Slackware Linux!

I first started using Linux in 2011 and ever since I learned about Slackware Linux I always wanted to try it. But Slackware Linux is for advanced users, they said, and so I thought I would give it a try later when I become advanced. Well, the year is 2017 and I still don’t consider myself to be advanced, but Slackware suddenly started to tempt me. I watched a few videos on Youtube and today I finally took the plunge! (actually it is 1 AM right now and I installed the thing somewhere around 11 PM yesterday).

Ubuntu is just for the curious amongst us. But Slackware is the doorway to Linux madness.

First you descend down  Slackware, then you grope around the endless dark tunnels of Gentoo Linux, and finally LFS (Linux From Scratch) entices you and ensnares you.

Boy am I looking forward to LFS! I just spent the last 15 minutes installing Gedit, a simple notepad like program, in my machine. But it was fun and completely worth it.

I am now a Slacker! 🙂


How I fell in love with Linux and How you could too

Age of Darkness

Operating System — mankind has fought many religious wars over this topic in its brief history.  Before I was a silent observer to many of such bloodshed, before I myself occasionally partook in such battles, before I even learnt that such holy crusades had happened, I was a happy Windows user. It was a time when nobody ever compared Windows to any other operating system. This was mostly because we never knew that such systems existed (I live in India, a place where Apple’s influence is still not as powerful as it is in the West). I lived in a Windows world without knowing it. So did I love Windows? To this, I ask you: do you love your toothbrush? Because I neither love it nor hate it. I don’t think anybody even thinks about their toothbrush when they mechanically brush their teeth without giving it a thought. The only time we think about our toothbrush is when we want to buy a new one. Windows was like that — I neither loved it, nor hated it. It was a tool that I needed to browse the web, watch a movie, program, play games, and so on. It was a tool for me to do things and I didn’t think about it much. But all this changed on that fateful Sunday in the year 2011.

Age of Enlightenment

It was sometime during the last quarter of that year, and I was lying on my bed on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was feeling bored and suddenly the word Linux popped into my head. ‘Linux,’ I thought. ‘What exactly is it?’ I got up and logged into my desktop and googled. What followed was enlightenment. There are hundreds of Linux operating systems out there and we could choose the one that best suits our needs and tastes, I learnt. It was a mind-blowing moment. ‘There are hundreds of operating systems out there?’ All I knew was Windows and an operating system that runs on Apple computers. And the best part: it’s all FREE!

The desktop of an operating system, in the Linux world, is extremely customizable, and if you still don’t like it, you can install a new desktop and get rid of the default one — WOW! And all these years I was stuck with the same boring desktop.  I decided to install a Linux system in my computer and I was spoiled for choice. I couldn’t decide which Linux system to install. Then I googled, ‘the best Linux distribution for beginners’ (in the Linux world, an operating system is usually referred to as distribution). All the roads led to a Linux distribution called Ubuntu. I wasted no time in downloading Ubuntu, followed some online instructions to install and dual-boot it alongside Windows. It was simple (although I did end up accidentally formatting the entire D drive when I tried this the second time). I loved Ubuntu. I spent many months, downloading and installing various software, and customizing the desktop environment to my heart’s content. It was a period of great enlightenment and empowerment. I felt so happy with my new-found powers and control. As days passed, I learnt that I could rip apart the whole Linux operating system and put it back together! This was too much power and fun for me. I learnt that I could even touch and manipulate the brain of the operating system — the kernel  (Each operating system, at its core, has a kernel. Windows NT, is the name of the kernel used in Windows operating systems, Darwin is the name of kernel used in Apple’s Mac OS X, and Linux is the name of the kernel used in Linux distributions. In fact, it is the Linux kernel that gives Linux its name). I could manipulate the kernel itself? That is exactly what I did after learning this fact. I followed an online tutorial and made some minor edits to the kernel. I felt like a mad scientist. This is how computers should be used, I realized. We’ve been using computers wrong! We’ve been doing computers and ourselves a great injustice!

Age of Enlightenment Redefined

A couple of months rolled by, and it was February 2012. A wandering wizard from the West visited India, and he traveled all the way down south to Chennai. It was someone called Richard Stallman, a name hitherto unheard of in these parts. He gave a speech to a packed auditorium of 3000 students at IIT Madras. On the next day’s newspaper, I read about him and his entire speech. It was mind-blowing. Never in my life has any speech altered my mind so quickly and deeply. It was a call to war. Here was a man of such greatness, here was a man of such courage, here was a man of great character, will power, and self-discipline. If the science of computers is a religion, then Richard Stallman is certainly one of its Gods. Suddenly, people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs appeared as little children in front of his greatness. We are looking at the wrong people for inspiration, I realized. As I started learning more and more about Stallman and his principles, I started loving him more and more. When I learnt about the pain and hardships that he had undergone, I could deeply connect and empathize with him. Richard Stallman is an American software activist, creator of the GNU operating system, which along with the Linux kernel, is now called as Linux, the Founder and President of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and he is the giant upon whose shoulders the entire Open Source movement stands.

OKAY, what exactly are Mr.Stallman’s principles that I am praising so much?

It is Stallman’s grand vision that has made me one of his biggest fans. Being a fan of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs is like being a fan of Alexander the Great or Napoleon Bonaparte. Yes, of course, Alexander and Napoleon were great leaders and geniuses and they both wanted to conquer the known world and did succeed to a certain extent, just like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have. The similarities between Alexander and Bill Gates, and Napoleon and Steve Jobs makes for an interesting study. Alexander conquered more countries than Napoleon, but Napoleon was a better tactician and even during his time, he was that rare person who understood what “being cool” meant and he made sure how the general public perceived him. But in spite of all their brilliance and bravery on the battlefield, who are these people? Men who wanted power, men who wanted money, men who wanted more. And who are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs? Ruthless businessmen who have destroyed competition, even illegally,  that came in their way. Both of them even have a dark side, but that is beyond the scope of this article. But if you’d like a taste of it, then read this New York Times article on Jobs: Steve Jobs Defied Convention, and Perhaps the Law. Here’s an interview of Steve Wozniak, the guy who co-founded Apple along with Jobs, and the guy who actually built the first Apple computer explaining how Steve Jobs cheated him of his money: Steve Wozniak: I Cried When Steve Jobs Kept Atari Bonus to Himself.

Remember Netscape Navigator? That friendly browser that we all used more than 10 years ago? Well, Bill Gates played an active role in the illegal destruction of the Netscape company so that Internet Explorer could be a success. Read all about it here. Microsoft was taken to court, but let off the hook and later Microsoft funded George W Bush’s election campaign.

How could these people be our role model?

The thing that I love about Richard Stallman is that he’s above all these politics and this mad rush for money. He sees everything from a God’s standpoint. That’s right, I said God’s standpoint.

Stallman’s Point of View

We have come to a point in time where software is everything. Software runs this world. We need software to travel, software for handling money, software in life saving medical equipment, software to make medicine, to process food, to wash our clothes, to refrigerate our food, and so on. The amount of money in our bank accounts, our life and medical insurances are all regulated by software. Think about it. Our entire destiny is intertwined with software. So why should we allow certain private companies to dictate terms for the usage of software?

Stallman asks: Why is it illegal to share my Windows 7 DVD with my best friend? After all, it’s my best friend and the DVD is mine. I paid money for it! Don’t you think that something is wrong here?

He says that we have every right to get the source code of the software that we buy, to modify the software, and to share it with others. Such software is called FREE software and Dr.Richard Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to spread this truth. Free software means software that respects the users’ freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, 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”. So the “Free” here doesn’t refer to cost. It means Freedom to users and software developers.

But doesn’t Free software sound like Open source?

In many cases Free software can be Open source and Open source software can be Free software, but not in all cases. The Open source model came into existence later and it focuses more on software — it is a software development model. But the Free software movement focuses not on the software, but on the users; it is ethics.

When Human Beings collaborate, rather than fight against each other over patents, great things happen

To prove this point let me give you an example. More than 10 years ago, when a group of people decided to create an Operating System for mobile phones, they thought that instead of reinventing the wheel and wasting time and money, they could use the Linux kernel as the Operating System’s kernel. Today, we call this Operating System Android. Linus Torvalds created the Linux kernel in 1991,  and until Android came into existence, the kernel was primarily used in personal computers, servers, and supercomputers. But now, Linux is more widespread, thanks to Android.

You see what happens when people share? Nobody can use the Windows NT kernel because it belongs to Microsoft. But anyone can use the Linux kernel because it’s a Free software. Richard Stallman started this revolution by creating the GNU system and giving it away for free (free as in freedom and also free of cost). Linus Torvalds created the Linux kernel and did the same. Why do you think there are hundreds of Linux operating systems out there? Since it is free, many software developers, without fear of someone accusing them of theft, take the source code, modify it and create their own versions of Linux. This is why there are so many Linux operating systems out there.

It has been more than two years since I stopped using Windows for my personal computing altogether. So far, I have used at least seven or eight Linux distributions and I will be trying out more in the future. So what are you waiting for? Get that external hard disk, backup all your data, and give Linux a try.

If you would like to explore more about this, please follow the links below.

One Man’s Fight for Free Software — a New York Times article that came out in the year 1989. — The GNU website that explains everything about Free Software.

richard stallman

Important Note: When I say Linux, I mean GNU/Linux. Linux is the name of the kernel used in the GNU Operating system. The proper way of calling this system is GNU/Linux (pronounced “Gnoo-slash-Linux” — the G is not silent). For the sake of brevity, people commonly refer to this system as Linux.

Of Linux, Lisp, Emacs Lisp and Writing a Novel

In I walked into the cubicle of my office which is located on the 10th floor. I logged into my computer and started reviewing a Powerpoint presentation I had made the previous day. I am into a management kind of role for the past two and a half years. Previously I was a mainframe developer, but not by choice though. I was trained in mainframe when I joined the company and I continued to be a developer for three years. I wasn’t into mainframe much and I always thought about switching to a new technology like web development or Linux administration. Back in school and college I learned quite a few programming languages like C, C++, Java, Visual Basic, HTML, Java script, Pearl and so on. After I joined this company I learned a few more languages to work on mainframe like JCL (Job Control Language), REXX and Cobol. Nothing really excited me like the web development languages that I had learnt in school. When I created a simple web page I had a feeling of accomplishment that none other languages gave me. The creator in me liked that. I found particularly Java to be boring and C and C++ were pretty ordinary. But I do have plans to learn C all over again as I don’t remember anything apart from printf and scanf. I always wanted to be a technically strong person, a good techie, and I always wanted to learn stuff like the internal workings of an Operating System and so on. Until the end of 2011, I used only Windows and I never bothered to learn anything. These interests always were at the back of my mind but I did nothing on my part. I needed some motivation and that motivation came in the form of Linux. One lazy Sunday afternoon, as I was lying on my bed, the word Linux came floating into my mind. I got up and googled it. Shortly afterwards I downloaded and installed a Linux distribution called Ubuntu. I really liked it and started using it alongside Windows 7. It took me two more years to ditch Windows completely. The strange thing is Linux kind of brought my interests back to the forefront of my mind. It encouraged the geek in me. Imagine this — you always wanted to learn guitar, but you did absolutely nothing to learn it. But one day you buy a music CD and the guitar piece in that CD inspires you so much that you go out and sign up for learning guitar at a music academy. That’s what happened to me. Linux encouraged and still encourages me to learn stuff. A couple of weeks back I downloaded and installed Emacs. Guess what? Emacs had that same effect on me. I really liked it and on the third day of downloading it I started leaning the Emacs Lisp language (the language that was used to build the Emacs application).

I always searched for a good piece of software for me to write. Apart from all the techie stuff, I love books and I love to write. I want to become a novelist sometime and churn out novel after novel. I am still searching for the perfect application that would satisfy my writing needs. So far Emacs seem to be the application that I need. I am still learning it as it has a bit of a learning curve. When I fired up Emacs for the first time, two weeks ago, I was presented a long tutorial. At first, I felt a bit reluctant to read it and try out the various stuff given. But then I remembered the great Richard Stallman and I didn’t need any other inspiration 🙂

But I am bit confused now. As I googled more and more about Emacs Lisp the more I am getting caught in this desire to learn it and then continue from there and learn the Common Lisp language as the two are closely related. I also did a lot of googling to understand if I should learn Scheme, which is a variant of Lisp, or Lisp itself after I am done with Emacs Lisp. Finally I have settled for Lisp as Lisp seems to be a larger and more complete language than Scheme. But I have to hold my horses though. I was actually in the middle of some writing when I jumped into this Emacs wagon and now Emacs is taking me on a ride. I was actually planning to write a novel, not learn stuff after stuff. So far this is how I have set my priorities:
1. Learn Emacs and Emacs Lisp
2. Get going with the novel and complete the first rough draft within the end of 2015.

I hope I stick to my plan. After completing my novel I would go after Common Lisp. Or maybe I would go after more novels. I don’t know, let me think about it after completing my novel.

Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr, a short review

Well, well, well, what can I say? Ubuntu 14.04 has taken me by surprise. Ubuntu was my first Linux distribution back in 2011 when I tried Linux for the first time. I loved it in my Desktop computer, but hated it in my Laptop and gave up after the umpteen number of WiFi issues that I faced. In the past two years, I have been a frequent distro-hopper, but here I am back trying out my once-favourite distro.

What’s great about the latest version?
I think I used version 11.10 and another version after that that included Unity for the first time. Compared to those versions, 14.04 looks more elegant, beautiful and responsive. Importantly, no more WiFi issues and I am still using the same laptop in which I tried to install that older version of Ubuntu.

To summarize my one week experience of using Trusty Tahr: “I am immensely pleased!”

This distribution is going to stay in my laptop for a long time…. 😉

ubuntu 14.04, trusty tahr

 – Sent from my iPhone Android device Ubuntu device

How to master Linux the proper way – Dedoimedo

This is great article that I recently enjoyed reading. So you want to master Linux? Which is the right way? Dedoimedo, a Linux Master himself, explains here.

I was pretty happy after reading this article because I am on the right path as recommended by Dedoimedo!