Saturday, March 8, 2008


Charles Darwin sailed to southern latitudes and came up with the theory of evolution. I sailed south and came up with the idea for a Linux website that I would call Linux Latitude. Linux itself originated much earlier.

In November 2006 I was invited to go on a sailing rally, Baja Ha Ha, to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This annual event is sponsored by Latitude 38 Magazine. It was quite an adventure! We spent a month, stopping in isolated bays on the Baja Peninsula and ending up in Cabo. I had sailed a few times before, but seldom enough that what I learned on one trip I had forgotten by the next. It takes constant exposure and practice to learn anything complicated I guess.

As we moved south along the coast of Baja, we noticed greater changes in climate. At our first stop, about 2 1/2 days out of San Diego, California, we noticed the climate had changed - we were in a low enough latitude that the water was warm, and it was shorts and T-shit weather in November. The surroundings and lifestyle in Mexico, or at least rural Baja, were much different as well. Or first stop, Turtle Bay is 160 miles of dirt road from the main Highway One that runs down the peninsula. Life is slower here. Attitude was changing with latitude.

I was reminded of the old Corona Beer commercials. Remember the ones where the people are laying on a tropical beach with just the sound of the waves, a cold beer and the caption "A whole different latitude..."? Terrible beer, but great advertising. It really puts you in mind of a different, more relaxed place. With Jimmy Buffet playing on the boats stereo, it was easy to slip into this new life style.

Another inspiration, which I only now recognize as I write this, is the Darwin connection. Just as evolution changed how we think about natural history, Free/Open Source Software changes the way we think about software. It is no less than a revolution, though not as earth-shaking as evolution to be sure. And OK, maybe I am stretching to make a connection to evolution here. Actually we devolved from open software to proprietary and now are moving back to open. Come to think of it, there are parallels in evolution too though.

The first leg of the trip was rough, literally and figuratively. We hit gale force winds and 10 foot seas. At one point I figured I had only slept four hours in the last forty.
If the beginning of the journey was difficult, it got easier as we gained experience, got used to the new reality of life on board, and the weather got calmer. There were other rough times later on, but the worst was over, and for the most part, I could now keep learning and just enjoy the new experiences.

Kind of like Linux. The change may challenge you and you may have to adjust your attitude a little to enjoy the ride, but it's well worth the trip.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Why Linux?

Linux is a modern, mature, free computer operating system with a graphical user interface very similar to either Windows or Mac; your choice. In fact, Linux is about choice--and freedom. Best of all, you don't even have to install Linux to try it out. You can just pop in a "Live CD" reboot your computer and be running Linux in minutes. (with no danger to your existing operating system). You can even get an inexpensive CD shipped to you. Actually though, you're probably already using Linux and don't even realize it.

Linux originated in 1991, but is now reaching a critical mass of adoption with millions of users worldwide. Most corporate uses are for servers, but it is now increasingly being used on the desktop by businesses and ordinary computer users too. Even Apple users are impressed with how usable modern Linux is. Among Linux users are major corporations including IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems, Google, Dell and Novell. Government agencies like DOD, NASA, NSA, and the US Army use Linux. The world's fastest computer runs Linux. Many cities, medical facilities, educational institutions, airlines, the NYSE and foreign governments use Linux. You should too.

Instead of having your use of the computer you bought dictated by a giant corporation (and convicted monopolist), YOU can be in charge! Linux gives you freedom; free from cost, free from spyware, adware, worms, Trojans and virus infection. No virus scans, no malware removal, no defraging to waste your time. Oh, and you don't need to buy any expensive third-party utilities to protect yourself either. Linux is secure out of the box. And, many manufacturers try to make up for the cost of a Windows license by bundling demo and trial versions of software such as AOL, Norton, McAfee, Microsoft Office, etc. (known as "crapware"), for which they receive money from software companies looking to increase their sales. These bog down your system and are hard to remove. Not on Linux. You start with a clean system.

Another advantage, Linux runs well on slower computers, so you can save even more money by upgrading your hardware less often, or buying cheaper systems in the first place. Not only do you not have to pay the "Windows Tax" when you switch to Linux, you have access to thousands of pieces of application software as well; Office Suites, a Photoshop replacement, audio and video editors, multimedia players, and on and on. Free.
One more thing; you can update your whole system, both the operating system and all the applications with one command! Likewise, in some distros you can upgrade to the latest version of the operating system (and all it's programs) easily. For free.

Linux also gives you freedom from onerous EULA's and entering long cryptic codes to install software you paid for. Quit worrying about product activation, how many computers you can legally install the software on, planned obsolescence, forced upgrades, vendor lock-in, DRM, and all the other problems from the closed software model.

But Linux is not a copy of Windows. It has it's own unique advantages and it must be said, some disadvantages. Also, Linux and Free Software are as much a philosophy as a technology, but many people misunderstand the term "free software":
"Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer."
(A similar term, Open Source, is slightly different.
For one point of view on the differences, read this essay)
In most cases though Linux is "free" in both senses of the word. Freedom for free--you can't get much better than that.
Freedom feels good. Give it a try.