Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Kalyan Ramanathan, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Xenia von Wedel, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Linux Made Easy

A Q&A with Rickford Grant

I recently had a chance to sit down with Rickford Grant, author of Linux for Non-Geeks, and talk with him about his new book Linux Made Easy (No Starch Press).

LWM: First of all, why, after writing Linux for Non-Geeks, did you decide to write Linux Made Easy.

Rickford Grant: The whole idea behind both books is to get regular folks into what is often considered a domain for geeks. That said, I am always looking for distributions that are easy to use and thus less intimidating for people who have been weaned on a diet of Windows all their lives.

Linux for Non-Geeks is based on Fedora Core, which I felt (and still do) is a very straightforward and well-supported distro that really provides users with a real Linux experience, albeit without much of the the pain that you might encounter with some distros. Still, it seemed that some people, especially those who just wanted a low-cost out from Windows and were not necessarily particularly interested in Linux per se, still found things a bit more complex than what they were looking for. When I finally got around to trying Xandros, I felt I had found what those people were looking for, and so I wrote Linux Made Easy. The two books, although seemingly similar in nature, are thus really written with slightly different audiences in mind.

Another point I tried to address with Linux Made Easy was the area of applications. When I read through some of the reader reviews of Linux for Non-Geeks, I noticed there were a number of comments expressing a desire for more coverage of applications. The train of thought seemed to be along the lines of, "Okay, so you say Linux comes with all these great applications. So the GIMP is great, but what can I do with it? OpenOffice Draw is good for what? Drawing circles?" That sort of thing, you know. To address those rather valid points, especially in a book that is targeted for people who just want to get down to the doing rather than the fiddling, I also added numerous projects that would give readers some hands-on experience with some of the major Linux applications.

LWM: Do you think that after installing Xandros, people will use it more and more, and Windows less and less? What about when great, new-for-Windows-only software comes out?

RG: It certainly was the case for me. I can't help but feel that when users get cracking with Xandros, they will be pleased by the fact that they are spending most of their time working or playing or whatever, rather than tracking down viruses and trying to rid their system of trojan horses. The fact that they will more than likely have more usable applications on their Xandros side will no doubt make their Windows world less and less atttractive.

As for great new Windows-only software...well, what can you do? In a sense, a Linux user with a dual-boot setup has a better setup for such things than a Mac user, who often suffers the same problem. A Mac user, after all, would have to have a whole different machine in order to deal with the situation.

When it comes down to it, the number of killer, must-have Windows apps you are talking about is usually quite small for a given user. As I mention every chance I get, I only resort to Windows on my own accord in order to play the Austrian card game Schnapsen, the three different versions of which are Windows-only apps. But for now, it's no big deal - just switch over to the Windows side, stay off the Internet, and then play or do whatever it is you do with that app until you need to get back down to business. Then just switch back. You can just think of it like rooms in a house: dinner in the dining room, billiards in the family room, workbench in the garage. Not that I've ever had a billiards table in my house...

LWM: Why Xandros, as opposed to other similar distros like Ubuntu?

RG: I was inspired to write Linux Made Easy by Xandros, not the other way around. It's just so easy. The installation is a no-brainer, and it will even repartition your Windows disk for you so that you can create a dual-boot system without any hassles. I know that a few other distros, Madriva for example, can do that, but my experience with Xandros' partitioning capability has been the best.

It also has excellent package handling, a well set-up and stocked repository, and a well-organized interface. Having CD and DVD burning capabilities built into the file manager, as it is in GNOME, is much, much better and more convenient than having to resort to an outside app, such as K3B, which most KDE-based distros seem to favor. It also seemed more accomodating in terms of hardware, working on every piece of junk I tried to install, and the fact that Skype is bundled with the system is just that much more icing on the cake. (See Figure 1)

As for Ubuntu (and Kubuntu), I just don't seem to get all the hoopla. Yes, it is a very nice, well-organized distro with unusually slick promotional graphics and a pleasant touchy-feely name. But other than that, it's not really all that different than Fedora Core... other than the fact that it is Debian based (as is Xandros) rather than RPM based. It just seems to me that it's not particularly unique in any way I can figure, so why all the hype? I might consider using it instead of Fedora, but for a real newbie who wants as smooth a transition as possible, I would stick with Xandros.

LWM: What role do you feel distros like Xandros will play in the public sector, e.g., schools and government, where an easy stable alternative to Windows could save taxpayers millions?

RG: You said it right there: saving the taxpayers millions of dollars!

It is no surprise that countries such as China are making the Linux switch a national project for just that reason. The French government too, for that matter. For government, there is really no reason not to switch over since there are not really any killer apps that users need in order to work. The number of applications in the educational field are more limited at the present time, but if school systems were to make the commitment, the software would flow.

Of course, government being what it is, there will always be opponents out to protect their benefactors...oh, I mean constituents. It's interesting to hear the arguments such people make as they work to protect us from free software, though.

LWM: Where do you see Linux on the desktop two years from now? Or five years from now?

RG: There is no doubt in my mind that Linux will be more of a player in the desktop arena as years go by. How much of a player depends on the entities that package the various distros out there today. By this I mean that a major obstacle that could hinder the progress of Linux on the desktop is the actual philosopy that lays behind the Linux movement. The open source idea is the core of what makes Linux Linux, and thus stands as a major attraction. At the same time, most distros take a purist approach to the bundling of their distros in order to keep things totally open and not, for example, including any software that requires any sort of licensing. Red Hat/Fedora's no MP3 support is a good example. While this is fine in terms of keeping distros free and legal, it also stands as a hindrance to wider acceptance by present Windows users.

Companies such as Xandros that have a variety of versions, some both free and for sale, have a unique opportunity to fill the gaps. They could do this quite easily by keeping their free versions free, while including licensed items, such as Windows-compatible codecs, encrypted DVD playback support, and MP3 playback and encoding support, in their for-sale versions. TurboLinux, for example, already includes some of these seemingly taboo (in the Linux world, anyway) features. Open source purists might balk at the seemingly heretical notion, but the open source concept in its strictest form is lost on a casual Windows user, for example, who just wants to be able to play a DVD (no doubt, when he or she should be working) without any fuss or philosophical abstractions getting in the way. Fair enough, I say. If they are willing to pay for those added conveniences, why not let them?

Of course, there are always going to be some folks who are never going to make the switch. Some people just like to go to the computer shop, stroll up and down the aisles looking at row after row of shrink-wrapped software boxes, and then walk out after having bought something. It's just that simple consumer gene in each of us. Some of us love to shop for clothes, others for cars, others for leeks and cauliflower, but for others it's software. Such folks are not likely to become Linux users any time in the near future.

The progress Linux will make during the next few years, however, is sure to entice others. After all, it was only a few years that, cute penguin aside, getting Linux up and running on your machine could be a rather frustrating endeavor. Now, however, the installation process for just about any distro out there is much, much easier than that for a Windows installation, which most people seldom have the misfortune of enduring since they usually get Windows prebundled on their machines. Desktop and file manager features have also become greatly improved, and the future is sure to hold more in store. It thus becomes a matter of time before all but the diehard I-want-my-shrink-wrap types want to at last have a crack at Linux.

More Stories By Matt Frye

Matt Frye is the Review Editor at Linux.SYS-CON.com, and Engineer in New Product Introduction and Emerging Network Solutions at Tekelec.

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
SYS-CON Germany News Desk 12/09/05 12:25:28 AM EST

Linux Made Easy. I recently had a chance to sit down with Rickford Grant, author of Linux for Non-Geeks, and talk with him about his new book Linux Made Easy (No Starch Press).

SYS-CON Canada News Desk 12/08/05 11:57:01 PM EST

Linux Made Easy. I recently had a chance to sit down with Rickford Grant, author of Linux for Non-Geeks, and talk with him about his new book Linux Made Easy (No Starch Press).

LinuxWorld News Desk 12/08/05 11:29:30 PM EST

Linux Made Easy. I recently had a chance to sit down with Rickford Grant, author of Linux for Non-Geeks, and talk with him about his new book Linux Made Easy (No Starch Press).

@ThingsExpo Stories
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effici...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, provided an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data professionals...
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Onalytica. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and G...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...