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Editor's Note: Is This The Fun Part? Are We Having Fun Yet?

Nov 05, 2004, 23:30 (14 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

I miss Caldera.

There, I said it. Curse me for all time, if you must. But I must speak my piece: in these days of mega-support contracted, commercialized Linuxes, I find myself nostalgic for the days gone by and wonder where all the fun has gone.

My affection for Caldera is really more for the OpenLinux 2.2 product with which I first learned Linux, not the Utah company that has decided to make a living sueing people.

OpenLinux was my first real exposure to this open source operating system, and I still remember the sense of wonder I felt even while I was installing it on a friend's machine.

And you know what did it? What really demonstrated to me that this operating system was head and shoulders above any Windows I had ever seen? It was that Tetris game that used to load and run while OpenLinux was installing.

I mean, c'mon, with Windows, every last erg of processing power is slaved to the atomic reconfiguration of a hard drive to something that makes Microsoft happy and its users not. Even back then it was true. But here... here was an operating system that alloted memory and processing so well that even while all those files were being loaded, it had the wherewithall to set up a game to while the time away.

And that, my friends, is when I knew this Linux thing was really cool.

Lately, it seems, the magic has gone out of Linux for me. As my daily toolset, it is something that works and works well for me. I just don't think about it anymore. I get the updates when they come out, install them, and get on with it.

There are the occasional glitches, particularly when I upgrade Firefox, because it always loses track of my Java virtual machine until I reconnect it. (Hint, hint, Firefox team.) But really, everything else is as smooth as glass.

Has Linux, while achieving its stability and usability, lost that which has made it fun? Are there no new frontiers to conquer?

We shall see. I have decided to stop working and start playing. (Note to boss: in moderation, of course.) One of the reasons I don't play around with Linux software more is that this machine I use is my main work PC and therefore is not really something I want to break. I have the Yellow Dog iBook, of course, but that's only a backup.

So I have decided to shrink the partition down to make some space for an experimental Linux partition. In doing so, I hope to do two things: get some reviews together and, more importantly, see what kind of fun I can find out in the still rapidly expanding world of Linux distros.

The first candidate, I can tell you, has to be Ubuntu. I have always shied away from Debian-based distros, ever since Michael Hall convinced me to try out installing Debian a few years ago. He meant well, I am sure, but the installation was a disaster and after several hours of head-banging and long distance calls to Michael, I chucked it and went cowering back to SuSE Linux 7.

Thus, you see, me and this Debian thing don't get along so well. I try to keep this from fellow Hoosier Ian Murdock, by the way, since I know he will mock me if he finds out. Shhh...

Ubuntu, I have read, promises to be something different. It has a better install, and all the cool features of Debian. I hope to find out for myself and share with the rest of you.

After Ubuntu, who knows? But I know from talking with many of you, there is fun still to be had out there. It's time I started looking for it.