: "I'd know more about Linux if more easier "distros" were available for my ol' PPC604e Mac Clone."

Have you checked out Mandrake PPC ?

Posted by: Da Schmiz at September 22, 2002 09:19 AM

Penguins? I don't see no stinkin penguins!

Posted by: bluecat-redblanket at September 22, 2002 09:26 AM

Linux? Dude, say it isn't so. What about OS X?

Posted by: Zminus10 at September 22, 2002 09:42 AM

first time I've ever skimmed past something you've written - but you seemed to enjoy it.

Posted by: jodilyn at September 22, 2002 10:09 AM

"Oh, I should have warned earlier: this article will be a little propeller-headed, so if you're not into that, again, you should really go play somewhere else today."

did any of your fuckin complainers read that? jesus. get a life.

Posted by: jb at September 22, 2002 10:28 AM

You do know that you just wrote a full speel on a computer program right? You really need to get another hobby, one that takes you out doors abit more.
And the camwhores site, not too impressed by that but hey, you guys do whatever takes your fancy.
Until next time.

Posted by: Annie at September 22, 2002 10:49 AM

Okay, you'll post that MONSTROSITY about Linux, but you won't update about Vega$? What the heck is that???

Posted by: KB at September 22, 2002 10:51 AM

First I see Wil pimping x3D glasses on late night TV last night... now this...

so will...will x3D's software work with linux? :)

(Wesley was SOOOO my herooo.... )

However...good for you for going to linux.

Posted by: RoundTop at September 22, 2002 12:59 PM

Crap! sorry for the double-post.... there was supposed to be a /sarcasm tag after that Wesley is soo... line.

grr... whoops. Looks like this posting system allows HTML tags in the text..big mistake.

Posted by: RoundTop at September 22, 2002 01:01 PM

I posted this on slashdot, thought you guys might want to see it. Just an idea if you can afford it:

"One thing that's saved me a lot of headaches is having 2 boxes. Most people like windoze games anyway, so it works out nice to share your dsl/cable connection between a Linux variant and a MS gaming box.

It's pretty invaluable to have a backup system so you can goto google and find out why something crashed in Linux, or vice-a-versa.

Most broadband modems have routers installed nowadays, then just buy a cheap hub from Linksys to share the connection(or buy a Linksys router). Also it's very handy to buy one of those computer I/O switch thingies...it allows you to use one keyboard to control both computers(while sharing the monitor)...all I do it ctl-alt-shift 1, or 2 to switch back and forth between computers.

Anyway Wil's article mentioned the danger inherant in crashing your only connection to the web while experimenting(where to go for help when you can't surf?)...and he also mentioned the drawback of not being able to play windows games in Linux...if you can afford a second box, this solves both problems very nicely.

Posted by: Greg at September 22, 2002 01:03 PM

For spellchecking in mandrake, there's a listing in mozdev.org for a spellchecker. I'm currently though using 1.2a with the spellchecker from netscapes ftp for their 7.0 install.

As regards your experiences though, keep up the good work! I think you hit the nail right on the head with the comment of fear keeping people back, or at least in my case it did for a long time after BeOS fell. Having high profile people who are techy, but not 'too' techy dispelling some myths is just what's called for in the situation.

Posted by: Joe Tie. at September 22, 2002 01:07 PM

Nice writeup. Reminds me of the good days when I first started giving Linux a try. Now excuse me while I download some new toys for my desktop...

Posted by: dattaway at September 22, 2002 01:18 PM

Wil, you my friend, rule. If it were possible, I would spawn with you...I'm not gay, but you make me want to be ;) Now that i've dispenced with the (un?)pleasentries, i'd like to agree with you on almost ever point about Linux, especially the whole dual boot thing. I, myself, use Gentoo Linux so'as I can always have the newest build of everything, you might want to look into it...It is quite neat. Plus I can type 'emerge apache' or 'emerge love' and at least 50% of the time it'll just download and install said program.

Posted by: davidsmind at September 22, 2002 01:50 PM

Wil, You have got to try RedHat 8 when it comes out in a couple weeks. It will rule your desktop!! -chris

Posted by: chris at September 22, 2002 01:59 PM


Great article. Now that you have your Linux box up and running, you might find this site useful for going to the next step...


Posted by: William Shotts at September 22, 2002 02:08 PM

Da Schmiz: No, I haven't checked out Mandrake, but I will now. I think the last thing I checked out was, um, Yellow Dog? I think. Thanks for the reference.

Posted by: Drakensykh at September 22, 2002 02:11 PM

Goonies, ha. Good referance, i guess.

Posted by: Justine at September 22, 2002 02:12 PM


stty erase '^?'

Works wonders with the backspace key ;-)

Posted by: Jason Stare at September 22, 2002 02:21 PM

I had the same problem with MandrakeUpdate.

So I too decided to run it after the installation. The best way to do that is to run the MandrakeUpdate command from a Terminal window. You then get to see what's going on in the background. Sometimes it seems that MandrakeUpdate is hanging, but the Terminal window shows that it is still downloading.

Posted by: Jacco2 at September 22, 2002 02:57 PM

Hey there, Wil - this is a very well done article. Thank you for taking the time top post it. It's very difficult to overcome the 'extreme tunnel vision' we all experience after years of running Windows. Like you, I took the plunge just over a year ago and began experimenting with various Linux distributions. It turned out to be the best thing I've done in my 14 years of computing. If you get some spare time, stop by and visit us on the forum at www.hostclub.net because we all love to talk computers. Take care, and keep up the good work! :-)

Posted by: Cyclops at September 22, 2002 03:03 PM

I'm all for playing with new toys, but did Wil REALLY intend to imply (in the second sentence under Freedom of Choice) that Linux has a larger "set of applications" than Windows? Also, the post talks of sacrifices that must be made to live in Linux (less games and no Dreamweaver). What are the benefits of Linux that do not exsist with Windows (besides living MS free)?

Posted by: Patrick Martin at September 22, 2002 03:05 PM

Atari 800... oh the memories!

Like you Wil, I had tried Linux 1+ years ago and couldn't believe how user-unfriendly it was. So I installed Mandrake 8.2 a few weeks ago... and once again, immediately went right back to Windows. Of course, part of that reason is cuz I am a hardcore gamer, but man, Linux has a long way to go for most people to think that it doesn't suck HUGE, let alone think that it's a viable alternative to Windows.

Posted by: Matt at September 22, 2002 03:16 PM

i installed mandrake after i read your article and i love it, i still have my receipt from when i bought xp can i get my money back? i will never use windows again!

Posted by: tanya at September 22, 2002 03:34 PM

Uh I didn't read any of that. . blah blah blah. . haha oh well. :D

Posted by: Chelsey at September 22, 2002 04:06 PM

If you like Mandrake, you should give SuSE a go... In terms of hardware detection I have found SuSE to be better.

Posted by: mr_flibble at September 22, 2002 04:14 PM

Drakensykh says: "I'd know more about Linux if more easier "distros" were available for my ol' PPC604e Mac Clone."

You might also wish to look at NetBSD; their goal is to run on as many architectures as possible.

Disclaimer: I run FreeBSD here, not NetBSD, but they are fairly similar.

Despite the troll above, I'm pretty happy with FreeBSD, and it's a good open-source alternative to Linux. However, the initial install is a little less polished than e.g. Mandrake (at the moment, anyway).


Posted by: Mark Linimon at September 22, 2002 04:23 PM

Patrick Martin: see my post about this at slashdot:

Posted by: Da Schmiz at September 22, 2002 05:06 PM


Posted by: Jacob Metcalf at September 22, 2002 05:17 PM

If you like Kmail you will absolutely love Balsa. Just because you use Gnome does not mean that you have to use Evolution.

Try Balsa out and there is a little "Send to" script for Nautilus that works with it and it is nice.

Posted by: Johnathan Bailes at September 22, 2002 05:50 PM

Mandrake is neat. I wish you the best of luck using it...Linux is stable, just becareful what you do as root wil, you can _really_ mess stuff up.
But it's all worth it when you never see a BSOD again, the last time you shut down you _really_ meant to shut down, and that was weeks ago - you have about 3 processes running in the background that each would have dragged win2K into oblivion by itself, and you're still browsing WWDN, listening to your music, and/or watching dvd's happily. That is multitasking : )
For games - quake's and doom's are available, and many games are runnable under emulation - and UT is gonna be running on my system tonight. remember - google is your friend.

Posted by: joshua smith at September 22, 2002 05:54 PM

Cool! Glad you're enjoying your new OS.
If my comp was used just for internet and word processing I'd consider switching. but I do computer graphics and play games. I wonder if they make Linksys network adaptors that work with Linux...
Do you know?
I think your review should be posted on C-net. It's pretty cool.

Posted by: Su at September 22, 2002 06:25 PM

It's actually funny--I just read this and a matter of hours ago, I purchased a new harddrive for the sole purpose of joining the world of Linux users. Now I can rest assured Wil Wheaton approves of such actions!

Posted by: Clara at September 22, 2002 07:08 PM

Mozilla Mail blows shredded wheat chunks.

Mozilla's really only got 2 things right (so far). 1> The browser, which is most important. 2> It's calendar, which isn't even part of the default installation.

Posted by: Kristian at September 22, 2002 07:23 PM

You know I used to hear 'Linux is really cool, but I'm not ready yet' sounds occasionally out of W but I never really expected a switch. Big congrats on overcoming FUD and nerves!
For the record I'm a Debian junky now.
Also, for people who recommend dual booting or a secondary computer, I have another alternative. Non-graphical login. The most common thing I break is X. (or X somehow manages to break itself) Its the most danger prone part of a system if you have a graphical login as it sort of negates your ability to login. All you need to do is

when you login. If X gunks, then you still have recourse without Windows or a 'stable' box.

Lastly, it just so happens I'm doing a anti-Microsoft/pro-EverythingElse presentation as part of a university course and would love to see a pic of Wil in front of his brand newen linux boxen.

Posted by: medwards at September 22, 2002 07:29 PM

You've been /.ed again, dude.

The day I switch to Linux will be the day my iPaq is supported on it (the Linux distros available for the iPaq are quite, quite useless at the moment, unfortunately).

Posted by: JD at September 22, 2002 07:32 PM

To Patrick Martin:

A) Yes, wil meant it. Don't let the MS campaign fool you: anything that you can do in windows, you can do in linux

B) the advantage of linux over windows? Everything's free, man! Download a mail client, office suite, or a whole new release of the kernel and IT'S ALL FREE!!!!!

Plus, of course, those tabs.


Posted by: mmmsoap at September 22, 2002 07:48 PM

Hey Wil. It's nice to see that you are enjoying Linux so far. I am a Slackware fan. I finally made the complete switch from Windows 2000 this year, and I've never been happier about computing. I'm thinking that I am getting pretty good at the Linux stuff, but every day I discover all sorts of new tweaks and modifications that you can do to this OS. The beauty of its complexity is its simplicity. And for those of you that don't like to dig in deep and tweak your OS, distributions like Lycoris and Mandrake are perfect for beginers (or experts). And if you ever have any questions about Linux, feel free to ask us. Just be sure to help support your favorite Linux companies. They can't keep making great products without our help, even if it is something small.

Posted by: zach at September 22, 2002 08:01 PM

rock on, wil!! my friend e-mailed me to tell me your post was linked at slashdot where thousands of nerdy ppl will read it. that totally rocks! whoo hoo!! =)

Posted by: Amanda at September 22, 2002 08:12 PM

I think this is my first post here (long time visitor).

I just wanted to chime in with the Debian crowd - Wil, get someone to show you apt-get and explain how it works. (Like Mandrake's updater only on steroids).

I wish Debian and Gentoo would merge or something; apt-build for Debian is pretty close.

I chose Debian mostly because of the 'militantly free' atmosphere. I love how their stable release means STABLE... I do run many of the unstable packages though; couldn't wait for KDE 3.0.2 to hit stable.

Great news that is for sure. I can't wait to tell people that Wil Wheaton runs linux.

Posted by: Adrian at September 22, 2002 08:32 PM

Wow, wish i saw this 12 hours ago...I suspect that this post won't be read by Mr. Wheaton since it's so far down the list, but I just wanted to comment on the gentleman's mention of Lindows. Don't let them fool you. I had the opportunity to try it first hand. It's merely vanilla linux with the option to give your existing windows programs & files respective placement in your X environment (start menu & desktop items). While this creates the illusion that something MAGICAL and WONDEROUS has been infused into the essence that is Linux, as one would expect it just WINE's your shit like every other Distro. As for ease of use, your actually better off with Mandrake. Lindows lacks some of the powerful-yet-easy-to-use configuration utils that Mandrake has been known for providing.

Posted by: UberN00b at September 22, 2002 08:41 PM

Yay, Wil. Good story, and despite what people say about Linux, it's never really been that hard to do. Back in 96 when I was getting started in the cybercafe biz, a kind yankee by the name of Bill Gray came by and left a 15 CD distro of Slackware, Yggdrasil flavored. ENTEL (crummy version of an ISP) had done the install after we lent the CD's to them, and I had to run the thing. Ran fine for a quite a time, but I had had a smattering of Unix garnered elsewhere, so it helped. My real test came when we were robbed and sabotaged, specifically of the Linux server (the bastards cut all the cables and stole it). Within 12 hours I had a new server up and running again, mail, lan & routing, httpd configured, and about 90% of the web site back up.

Nowadays installing a distro can be done pretty well un-attended. That's progress for you.

Posted by: rust at September 22, 2002 09:06 PM

Games are one of the weak areas of Linux if you mean commercial games like Diablo. A few have been ported by the companies that own them, but most are Windows only. Windows emulators do allow some of them to run on Linux but can also be difficult to set up.

That said, there is a thriving community of open source game developers for Linux so there are lots of good games if you are willing to be tolerant of the graphics. Programmers aren't usually the best artists.

The best news site I know of for Linux games is The Linux Game Tome at http://www.happypenguin.org

Anyway, happy gaming.

Posted by: Kevin at September 22, 2002 09:58 PM

Welcome to the Light side! LOL Linux rocks! Some guy above asked if linksys routers work with linux, of course they do silly....

Posted by: Thayne at September 22, 2002 11:01 PM

Wow dude, you are one versatile writer. You're not only funny, you also write highly readable and accessible tech review type stuff. Thanks for the excellent info! And I heard that the ousted royal family of Nigeria loves your Outlook game.

Unfortunately I feel compelled to provide a little balance to all the Mandrake cheerleading. I ordered the basic Mandrake 8.2 3-CD set plus manuals on September 3rd and it's still not here. It took almost a week to get a non-automated email response from their staff. While they trace the order I gave up and downloaded the CDs. The point of ordering the set was to avoid doing that, and to support their efforts. But if the boxed set ever does get here, those manuals better be major works of great literature.

In addition to the sound and update troubles you had, I ran into one called the "no-hlt" problem, which prevents Linux from booting, and have yet to be able to get Gnome or KDE to set the resolution properly on either of my two monitors, both of which work fine with Windows. I've managed to find solutions to most of the problems, but none of the solutions came from the Mandrake website, although I did look there first.

Although still doggedly enthusiastic about getting away from the Empire, I am not presently a big Mandrake cheerleader and am happy to remain one of those sensible dual-boot weenies until this stuff actually works.

Best of luck exploring beyond the frontiers of the empire. Thanks to everybody who posted tips and info.

Posted by: Doug at September 22, 2002 11:21 PM

I just wanted to voice that I'm part of the minority that loves OS X. Nothing older than Jaguar, though. ;)

I agree with Mike Cohen, this is like a "switch" commercial. Heh.

Posted by: Courtney at September 23, 2002 12:47 AM

Wil, you may have just done more for Linux advocacy than 90% of the Linux users out there, including me. Bravo.

I ran Mandrake myself awhile back; it's a good distro, and has only gotten better over time. One of their nice features is that they build all the packages with Pentium optimizations, so they tend to run faster than the equivalent Red Hat packages (which are built to run on 386 or better).

These days, I use Debian-unstable, which seems to be the choice of a lot of developer types. (That's how I got turned on to it, by a bunch of co-developers on a project who used Debian-unstable exclusively.) It's got its own fancy self-updating system ("apt"), so it's easy to keep up with the latest fixes. (Incidentally, "unstable" is a relative term in the Debian world. Even Debian-unstable tends to be more stable than, say, Red Hat.) However, YMMV. Distros like Mandrake are just fine, and many people use them, or they wouldn't all be around.

I've been using the Gnumeric spreadsheet recently, from GNOME. OpenOffice should also have its own spreadsheet you may like better.

Anyhow, keep on truckin'...once you've had penguin, you'll never go back :-).

Posted by: Erbo at September 23, 2002 01:17 AM

Did anyone else catch this?

"When I made the switch to Linux last month, ..."

"I have written 6 episodes since making the switch, and turned in countless rewrites, ..."

This got me curious whether His Wheatiness was being overworked, or whether G4 was perhaps producing shovelware television.

I asked our satellite service (DirectTV in Los Angeles) for G4, but no love. You'd think at least LA would have it.

Then I looked up g4 tv and g4 television on google. Clicked on the obvious top links www.g4tv.com and www.g4media.com, and pouf, non-existant pages. I distinctly remember a G4 website before it launched, but it appears to have gone missing.

Has anyone seen his show, Arcade?

Has the network closed without bothering to inform Wil?

Visions of Wil clutching his red Swingline stapler, unconsciously mumbling incendiary plots...

Posted by: Dave Taylor at September 23, 2002 01:42 AM

I'm gonna roll the dice and hope someone reads down to the bottom because I have a couple of questions.

First tho, I have to say that I used to be a victim of the FUD. My husband talked about installing Linux on his computer, and I said "Do what you want, but no way I'm switchin! I'll stay right here with my windows and my horse and buggy thank-you-very-much!" But after wiping my hard drive for the nth time because of a virus or more likely because W2K decided to eat itself, I am trying to reload everything on my computer and its not going well. I was thinking you had to be SuperGeek(tm) to run Linux and I didn't feel I quite fit into that category. But after reading Wil's simple, yet comprehensive and helpful review of his own experience, it no longer seems quite so scary.

I'm not a gamer, so thats not an issue for me. However, I am planning to start using photoshop and illustrator. Will they work with Linux or is there an equivelent? Point me in a good direction to look this stuff up and I will be very grateful. I am with you Wil, on the mainly needing my computer for email, internet and word processing, and add web building and such to that. It Still looks pretty promising.

The other question, I know this is a really lame question, but I have only been a minor geek for a while, way amateur status, and every now and then, Wil or someone uses some kinda geek code that I dont understand...

What the frel does H^H^H^H^H^H mean???

Posted by: AngelGypsy at September 23, 2002 02:03 AM

hey wil, you should check out bluefish, http://bluefish.openoffice.nl/, an html editor. It looks pretty similar to screem. It has good php support, etc.


Posted by: Wadleigh at September 23, 2002 02:08 AM

Great update Wil. Informative and amusing as usual.
Dear sir, I hereby extend an invitation to join one of the most elite internet forums. Super Evil Industries welcomes you to join as a member. http://superevil.tv . We know you are a busy man, but it would give the troops a real boost. Thanks.

Posted by: Frolixo at September 23, 2002 05:10 AM

Wil, you mentioned you ... dislike... Outlook.. well heres a nifty little (EH-HEM) trick to use when the boss has you down and your on your wway out the door on a week long vacation...

Set up your Office Assistant to automatically reply to any e-mails incomming... yeah, simple enough, but you have it reply to the whole "world". In essence, each time you get an e-mail, the office assistant reply's to everyone on your network. So if you get 50 e-mails in one day, the rest of the network gets 50 also... ask any network administrator how much e-mail their servers can handle!! ... If you want to be nasty you can attach a small file, a wav perhaps that everyone might think is humorous the first 15 or 20 times they receive it. Or to be really nasty, you could include your own e-mail address in your O-A's replys, which simply sends you another e-mail, immediately kicking off the O-A's reply, which in turn sends off another e-mail, which again sends another O-A Directed reply..

And i worked in the Air Force in computer security... hehehehe

Posted by: Blaster9 at September 23, 2002 05:40 AM

Angel Gypsy...

There is an open source alternative to Photoshop called The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program. I have to say that one problem I have with the Open Source Movement is the habit of using cutesy, sometimes mildly offensive names for software.) It has all the power of Photoshop and it comes standard with most/all Linux distributions. I don't know about Illustrator...I haven't used it so I'm not sure how you might be able to replace it.

Posted by: Scratch at September 23, 2002 05:50 AM

Wil, don't forget your machine is now a server, too. Specifically, you can run the Apache Web Server on it, if you're not already. You'll be able to keep a mirror of WWDN on it for development purposes. Also, GET THEE TO THE COMMAND LINE. You haven't felt the power until you use a shell prompt to administer your server. After making changes on your local development site, you can use command line ftp/telnet to move it out to the live internet server. This, as you alluded to, is the true power of Linux: the ability to get 'under the hood.'

Posted by: Scratch at September 23, 2002 05:56 AM

Wil, et. al.,
Thank you all for posting this wonderful store of information. I have been wrestling with FUD over converting to Linux for some time, and I had no idea where to begin. There is so much information out there, it is hard to figure out where to begin! Sounds like Mandrake may be the place to start. My main concern was the ability to share files to MS apps (like word, excel, access, etc), since my job used all MS office products (sadly). I guess I should have figured I'd be able to swap docs. Also, does anyone know of a good mainframe emulator for Linux? We use HostExplorer for Windows at work (to connect via 3270 to an IBM/MVS box), thus I use it at home as well. I would like to avoid the partition thing; I would rather do a full Linux install, providing I can reproduce all the things I need to work from home. I'm not a gamer or anything (except a lot of mahjongg solitaire!). Email, internet, wp office type stuff. I really appreciate the Linux article. Help to reduce my FUD syndrome considerably!

Posted by: Sam at September 23, 2002 06:12 AM

AngelGypsy wrote "However, I am planning to start using photoshop and illustrator. Will they work with Linux or is there an equivelent? Point me in a good direction to look this stuff up and I will be very grateful."
Check out the GIMP at http://www.gimp.org/
GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulation Program.
It's a great alternative to Photoshop etc.

Posted by: Kev at September 23, 2002 06:15 AM


Congrabulations on getting Mandrake up and installed. I made that leap away from 'doze four years ago, when I first spotted Mandrake 5.2 and decided that it would be one of the better distros out there. Since then, I have six machines at home, all running on Mandrake, either 8.1 or 8.2. I had a bitch of a time getting 8.2 to run on one of my laptops and my firewall is working well on 8.1 so I'm leaving it alone. Four of six of those machines are connected via a Linksys wireless access point, and I've had great success getting Linksys's various wireless products working with it (I've got one machine with a PCI card, another using Linksys's USB card and the laptops all have PCMCIA wnics). I'm hoping they support the wireless gear better in v9.0 so I don't have to work my ass off recompiling kernels and drivers for the wireless nics.

I have only a very small laptop that I use mainly for work that has 'doze 98se on it, and it's the only thing that I wish to keep running that evil OS. I still make plenty of dough supporting Bill's Bane for my employer's customers and some of the wireless gear that I use at work needs 'doze apps to administer.

Spam has become but a memory for me. I administer my own email server on a cablemodem link and filter like crazy against my own blocklist and several of the public blocklists. It's nice to have a mailbox filled with email from friends and lists that I specifically requested mail from. Need pointers? I'll be happy to help.

I'm by far no expert but I'm learning something new nearly every day. Keep playing with it, it's how I learned all I know about the OS.


Posted by: Rich Clark at September 23, 2002 06:39 AM

Excellent. Glad to hear you made the switch (de-lurking post this, btw). I started with Slackware, moved onto Mandrake and am now on RedHat, also using KMail - a very good mailer.

Couple of points..."boxen" is not a lame H@>

Secondly, Wil, if you do need to run any of the "dark side" apps, then try VMWare[1] it is really very good.

Matt R

[1] www.vmware.com

Posted by: MattR at September 23, 2002 06:57 AM

to long for monday morning

Posted by: Phil at September 23, 2002 07:35 AM

to long for monday morning

Posted by: Phil at September 23, 2002 07:35 AM

AngelGypsy asked

What the frel does H^H^H^H^H^H mean???

Please excuse my lame attempt at explaining.

It was the "error" you would get (still get?) when using a modem to telnet in DOS and were disconnected. Ithink it has a geek meaning but I don't know what it is.

Sorry that was not very helpful was it? : )

Posted by: Gaea at September 23, 2002 08:50 AM

Yes, it was a long entry but you covered many important points in a short period of time. It was not empty babble. It is good to know that windows is not the only option. I may switch oneday but not today. Good job in explaining the terminology. I feel like I just took an intro. class. It is now time for me to rest my brain.


Posted by: Fabian at September 23, 2002 08:57 AM


Does this mean downloading Wil Wheaton Slash will
be easier?

Posted by: Electric Monk at September 23, 2002 09:08 AM

Great article! I could relate to the "fear" factor, even though I've been using a unix shell of some sort since my undergraduate days. I made a total switch from my PC to a Linux workstation just a few months ago and I'm tring to get it to be my primary system. (I use a MAC too. Equal opportiunity computing.) Even when you're familiar with it, it can be sacry. By-the-way it was darn cool to read that you use PINE on a occasion too! It's still my favorite email client.

Posted by: Fazia Rizvi at September 23, 2002 09:19 AM

wil, unfortunately there's a pooper in every party, however, i do know a guy who got laid in a convent. his wife to be and he were in for a weekend of what they call "marriage encounters" and were supposed to be doing a "crisis management" session by themselves. and well, the crisis was averted.....

Posted by: drew at September 23, 2002 09:21 AM

Camwhores? Come on Wil, there are young children that visit your site!
But thanks for the new porn site. Now bookmarking...

Posted by: Rob at September 23, 2002 09:34 AM

My husband is a Linux geek, so I've gotten used to it. For the most part, I love Linux (especially because the system games are infinitely cooler than the standard Windows games. Same Gnome and Tux Racer kick the butt of Freecell!) but I do have my issues with OpenOffice(.org). It works great for regular uncomplicated word processing, but when you need to do something a little more complicated it's not as intuitive as Word. I am working on fundraising for a marathon I'll be doing in January, and I had to print a bunch of self-addressed envelopes to send out with my letters. I'm usually pretty good with new applications, and I had to beat on the system for at least a half hour or so to get the stupid envelope to format properly! But so far I definitely think OpenOffice is the better of the open source word processors. It does need a bit more work though.

Posted by: Heather at September 23, 2002 10:08 AM

Yay, Wil! Come over to the light side of the force!! I'm running Redhat 7 with KDE and Gnome and, like you, I prefer KMail. Part of the reason I prefer it is that it has built-in GPG signature/encryption, so all of my outgoing mail is automatically signed whenever I click "Send," and encryption is just a button-click away.

You left out mention of the Gimp (http://www.gimp.org), a free, full-featured graphic arts program that's comparable to Photoshop (and is also available on Windows, for those reluctant to switch).

And, for those gamers out there, Neverwinter Nights has a Linux server available, and a Linux client coming Real Soon Now. Loki games used to convert many great games to Linux, but they have dot-bombed. You can sometimes still find their games for cheap on eBay.

Finally, for those who may hesitate because they want to be able to sync their PDAs, you can do that very easily with Evolution, and with a bit of work with KPilot (for the KDE organizer tools). I use malsync to sync Avantgo-- basically, there's a way to get around and Linux-ify almost every aspect of Palm/PDA-to-desktop communications.

Posted by: Stephanie at September 23, 2002 10:24 AM

Hi Wil. Just a note of thanks. I enjoy your writing but I don't have time to read it everyday. So while I was hacking away today I got an email that you had mentioned Quanta on your site. What can I say? How cool. I think I will put a link to your site from the Quanta site. We are hard at work getting 3.0 ready to roll out the door in a few days and we are making plans for 3.1 and 3.2. Our feature set is growing at an incredible pace so check our new releases for surprises or see our developer do list on line to see what is in work and coming up. Our new release will have templates with D&D template creation, auto-complete for all defined tag languages and PHP and a new plugin interface that will make the addition of programs a 30 second user task. Our document tree also handles a lot more than just HTML now too and makes large pages a snap to manage. We hope to provide the fastest most productive web design tool possible and by October have tutorials on line showing how to create reusable classes in PHP that auto generate project docs and custom dialogs making data management a point and click walk in the park. Our goal by the way is to finally arrive at WYSIWYG that gives you, the developer, full control over how your visual entry is coded. Feel free to shoot me an email some time. I hope in the coming year to make Dreamweaver users feel they should be switching to Linux and Quanta to keep up with forward thinkig guys like you.

Posted by: Eric Laffoon at September 23, 2002 10:35 AM

Wil, we have some excellent Linux books, too. (gotta give props to my own company!)


Posted by: ElectraSteph at September 23, 2002 11:03 AM

Nice going Wil :)

I took the plunge recently too but I dual boot with the dredded XP, but I am getting used to the way linux dose things.

To all those out there that can install windows, you can install linux as well. Just read up on it first.

I have tried Redhat 7.3 and Mandrake 8.2 both are good but I prefer the Mandrake. On my machine it installed easier and felt crisper.

Posted by: dave at September 23, 2002 11:05 AM

I'm still debating on which Linux version to get. Right now it's between Mandrake & Lindows for me. I definitely want a GUI interface, but the ability to play around at the command prompt if I want to.

Posted by: Emily at September 23, 2002 11:12 AM

AngelGypsy and Gaea: you're both wrong.

On old TTYs, when you pressed backspace, instead of deleting a character, it printed "^H" on the screen. So if one had typed something and wanted to delete it, you would see something like:

"Be nice to this fool^H^H^H^Hgentleman, he's visiting from corporate HQ."

This has since passed into standard hackish usage as a joking way to "strike out" something one has written.

See the Jargon File's entry on Hacker Writing Style: http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/html/Hacker-Writing-Style.html

Posted by: Da Schmiz at September 23, 2002 11:22 AM

Wil - that was a masterfully done piece - thanks for the effort. All that and a BORG reference?! leet.

Posted by: Vincent Navarino at September 23, 2002 12:27 PM

holy shit that was a long one!

Posted by: Ness at September 23, 2002 01:10 PM

Well I'm downloading mandrake right now as anytime I try to open a program I get "*.exe is not a valid win32 program" or some such stuff. GOOD BYE WINDOWS!

Posted by: zack at September 23, 2002 01:31 PM


you asked about mainframe emulation in linux... there's program called x3270 that i've use everyday since jun 1998. there are a number of emulation programs available for linux.

if you have any questions about program availability for linux just google search and you'll more that likely find one for free.

btw... way to go wil!

when you feel brave enough to start compiling applications and kernels in linux, you should give gentoo a try. check out www.gentoo.org.

i've been M$ free since 1998...my linux evolution looks like this: slackware, redhat, caldera, suse, stormlinux, mandrake, and finally gentoo. choice is a wonderful thing!

Posted by: geburns at September 23, 2002 04:01 PM

Wil, this entry reminded me of the first posts I read when you were setting up this site. Full of compu-babble that was exciting to you but that I only partially understood. Your excitement and sometimes frustration did come thru, and that was the fun in reading them. I treat the compu-babble like any jargon, I try to get the overall meaning and don't sweat the details.

Your article here was pretty clear, even to a non-geek like myself. The only thing I would have done is put in a link to a good definition of distros. I googled the word and what came up still didn't give me a clear picture of what it means. Most of the sites just assumed you knew what they meant. I generally dislike acronyms and jargon. It makes for insiders and outsiders.

Posted by: loretta652 at September 23, 2002 05:01 PM

Great entry. It made for some really good reading. Glad to see that you are enjoying the switch. As for you making commercials, just don't become annoying like that "Dude, you are getting a Dell" guy. I really hate those commercials. Saw you on the Screen Savers and thought you express yourself very well. Looks like you gave Martin a heartattack when you loosen up. That was pretty funny. Have you tried the Instant Messaging clients in Linux yet? Those are fun to evaluate. Hope to hear you on the Linux Show soon. And if you must do Linux commercials, pick them with care.

Did I mention that I really, REALLY hate that Dell kid?

Posted by: jmirles at September 23, 2002 05:55 PM


I decided on Mandrake 8.2. Installed it tonight. Thought I had hosed my Windows XP partition completely, but I used the repair function & it is working. All my stuff seems to be in the my documents folder, & when I reboot, I can go into Linux. Haven't figured out how to connect to the Internet from Linux, but I suppose I will soon.

Linux is cool! :)

Posted by: Emily at September 23, 2002 11:48 PM

Excellent job on the article; while it only takes that first smidgen of techno-speak to cause some readers' eyes to immediately glaze over, the overall tone of the comments posted makes clear that you didn't overdo it at all in this case, but on the contrary conveyed a good grasp of your feelings toward the Linux "experience" even to those who are unfamiliar with some (or most) of the jargon. Good work, that's a tough balance to achieve.

You mentioned the "community" of Linux users as an asset, and it absolutely is - many of us are welcoming of newbies and helpful to whatever extent we can be with installation and configuration issues. This is easily the biggest obstacle for most new users, as practically anyone can /use/ any system once it's properly configured, whether that's accomplished solely by them or by/with someone else.

Besides the local LUGs, there are many communities to be found online; in the case of Mandrake, one that I'm proud to be a part of is the Usenet newsgroup alt.os.linux.mandrake. Even users of other distros have frequently remarked that they follow our group because we have built a friendlier, more helpful contributor base than commonly found in other NGs; quite a few of the "old timers" have, as their experience has grown, moved on personally from Mandrake to such UberGeek distros as Gentoo or LFS, but still routinely join us and add their expertise because our little corner of the 'Net is still a pleasantly robust and vital place to visit.

Fire up Knode/Pan/MozillaNews/slrn/whatever and drop by yourself some time, lurk for a while, see what you think.

BTW, if you're a fan of "eye candy", and just love to dazzle the Wintendo users who come to visit with what neat stuff your Mandrake box can do, you might want to check out the page I just put up for the a.o.l.m. crowd the other day:


Note: The display described does not work in conjunction with Gnome, and is somewhat limited in its usability under KDE, but when you opt to run a more lightweight desktop such as IceWM, Blackbox, Xfce, etc., it can be impressive. Especially if you don't mention to the Windozer looking over your shoulder that it moves, but let them eventually notice that bit for themselves. ;)

Posted by: Moon at September 24, 2002 02:09 AM

Okay...Wil just said something that made me love him even more: he likes PINE.

I have been a hardcore PINE user since I was in college in '95. I kept using it until I was forced at gunpoint by the bitches at my grad school in '01 to switch to Outlook.

And I'm not even an egghead. Wil you rock! PINE FOREVER!


Posted by: Brian at September 25, 2002 12:43 PM

I've been using Linux 100% at home and at
work (OSDL does linux development so we of
course try to use it for everything.) Here's
my honest opinion on what it's good/bad for:

Photoshop - yes, GIMP is the best analog, but it's been my experience that Photoshop lovers aren't quite so impressed, so your mileage may vary... On the other hand, GIMP does *amazingly well* for image format translation. Also check out ImageMagick for commandline-based image processing.

Illustrator - there are several 2D editing programs out there, each slanted towards a specific type of use. Dia is sufficient if you want to make flowcharts, XFig is okay for rudimentary 2D drafting. Sodipodi is nice for doing artwork, especially if you want to experiment with SVG. OpenOffice includes a 2D drawing app that looks quite feature complete, though I've not used it.

Word Processing / Dreamweaver / Web / Mail / Calendaring - Good options are available as others have pointed out.

Spreadsheets - Gnumeric is okay but it has not been my experience that Excel-to-Gnumeric interactions go very well. If you are a power-Excel user, you may not find the transition very smooth.

Databases (Access) - First the good news; lots of databases are available for Linux and you don't have to use Visual Basic. Bad news: You won't find a good Access clone. Most people seem to go the route of using MySQL or Postgres with Perl or PHP or their language of choice.

Videos - Getting video's to play is a royal pain; quicktime is not well supported, and there's few good general purpose movie players available. Look at Lamp, Broadcast 2000, and MPlayer.

Someone asked what are the advantages to Linux for an average user. Well, one advantage is that even though the individual software apps may not be 100% as good as the Windows versions, they all come with Linux, so when you go through the install, *everything* gets installed. Even webservers, databases, compilers, and other such traditionally "high end/high $$$" apps. And no keycodes or being prompted to register stuff. If you don't want to plunk thousands of dollars down for software but also don't want to wear a black eyepatch, this is a BIG advantage.

A year ago I would have said, "Linux isn't ready for the average user," but today, I think for many users, it's good 'nuff. At the rate it's improving, I suspect within a year or two it's going to become a much better choice for average users than Windows. For some people, it already is.

Posted by: Bryce at September 25, 2002 06:09 PM

Yup; Mandrake rocks. Those folks who have particular needs that can only be met by Windows -- ACT! or Photoshop or Goldmine or whatever -- can still run them, either under Wine or VMWare, but for what Wil does (or what I do, for that matter), you get better performance out of whatever hardware you have, a stabler environment that crashes much less often and is much less subject to viruses and intrusion, and a much faster development cycle, so it gets better faster.

Right now, even if you're not terribly geeky, you can probably get it installed and running without help; if not, help is available all over the place.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at September 25, 2002 06:58 PM

Congrats, and a word from one (me) who has been actively testing the forthcoming release of Mdk 9.0...

RC3 is looking very sweet, and may just be the turning point where the ordinary user is willing to cut the chains that tie them to the *Borg*, or at least consider trying something else other than the M$ party line. They have many of the small but annoying bugs from the earlier releases fixed now, and it is truly impressive, expecially from a "newbie" point of view.

I have shown it to 5 Windows users in the course of taking it through it's paces, who have all decided to either install it (asking me for a copy of the CD's) or are looking forward to installing the final released product next month. It's that good :)


Posted by: Allen at September 25, 2002 07:45 PM

Enjoyed the disertation and agree totaly, I use as a web surfing inviroment linux usually and stil boot up win98 for me graphics, the gphoto doesnt work for me , and i havent been able to get my flash card reader to work on man 8.2 yet.

and i use photoimpact for my graphics rework, gimp does not come close to this programs versatility. wish it was ported over . every thing else is workable, with more study. LOVE my mandrake

Posted by: Ralph Hudson at September 25, 2002 08:13 PM

Hi Will,
Welcome to the Penguine! I have been a prop-head since RedHat 5.2 - you were right - that was a nightmare to get to work ok - then I tried Mandrake 6.0, and never looked back. Even then there were the mailing lists to refer to for help. One resource I use now is an E-Zine called PenguineShell from the floks at Lockergnome [www.lockergnome.com]. It's a 5 day a week newsletter - in HTML format - but with new stuff each day. I am sure Tony would be thrilled to have you as a subscriber. Also, please note that I have nothing to do with the Lockergnome organization other that that I subscribe to the E-Zine. I know you are bussy, but PS is a good read, and I just wanted you to know about it.


Posted by: Ernie at September 25, 2002 10:22 PM

Hello there. It's an interesting writeup and certainly it's a nice intro to Linux.

Sadly, I'm still forced to use Winblows at times but I have a seperate box for that and my server for the net is definitely on Linux for the simple reason that it's more secure.

As for apps...well there is a lot of stuff out there. Both free and commercial. Someone mentioned PhotoImpact, which is really a lightweight image processor that does have some easy commands, there are a couple of Linux analogs out there and they aren't THE Gimp. As for THE Gimp vs Photoshop most Photoshoppers have problems with THE Gimp cause it doesn't take PS plug ins. Otherwise, it's just as capable and, at times, far more capable than PS.

Installation is now much better than it was even a year ago in all Linux and BSD varioant distros. As effortless or less than MS installs.

The real improvement will come in the next 18 months or so with KDE 3.x and Gnome 2.x leading the way and more and more apps coming over.

Inicdentally...it's funny...most games get developed on *nix machines including the graphics but are ported to Windoze and perhaps Mac and forgotten for the *nix market. That will change soon as Linux reaches critical mass of users.

As for graphics programs there are good to excellent 2D and 3D apps out there. Most free but there are some wonderful commercial prodcuts like Maya available as well.

So..go for it. If you're the average Windows user there is no need to stay hooked to the money sucking umbilical cord to Redmond WA. Even most power users can swtich. As for the rest? Well, like I said wait a year to 18 months.

Oh..and don't listen to the holy warriors of Windows vs *nix. Just use what is best for you.



Posted by: TtfnJohn at September 25, 2002 11:04 PM

"We are The MICROSOFT! Lower your firewall and surrender your sourcecode,
we will add your features and technological destinctivness to our own.
Your ideas will adapt to service us. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. "

Thanx Will for the nice review!
Nice to read about a newbies struggle with Linux.
Continue with the good work and encourage people to switch from the "Evil Empire" to Open Source.
Got to go watch some Star Trek now but I'll keep reading you're posts:-)

Best regards

Posted by: Curse at September 26, 2002 01:27 AM

Hi Wil, nice end-user view, thanks. I think making "the switch" is overrated in terms of religious statements (sorry ye zealots) - it's a decision you take in the face of arguments that count for you (in my case, sensitivity to virus infections, stability, and price - coming last).

It strikes me that there is an expectation that conversion to Linux will instantly turn you into a raving zealot. Raving about quality, yes, in some aspects (there's plenty left to do). In a 'frothing-at-the-mouth-and-bulging-eyes' fashion - nah. I may occasionally use Windows as well, but I've found less and less reason to do so. I've got more interesting things to worry about, like having a life (and planning a Linux based charity project ;-)...

Good piece of work!

Posted by: Peets at September 26, 2002 02:14 AM

"...I use my computer for 3 things:

- Internet;

- Email;

- Word Processing."

This explains how you can make a 100%, never-look-back switch without any pain! And I thought my [computing] life was simple.

Two outta three up there I've pretty much never gone back to Windoze for (beyond pleasantly surprised, I was more shocked to find how easy it was to get MDK 8.2 online), but there are still a *lot* of things that keep me booting back into Windows. But a little freedom is better than no freedom at all, and as this wave of Linux grows, so shall apps to run thereunder.

Between XP driving users away, Linux actually starting to get some legs, and the Mac (where, frankly, the majority of Windoze refugees should at least for now seek refuge instead), we may actually see Redmond take some damage. The arrogant Beast may have finally reached around and bitten itself in the ass.

It's a good thing.

Posted by: The Misanthrope at September 26, 2002 05:52 AM

Excellent post, Mr. Wheaton. Regarding Buckthorn's post about being a Diablo II and Starcraft freak: You don't need to reboot in Windows anymore, at least for these two games! I am running Transgaming's XWine (a Windows emulator layer) under Mandrake 8.2. Using xwine, I installed Diablo II and I play it from the comfort of my Linux desktop (in full screen mode). Everything works, it's rock-solid. Well worth the $5/month subscription to their download and update service. There is a free version available, but I bought the prepacked version. They can use the money.

Take a look at XWine: www.transgaming.com (disclaimer: I am but a satisfied user)

-- SysKoll

Posted by: SysKoll at September 26, 2002 05:59 AM

Wil, I made the switch about 6 months ago. and like you I am still sorting out how to get things done. but I think you are on the beginning of a great journey. Now if I could just get my wife to make the switch all the computers in the house could be Linux.

Posted by: Chris at September 26, 2002 06:10 AM

Thanks for the interesting and insightful comments regarding Linux. I'm in the process of becoming more familar with it now. I have Mandrake 8.1 on one system, and I'm working through getting it to function as I want it to. Again, thanks for taking the time to share you experience with us.

Posted by: Ken Thomas at September 26, 2002 07:25 AM

Open source has been my choice for quite a while. The more I use Linux, the more advantages I find. I still have sometings still in M$ format, but they are fewer and fewer.(I am a dual booter)
I have a home LAN and run several different distros.(Mandrake, SuZe, Lykoris, Caldera, Peanut) Each has its own good points. I like the variety.

Posted by: alfsborg at September 26, 2002 07:33 AM

Welcome to the "not as exclusive as it used to be" club, Wil! If you get a chance, try out Mandrake 9.0 . Very impressive, and a bit faster than 8.1 or 8.2, but just as easy to install!

Posted by: Dan LaBine at September 26, 2002 10:08 AM

look out below.... this could be as long as yours!
first off wil,
the star trek stuff, what the heck is that janeway
character all about?
she knows more about engineering than torres!
she knows more about navigation than paris!
she knows more about security than tuvok!
and she even knows more about coffee than bloody neelix!
what is she wonderwoman?
she don't need a crew !!
she is so matter of fact in everything she say's and does it makes me sick!
(i guess that's what happens to an idea when the genius behind it paases on, it gets ruined by money milkers)
bring back the tng with a new series (like what does happen to wesley with the travelers help?)
does he evolve into a new kind of human with special abilities? as alluded to in one episode!
does de'ana's mother ever really get the man she was alway's looking for?
i could go on ...........
but anyway back to what this is really about "LINUX".
I AM A NEWBIE myself, but have tried several flavours (or distro's) of the o/s.
suse,redhat,storm,and of course MANDRAKE!
I actually purchased mandrake 8.0 powerpack and had a little bit of work connecting to the internet (on my single machine) but that was about it problem wise.
i find xine the best thing since sliced bread for playing all sorts of multimedia files and it has a simple plugin format to play just about anything (just get yourself onto the "penguin liberation front" and download all sorts of plugins, avi,mpeg,divx,etc etc... (xine even plays dvd movies! no problem!).
18 months later and.......
i have now got 4 machines, my own, my wife's, and my father in laws (he's only 76 years old and yes he like mandrake!!) all dual booting win98se and mandrake 8.2 and networked (just simple peer to peer) internet is through a gateway (mandrkae 8.2 only)and cable modem.
all works fine and stable (funnily enough even win98se seems more stable now, PROBABLY because its not used so much roflmao).
i am not anti m$ as such, the company did much for the computing industry (getting more people to own a pc was a good thing) but time marches on and their time has come to pass
long live the penguin !!!!
viva la revolution
oh by the way great article and "live long and prosper".

Posted by: reb at September 26, 2002 01:38 PM

Hey Wil,
I support about 1500 windows users on a Novell network, so I have to run windows in some capacity.
But on my main desktop I run RedHat 7.3. I use XP on my laptop to do my windows needs and the cool part is I terminal service to my laptop (with rdesktop from rdesktop.org) from my desktop and I hardly ever physically touch the laptop. I have a few test machines that I've installed different distros on. As far as newbie installs go the one I thought was perfectly newbie was Lycoris from www.lycoris.com. Check out the screen shot (http://www.lycoris.com/products/desktoplx/desktop/)

During the install the files are copying in the background while you are configuring what little options are needed. It detects almost everything even the printer. And when you are finished configuring stuff it pops up a solitare game for you. One down side, depending on how much you want to tweak your distro, you don't get asked which desktop you want. It decides a lot of things for you. So you never get to pick which packages you want. But as far as newbie goes and ease of use and less frightening after the install. Check out lycoris if you get a chance. That's what I did when I was looking for a distro. I installed several until I found something I liked. Actually I wasn't real crazy about linux until KDE3 came out. So that's why RedHat 7.3 rocked. Today I downloaded
Mandrake 9, so gonna try that too.

Brad B

Posted by: Brad at September 26, 2002 08:16 PM

Well, I didn't read a lot of it because I have had a few beers and am not in the mood to read. But what I have to say about linux should go for anyone is that its more stable and a lot more faster. I am on a crappy Dell computer right now but if I hooked my hd up it wouldn't be crappy. It supports all the "hardware" I have. It even runs A LOT and I do mean A LOT faster then windows which is why my roommate is begging me to teach her linux. SHe could do anything she could in windows except 3 times faster at least. Her hard drive is running windows 2000 pro ed. and she hates it. It takes about 4 minutes to boot as to the at the most 2 minutes it takes for my hard drive running linux does. Mandrake also makes it easy to install and supports all hardware I have ever tried and has a lot more supporting software. She is in love with Mandrake.I think its mostly the games and the speed of the operating system and the stability of it. But it may also be the fact she can do anything she wants in linux that she has ever needed to do in Linux and with Mandrake it makes it that much easier. Thats all I have to say but its a good word and I love Mandrake and keep up the good work. This is the first time I will use my real name on the internet.

Teno Goins,
Be safe.

Posted by: Anthony at September 27, 2002 12:26 AM

comment peut on configurer la carte mère à partir de linux en mode text, parce que là je veux désactiver la carte graphique intégrer en la remplaçant par une carte extérieur et je n'ai pas accès au bios de mon Pc(compaq deskpro 2000)

Posted by: tarek at September 27, 2002 05:21 AM

Oh screw it I can't resist a Borg/Microsoft joke:

Microsoft Borg Assimilation attempt 1.0:

We are Microsoft of Borg. You will be **A fatal exception 0E has occured at 0028:C028274D in VXD IOS(04) + 00001FC9. The current application will be terminated. Press any key to terminate the current app. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart **

Microsoft Borg Assimilation attempt 2.0:

We are Microsoft of Borg. Your desktop will be assimilated **ERROR LOADING ASSIMILATE.EXE - (A)ssimilate (R)etry (F)ail **

Microsoft Borg Assimilation attempt 3.0:

We are Microsoft of Borg. You are bing upgraded to Windows XP. Resistance is futile. Your credit card number has been assimilated.

Posted by: Vincent Navarino at September 27, 2002 10:33 AM

oops wrong e'mail addy on above post (missed an "l" out) sorry peeps
this one works though!

Posted by: reb at September 28, 2002 02:05 PM

Hi all .... that's good there are some of ppl that can share exp. about linux . It's hard in my country to ask someone in comunity and not be a target of "most stupid question i ever seen" .....and other like this..... (thats is from a irc channel) .........

sorry if anyone not understand me too well , but i am self learning freak from poland:) ... got probs with writing in english.... want to say semething to Will too ..... i never read nothing better about switching to linux... its just shot in 10:) cya in cyberspace buddy....:)

Posted by: reassor at September 28, 2002 07:29 PM

I have just switched over to linux the way you did and I like it. I am using Mandrake linux 9.0 Dolphin and I think it is great but I have one question.
Can you install java on linux? Pages with webcams and games dont work. I went to sun microsystems and only saw the version for windows. By the way I love the show and wilwheaton.net. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: mekaone at September 29, 2002 09:51 AM

... to start some holy OS flame wars ;-) ... If you are grown out of Linux, use NetBSD (www.netbsd.org). :-)

Posted by: mash at September 30, 2002 08:48 AM

Yup. Atari 800 over here. Not good for web surfing, though... but the Pitfall gameplay is superb!

Posted by: Mike at October 1, 2002 02:03 AM

You've been blogged!


Posted by: Mean Dean at October 2, 2002 04:34 AM

quick update!
now trying mandrake dolphin (9.0) full release.
must admit its rather cool (or hot whatever you think is fitting for "great" lol).
my hardware is working ok with it and no problems on install.
all except the tv on my ati all in wonder :-(
tv does work on seperate tv cards but not on my all in wonder (anyone know how to get it going? i've looked everywhere and to no avail).

by the way
i think this may be of interest to all the people out there thinking of trying linux for the first time,
Linux is not "just for geeks" (i'm not a geek just a person fed up with windows thats all).
Linux is not "hard", its just "different"!
i am not a linux guru (i know nothing really, just a little i have picked up with reference to my own needs).

if you can format and re-load windows you have no worries, it will be easy loading and getting rid of linux (though i doubt you will get rid of it, its like being a child with a new toy, what if i push?, supposing i pull? etc etc.... )

Linux doesn't treat you like a "kid" and do everything for you (aka windows)!
it wants "your" imput, it likes to be told what "you" want, and how "you" want it.
take your time and give yourself a chance to get familiar with it, don't expect everything to work
straight out of the box (aka when windows xp was released, everything needed updated drivers!!!, and loads of software wouldn't work with it etc),though most things should work ok.
this is just a part of life "LEARNING" SOMETHING NEW.
remember what it was like when you got your first windows machine?
what do i do with it? how do i make this work?
etc etc.......
BUT YOU DID IT !!! look at you now, getting windows to do all sorts of things aren't you!!
well it will be some thing like that again with linux!
but you will have already mastered the keyboard and mouse so you will be able to get around it,
and there are loads of helpfull sites and people around (you are not alone ;-) ).
so what are you waiting for?
what have you got to lose?
don't be scared, have a go

Q, what do you want to do today?

A, learn something new!!!


Posted by: reb at October 2, 2002 09:52 AM

quick update!
now trying mandrake dolphin (9.0) full release.
must admit its rather cool (or hot whatever you think is fitting for "great" lol).
my hardware is working ok with it and no problems on install.
all except the tv on my ati all in wonder :-(
tv does work on seperate tv cards but not on my all in wonder (anyone know how to get it going? i've looked everywhere and to no avail).

by the way
i think this may be of interest to all the people out there thinking of trying linux for the first time,
Linux is not "just for geeks" (i'm not a geek just a person fed up with windows thats all).
Linux is not "hard", its just "different"!
i am not a linux guru (i know nothing really, just a little i have picked up with reference to my own needs).

if you can format and re-load windows you have no worries, it will be easy loading and getting rid of linux (though i doubt you will get rid of it, its like being a child with a new toy, what if i push?, supposing i pull? etc etc.... )

Linux doesn't treat you like a "kid" and do everything for you (aka windows)!
it wants "your" imput, it likes to be told what "you" want, and how "you" want it.
take your time and give yourself a chance to get familiar with it, don't expect everything to work
straight out of the box (aka when windows xp was released, everything needed updated drivers!!!, and loads of software wouldn't work with it etc),though most things should work ok.
this is just a part of life "LEARNING" SOMETHING NEW.
remember what it was like when you got your first windows machine?
what do i do with it? how do i make this work?
etc etc.......
BUT YOU DID IT !!! look at you now, getting windows to do all sorts of things aren't you!!
well it will be some thing like that again with linux!
but you will have already mastered the keyboard and mouse so you will be able to get around it,
and there are loads of helpfull sites and people around (you are not alone ;-) ).
so what are you waiting for?
what have you got to lose?
don't be scared, have a go

Q, what do you want to do today?

A, learn something new!!!


Posted by: reb at October 2, 2002 09:52 AM

Not sure who originally asked and don't have time to hop through the whole page but..
To get the All in Wonder working under linux,
use gatos-conf to set it up and
xatitv to show tv. You can look up gatos on sourceforge for more information.
xatitvc does video capture. hope this helps.
It's fun to watch a DVD and a TV show at once.. :)

Posted by: Goldshadow at October 12, 2002 07:32 AM

Also for those of you wanting to know which Linux Distro is Best.
The One you can get to work for you.
I have currently Redhat, Suse, Mandrake, Gentoo, TurboLinux, Lycoris, Lindows, Yellow Dog, Debian, BrlSpeak, Slackware, and many more.
This doesn't help in the least to tell you which is best just lets you know there are many out there. You can go to http://www.distrowatch.com/ for more information on the different flavors.
You can then go to http://www.linuxnewbie.org/ for help.

Posted by: Goldshadow at October 12, 2002 07:54 AM

Regarding Gimp being a replacement for Photoshop, unfortunately that's total horse crap. While I more then anyone want the Gimp to be just that so I can get rid of Win once and for all the truth of the matter is that it does not even come close. It can't even work with CMYK color... Not to mention the lack of industry standard pre-press tools like pantone color pallettes, etc... Furthermore, no graphics clients for Linux are able to correctly interpret color information from other apps on other platforms especially when your dealing with gradients and CMYK colors. More unfortunate is that the GIMP has hardly changed sine I first saw it 8 years ago indicating to me that it may never be much more then it is, a toy. Sad to say but there are simply NO replacements in the Linux world for programs like photoshop, illustrator, quark, flash, freehand, etc... I've tried all the "so-called" replacements, they're a joke...

Posted by: Brian at November 15, 2002 04:03 AM
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