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Community: A Doctor's Tryst with Freedom

Dec 14, 2004, 04:00 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Gustav Degreef)

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From the contributor:

I take the opportunity to introduce to you, Doctor Gustav Degreef who hails from Argentina and was educated and trained in the US. What binds us, is the fact that Dr. Gus, as he likes to be called, is a Linux freak, just like most of us... The following paragraphs are a collection of Dr Gus' experiences with free software and what I call his tryst with freedom...

This is a short story of my expereiences with Linux. I installed my first copy of Linux (SUSE 6.3) from a CD in a local magazine. I was intrigued and I followed the directions and installed it on the first try without any significant problems. I played with it for some time and experimented a lot with different distributions. Six months later I got another distribution (based on Red Hat) from a computer magazine CD and also installed it without much problems. Since then 90% of my computer/desktop needs are met by Linux.

My first experiences were somewhat frustrating, but my wife was extremely enthusiastic about Linux so with her support I persisted and now both our computers run Linux and are networked under Linux. Linux has gotten easier and easier and now presents few frustrations. It has gotten to be a pleasure and more and more of our friends are switching over. I have now installed one version or another of Linux on six computers and I have set up three networks with linux connected to MS windows machines.

My wife is extremely enthusiastic and tells everyone about it, so quite a few of our friends know of our experience. She often convinces people to try it, I install it and support the users. Another three friends of ours who are very computer literate have also added Linux to their computers, another is on the way. Some of the six Linux installations are used by multiple users so the number who are getting to know it and like it through our help is growing quickly.

What is really interesting is that most of the people using these six machines have very little knowledge of computers and they have switched from using Windows without too much trouble. In all of these six machines I have set up dual boot systems so that if there are any applications that they need on Windows they can easily switch. But most people who have switched now use Linux for the vast majority of their work.

All of the Linux intallations I have done (except our own) were because people were having serious virus problems and were upset with Microsoft products. All of them were using computers that had dial-up connections to the internet and they were doing a lot of e-mail.

One friend works in an office where they are doing reservations for a spiritual retreat and they get reservation requests from all over the world. It became impossible for them to be sure that any incoming mail was secure. Despite their updating their anti-virus definitions frequently, they would periodically have virus problems that would paralyze the office work, sometimes for days. Since installing Linux three years ago that particular machine has not been down once for any Linux related problem.

The last installation I did was on the computer of my wife's friends who had not been able to use their computer for four months because it had been behaving strangely. They had had it serviced multiple times and could not get it to work normally. When I first took a look at their machine it was running Windows XP and when I tried to get on the Internet, the browser would take me to a pornographic site. A friend of theirs had used their computer while they were away and he had been very naughty.

So I used an anti-spyware program and found loads of spyware on their machine. It ran better but still they had the same problem. It must have some virus that their anti-virus program (somewhat out of date) has not picked up. I am still struggling to find a way to clean the Windows partition, but I also installed SUSE 9.1 on their machine. They are not at all computer literate, but they were extremely pleased, and the husband started surfing the net with Mozilla (the browser) without any instructions from me. So most of our friends have found Linux to be easy to use and their constant problems have stopped.

I am a doctor and I have used computers since 1984. I never learned any programming and no one would consider me a hacker. But I like computers and have some skills with them. I had been looking for an alternative to DOS/Windows from very early on in my computer experience because of my scientific background. The purely commercial philosophy of Microsoft did not appeal to me. And I found DOS and Windows inflexible and not very configurable.

I am a medical doctor now doing general practice in rural Maharashtra, India. I was trained as a doctor in the US and moved to India in 1992 where I have been living for the last twelve years. I came to India to volunteer my services as a doctor at the Avatar Meher Baba Trust estate called Meherabad. It is near Ahmednagar and is a place of spiritual pilgrimage. I left a busy research/teaching position in a US university temporarily, but it gradually became permanent. Meher Baba was the main reason, but also because I felt medicine and research in the US had become more of a business than anything else.

I starte using computers in 1984 when I began to work in the research department, I used an old Macintosh and also dialed into the universities' mainframe using an old acoustic modem. Part of my resarch work later involved working on a Unix workstation which was used for research on diseases of the brain. I learned to operate and navigate on various computers without ever learning any programing, they were work tools. But I became aquainted with various types of computers and some with various operating systems. I became friends with people who had a lot of knowledge in computers and got to know a bit about operating systems and programs of various types. I bought my first computer in 1985, it was an IBM XT and it is now a dinosaur.

During the year prior to moving to India, I wanted to buy a particular medical program to use when I came to live here. I waited and waited for a long time because a version of a medical program I often used was being developed which would run on a Macintosh but it never arrived. So instead of switching to a Mac I was forced to buy a laptop with Windows 3.1 installed and ran that for years until Windows 95 and Windows 98 came out. I ran those for a few years mainly to run my medical programs, but I was always on the lookout for an alternative.

Since I live in a rural area in Maharashtra, Internet access did not come until about five years ago. That was when the telephone exchange installed fiber optic cabling. For one or two years prior to that we could periodically get on the Internet at speeds of 1200 bps, this was only good for e-mail and it was a constant problem.

The first experiences I had setting up the Internet connection with Windows 95 was so frustrating that I swore I would switch the first opportunity I could. It got a bit easier with Windows 98 but not much. The first time I did it in Linux it was so simple and so well organized, it was a pleasure. The ease of setting up the Internet connection in Linux is far easier than in Windows XP.

I don't try to convert people over to linux, but I share my experiences and periodically someone wants to try it. There has not been a single person yet who I have helped install linux who has been dissatisfied or unhappy. So far none of them have switched back to Windows. I also feel very comfortable with the open source philosophy and the Linux community is generally very open to help each other. I feel very much in tune with this idea. I am not against commercial products, but open source and the open source community provide a really good balance.

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