I am thinking about Linux distributions. Linux Distributions are fascinating due to their varied natures. I am not about to sell you on trying or using Linux. For myself, I have been a Linux user for over a decade. I know Linux has a lot to offer. If you are happy with your operating system, stick with it, it is working for you. But read on, I think you like this post anyway.
What is unique about Linux Distributions, and perhaps any Operating System, is so much of Linux happens between the users ears. That comment is not making a number of Linux users happy, so let’s look into it further.
For most of the world, computer usage or computer life for a few, is defined by a few programs. They are in no particular order: programs for the web, for productivity, entertainment, and social media. These categories cover most computer users day to day computer usage.
Most older versions of your operating system could be perfectly at home today sitting on your desk, or on your laptop. They would need a horse power boost due to the size of web and other documents, and multimedia, but for the most part they would work just fine. If I still had a version of Windows 95 for example, I could use it to listen to music, browse the web, watch some videos, send email, and create good looking documents.
With the exception of changes to how web documents are created and viewed, small additions to basic video, everything you do with your computer is generally what people did in 1995 minus some of the real time video heavy applications. There was less of everything of course, computers at that time were not central to life as we know it, but they were getting there.
With that thought in mind, think about Linux. There is basic Linux, which is almost the same as using windows with no additional programs. The Linux desktop is generic on millions of Linux computers around the world. Every modified version of Linux, named a “Linux Distribution” have different window dressings (desktops), programs, and ways of doing things, but in general they all generally accomplish the same tasks if they are for general computer users.
Window dressing and software is where Linux Distributions become interesting. Think of a basic bicycle, or automobile. That is how basic Linux, Windows, Mac OS, or other operating systems are off the shelf. They all take you from point A to point B. What makes each bicycle or automobile unique is how it is dressed up, how fast or slow, and how comfortable it is for you, the owner.
When all the glitz and glitter is stripped away from an operating system, the files we work with, watch, or listen to, are essentially the same. Music is music, documents are documents produced by different software. Video is video. A web site is basically a web site.
If you spend most of your time using a web browser, the latest version of whatever web browser you are using looks almost the same on every computer’s operating system. If you listen to music, or participate in social media, all programs operate under certain agreed upon standards, whether they be tweets, or two hour movies.
This idea of ‘unique’ is one of the fascinating concepts of our minds and Linux distributions. There are a few hundred different distributions, or versions of Linux waiting to be downloaded, installed and used. Some look like Windows and some look like each other.
Some Linux Distributions are easier to install than others. Some Linux Distributions have two or three programs that all do the same thing (more choices), some have one or none depending on what the version of Linux is meant to do.
When you buy a computer, you use Windows in most cases. Generally, you can do everything you need to do with the programs that come with Windows. When you use Linux, your desktop can be anything from a black screen with a > to desktops that look as if they should be framed and displayed as art because they are that pleasing to the eye.
This is what I find fascinating about Linux! If it doesn’t exist, and it probably does, you or I can create it. Probably as simple as a few lines of text in a terminal. Of course we can also make it as complex as any program written in Windows or Mac OS if we choose to.
We can pick and choose from a number of top notch music players that rival itunes in power and capability. Or we can use a program with no visual interface at all, using only a line of text in a terminal, telling a program to play a single song. We can mix and match our Linux Operating System this way. As simple, complex, plain or pleasing as we want.
Linux is the American Dream Operating System! Where else can you have it exactly your way? Not a choice of vegetables and which sauce you want on your burger, but exactly what you want for your burger from the type of bread, choice of meats, how its cooked, and exact mixtures of special sauces. Kind of like being a kid at the soda dispenser, mixing different flavors, and hoping we like the taste when we a re done.
I am both too lazy and time constrained to want to do the creating and upkeep of a building a from scratch Linux Operating System on my own, though others obviously love the challenge. Tweaking and creating until it is perfect – for them.
I prefer the easy, lazy way. I use Mac OS because it is close to Linux, even though it is highly controlled. I use my Linux Distro of choice because it is as close to what I want my Linux Operating System to be without putting in the painful sweat equity myself.
I really enjoy Linux and all the freedom and choice Linux gives me. I wish I had more time to not be so lazy when it comes to using such a great operating system. It must be a blast to create exactly what you want in a computer Operating System. Having run exactly the way you want it to. Yet, it must be even better when other people like it too, and clone your dream operating system on their computer.
For all our freedom of choice we insist we want, we really don’t want it. We could have a computer with an operating system that is uniquely our own because we could build it ourselves. Yet most of us choose a plain vanilla computer using a plain vanilla operating system. I think the reason is, for all our talk about wanting personal freedom, we are basically lazy. We really want it our way, but only if someone else does the work for us.
Our laziness flows across our daily life. Our clothing, our meals, everything we could make, unique to ourselves, if we really wanted to, we generally do not do. We balance our laziness with our money. Why do it, when we can buy it almost as we want it? Rather and maybe more truthfully, we settle for something close to what we want.
Or perhaps in the case of the two hundred plus Linux Distributions waiting to be downloaded, installed and enjoyed, most of us, find the one. The one Linux Distribution where we know when we use it, that it is better than we could do ourselves. At least I want to think so.