Editor's Note: Linux No Longer a Four-Letter Word
Jan 19, 2007, 23:30 (19 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
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By Brian Proffitt
There is a certain amount of dread that I get whenever I am in a
new place and have some sort of IT problem. That dread stems from
the fact that I use Linux, and most of the rest of the planet does
It's not that I am ashamed of using Linux--on the contrary, I
show my off my penguinista status regularly, much to my family's
dismay. When it is I who am using KNetworkManager to instantly find
the best hotspot in range, or surfing away on a machine that hasn't
been down for months, I feel quite superior and tease the people
around me whenever I can.
Superiority complex? Very likely. But come on, who can blame me?
When I see the public warnings about viruses, zombies, and cloned
Wi-Fi hotspots, how can I not chuckle a little?
But there are times when the arrogance needs to be taken down a
notch or two. Because while Linux is very good at what it does,
there are some out there that have no clue what to do about it when
it crosses their path. Hence, the dread.
The typical encounter goes something like this: I need something
from an IT person that I am not equipped or authorized to take care
of myself. I tell them the problem. Invariably, they ask me what
version of Windows I am using, usually with a tone of voice that
conveys "this yokel is probably still using Windows 98, and I'll
get to tell him to upgrade and come back to me later." I tell them
I use Linux (I've long since given up identifying the
At this point, which the part I dread, I typically get this
response: "can't you try it in Windows?" This frustrates me,
because while I certainly could flip partitions to Windows on the
couple of machines that it's installed, I don't really want to. I
want to use Linux, and I resent the fact that this so-called IT
professional is not even willing to try to figure out the answer to
(Before you get on me about not Googling it for myself, that's
not always possible. And, usually, these are usually network
questions because I can't get on the Internet.)
Case in point: this week, my family and I have finally moved
into our permanent residence in the great metropolis of South Bend,
Indiana. We have been here for a couple months, living in an
apartment until we could find a house. When we were ready to move,
I got a good deal from the local telephone carrier for combined
phone/DSL service so I decided to leave cable broadband behind and
venture into the world of DSL.
On Monday it was installed. But to my dismay, there was no
Internet connectivity. I had already planned to take Tuesday off
(and thanks to Carla Schroder for covering for me late last week
and early this week, by the way), so I had a day to get the problem
fixed. I won't go through the whole blow-by-blow, but the end
result was I did not get DSL established until Thursday at 2030
GMT. In the meantime, I spent my time running LT and the other
sites I have responsibility for out of the public library during
the day and at a local 24-hour coffee shop at night.
The coffee shop was good for night work, since it had a national
Wi-Fi carrier that I already had an account with. I used a daypass
and bought enough food and coffee to keep them from kicking me out.
Since I didn't want to find stories for Linux Today on a massive
caffeine rush, I opted to use the library during the day (plus, it
was quieter). But when I rolled into the library on Wednesday
morning, I discovered that though KnetworkManager could see the
hotspot quite clearly, I could not get on the Net. Feeling that bit
of dread again, I schlepped the laptop over to the Information Desk
and asked what might be the problem, because I was reasonably sure
it wasn't me.
"And what version of Windows are you using,?" the man behind the
desk asked. Bracing myself, I informed him it was actually
"Oh, really? Which distro?"
It was like Gabriel had brought out his horn and started
jamming. I had found a fellow Linux user in the unlikeliest of
places. We figured out the problem, chatted a bit about openSUSE,
which I was using and he'd never tried, and off I went to greet a
new day at LT.
This has happened to me quite a bit lately. A recent visit with
a cable technician in the temporary apartment found me talking with
a Linux fan. And the guy who came to fix my DSL yesterday was also
interested in trying Linux when he saw how it looked as he
reconfigured my new router from this machine. Linux is, slowly,
becoming more recognized amongst IT professionals and even just
enthusiasts. I don't seem to be getting that blank stare as often
when I say the L-word.
It's all anecdotal, of course. I am sure there's still plenty of
people out there that have not heard of this favorite operating
system of ours. But my sense of being a technical odd-ball in a
Windows world is becoming a thing of the past.