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Re: Why Linux on a Laptop?

> Well, I believe that the newer Windows versions, for example Win2000 are 
> quite stable. 

I'd have to agree, but it isn't worth shoe-horning into my Pentium 233 MMX
with 96 MB RAM.  (maxed out.)  The extant version of Windows in January '98
wasn't stable enough to keep me, then... so the machine had MSwin wiped out
before I ever looked at it.

I would have ordered it without Windows entirely, naked drive if necessary, 
but history buffs will know that was NOT an option back then.

> They are also quite easy to install 

I saw a wall chart of how many questions-of-content and reboots installing
WinME required.  Not a corporate cheatsheet but actual scribbling on the
whiteboard -- my boss did this for fun, to see -- and... eep, it was a LOT
of work.  TWO whiteboards stuffed full.  Even the worst Linux installs I've
put someone through only required booting twice, and questions like "what's
your name" and "what do you want to call this box" aren't nearly as bad as
having to *ask* you what IRQ a peripheral is on.

> and come with most of the drivers already on the CD.

And most linuces come with more drivers than you really want or need already
set up, too.

The comparison becomes worthy when you ask how to deal with the matter if
they aren't.

I'd say they're about equally hard to get the oddball driver nowadays.

> So many of the arguments I keep hearing about the advantage 
> of Linux are not really standing out (any more), 

Not everyone considers choices, or being able to download massive apps,
a feature.  Folks who prefer click-me's think lots of choices are bad (go
try knoppix or RunOnCD for your linux - knoppix has a lot of debian under
the hood)  and folks who live in the internet boonies think having to
download bits is expensive and slow (buy your debian discs at CheapBytes).

> and one should not compare a 
> brand new version of Linux with a 5 year old version of Windows.

Ah, but I have a 6 year old version of Linux lying around that compares 
favorably against some people's present-day MSwin experiences.  If you want
to continue down that rathole check out the humor page on "Commodore 64 vs
Windows NT" -- wherein Commodore wins mostly because of access time.  That
way lies the true success of PDAs.

I'll pit my full Linux against a WinCE box anytime, but I'd prefer the 
opponent be on even footing, and actually involved in getting shareware
for his platform, or it's hardly a fair fight.

> If you use Debian, stable it may actually still be a bit more stable than 
> even the newer Windows versions, but the differences are small. Win2000 was 
> certainly more stable than Mandrake 8.0 for example.
Stability depends far more on what sort of crazy things you are trying to
do to your system.

People who really use their compilers break stuff.

People who are conservative about what they put in their computers - even
if it comes from the vendors - often escape breaking stuff that happens to
folks who take whichever patches/service packs float by.

My dad has a saying - "Never Buy A Point Oh."  If the tech in something is
untested in the field, or only tested by a tiny percentage of the market -
expect bugs, and occasionally big hairy ones.  WinXP has a big nasty hairy
licensing change.  Win2000 is mostly final cleanups on NT and ME code.
Mandrake pulled some new installer tricks, leading to MUCH better performance
and usability for some, and some, yh, unfortunate effects.

I expect the same to be true when Woody rolls out at the next r0, but since 
Debian allows for continuous upgrades, the roller coaster never drops nearly
so far as for the commercial distros.

> Now for the real reasons to use GNU/Debian:
> 1. you may use the software as you see fit, you are not limited by the 
>    license terms.
provided you stick to main, and provided you think "if you tweak the code
you have to give it back to the community" is a feature.  For the latter
I certainly do.  For the former, I agree to licenses at my choice... but
then, I also like to read dictionaries and quotation books.

> 2. you may inspect the source code and learn from it as it pleases you.
Which I think is a big plus, and which people who wouldn't know how to use
a compiler if you give them 
	make install
...wave their hands and say "bah" like Dogbert.

> 3. you may change the software and adapt it to your needs
See (2)

> 4. you are allowed and encouraged to share the changed or unchanged software 
> with whomever you want.
This is a big feature - PDA users get this instantly - MSwin users often 
don't understand this for a long while.

The net result is faster development cycles, and many variant flavors of the
same project in most cases -- resulting in for the better things, the kind
of safety and choices found at most auto rows.  Nearly all these cars will
run.  Most have warranties (often limited to parts and labor) and if you
like cheap you can always buy one that hasn't any.   In our case replace
"warranty" with "consultants and corporate support" and "buy cheap" with
"surf for last year's castoffs on eBay".

Nowadays Windows is GM and Linux is Toyota.  It's long past the go-kart stage,
and yes, there are other OS' worth looking at too.

But BSD's the only other one that's any good at laptops, IMHO.

> In other words: this is free software.
> On top of it GNU/Linux comes with a lot of useful applications. For Windows 
> you have to get most of them separately, but you may actually be able to buy 
> some you can't get (yet) for Linux.

So use WINE, possibly with a boost (active X support) from Transgaming, and
use both.    

The matter's the same - if you are the kind of person who just buys a car
to drive around, well heck, buy whatever's on sale.

OTOH if you're the sort who learns to tune your own engine, enjoys being
able to spot a mechanic with a clue from one who's trying to rip you off,
was thinking of customizing anything more than the upholstery... maybe even
would rather save yourself all the standard tune up fees and do it yourself
all the time... Linux might be the car for you.

Debian extensions, optional.  Electric vehicles can be cool.
* Heather Stern * star@ many places...

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