Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Linux: Evolution

An hour ago I was talking to a friend and work colleague which is still a student and he was working on some practical homework for his "Operating Systems" college course. He had to write some small C program for querying a time server using NTP protocol over TCP or UDP under Linux.

Now the connoisseurs know what I am talking about, however the point of my story is different... As I said, I was talking to this friend of mine and he asked me for some assistance in installing a chm reader under Linux. This might not look like such a big deal for a SuSE or Ubuntu user, they can just search it and install it using their package managers, but my friend uses Slackware, so actually this simple thing turned into a bit of a drag because of the package dependencies that had to be installed manually. Well, I must say I was a bit sarcastic with him and laughed about the primitive way to do things in the Slackware distribution. Don't get me wrong, Slackware is a great professional distribution which has it's purposes but desktop isn't one of them. This whole thing reminded me of how I used to do things when I was a student taking the same course and also brings me to the real point of my story.
Back a few years ago (2001) when I had to do kind of the same practical homework as my friend using C under Linux, the distribution I had then was RedHat 8 and I had an old Pentium@166Mhz PC which wasn't much help so I had to do everything from the text interface because I couldn't get Gnome running properly - my video card was not supported. I did the editing with Joe and Midnight Commander and compiled everything with gcc. Let's not forget the ubiquitous "man" because back then I did not even have an Internet connection at home (could not afford that from a student's salary). I used to get documentation from the school laboratories where we could browse freely and use it to get things done back home. One more important tool I used back then was a mp3 player running in text mode (I can't remember it's name anymore). It could even play songs from play lists which I also used to edit with Joe. Another important aspect back then was the tedious installation process that had to be followed in order to see that familiar command line. Ahh, good ol' days...

Well things have come a long way since then, we now can enjoy some smooth and easy installation processes for some Linux distributions which automatically detect your hardware, Internet connections and printers and can be done in 30 minutes. Also the desktop interfaces and tools have come a long way, we now have Open Office, package and update managers great looking user interfaces and a plethora of other useful tools which come bundled in the distributions or can be downloaded in a few clicks from the Internet repositories. I have been following the evolution of the Ubuntu distribution since Hoary Hedgehog and I've seen some very nice improvements in just an year...

The point of my story being unfolded, I would like to say that things are getting better and better and I really hope that the new distributions keep up this good work and bring more users to thewonderful world of Linux/GNU. I hope you enjoyed this evolution as much as I did and that this story brought back some nice memories for some of us...please feel free to leave some comments of your experiences.

4 comments:

John Paul said...

ye.. good bless evolution!

But always remember that the're these "LOW LEVEL GUYS" working with those pins and bits (like me !) that heavily rely on mc, emacs and vim for editing source code.

uh... these programmin' guys at the high level .. they think that they're the only programmers in the world... look below son!

Mihai Campean said...

You of all people should know that I respect you "LOW LEVEL GUYS" and I also started by doing low level stuff, as stated in the article...Perhaps I haven't made myself understood with the point behind the story. It is aimed at the evolution of the Linux/GNU system itself not at the low level developers but more as a point that a few years ago only the "LOW LEVEL GUYS" could use these systems and now it is available for mere mortals too...

Wietse said...

Hi Mihai. The mp3 player you are talking about. Might be mpg123, its text based and can also use playlist and now also online mp3's.

Still using it frequently ;).

Mihai Campean said...

Yep, I think that is the one Wietse, it actually is a quite nice program :). Nice to hear that there are people still using it.

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