I often use free, open source software. I like the idea of contributing to society and helping each other. Plus, I do not like paying for something that is freely available. One example of this is the computer operating systems. On any given computer there are typically two operating systems of choice (I will get to Macs in a minute).
The most common is MicroSoft Windows while the other option is a flavor (distribution or distro) of GNU/Linux. For those living in caves, the operating system is the base software you use to controll your computer. On top of the operating sytem is a user interface, these days it is typcially some graphical interface. In windows these two pieces are interwoven together. In GNU/Linux they are separate and thus there are different graphical interfaces which a user can apply and use. In GNU/Linux, the major ones are KDE and Gnome but by no means are they the only ones. This is a highly simplistic view, if you want further information please ask or consult your local admin. Lacking an admin, your best friend may be a search engine of choice.
I mentioned I would get to Macs. OS 10 will not, so far as I know, operate on hardware not proprietary to Apple Computers Inc. If you build yourself a computer or only have a small budget, you will probably not be working with a Mac. Plus you most likely would have to pay extra for it anyway.
I like to undertand and be intimately controlling hardware and software as part of my computers. I thus often use some distribution of GNU/Linux. I have used such versions as (in alphabetical order)
- debian lenny?
- fedora 12.0
- redhat (before fedora)
- redhat 5.3, 5.4
- suse (9.3, 10.0-11.2)
- and a few others
Of these, my preference is for the kde interface on Suse. Briefly, My first significant experience with GNU/Linux was with red had prior to fedora. Jeremy White helped me get a feel for it and install it. Later, I used slackware for my desktop for a long time. Slackware is the longest continually maintained GNU/Linux distribution. Synonymous with rock solid stability. I found it refreshing to not have everything done for me. By using Slackware I really began to understand GNU/Linux. Once I learned a lot, I wanted to search for another desktop ready distro. I tried mepis and mint with mild attraction to them. They both advertise simplicity and being ready out of the box. I found neither statement to be entirely true for either. I then tried scientific whihc I found unorganized. so I tried fedora which leads into redhat from whom scientific is descended. I then tried vector and zenwalk. I liked the small size on the hardidsk but I could not run many programs I wanted to use. For a time, I dove heavily into archlinux, which is a split (not a fork) from zenwalk. The overall philosophy of the distro is great but I finally found that I needed something more stable. I tried quantian for a moment and then ubuntu. I do not like the brownness and the lack of real knowledge in the community. I also do not like following the crowd so I was quick to grab another distro. I then tried the parent of ubuntu and long time stalwart in the community, debian. This is well known for its stability but I did not like lack of cohesiveness in the distro. It seemed very happhazard in design and in program subset. With my employment, there is a license of redhat available. I installed 5.3 and find it stable but it is behind the rest of the world in terms of features. I upgraded to 5.4 and look forward to using 6.0 once it actually comes out. Many new programs do not run on it. This is hard for me to swallow. That brings me to suse 11.2. It is stable, if I dont install the latest, no-so-completly-tested versions of programs. It has a very professional feel with a cohesive design and a nice set of admin tools (YAST).
I have put some other thoughts on the web here.