Then I began another period of reading. The main things I learned from my Linux books is that Linux is universal, good, stable, diverse, free, and easy (if you are a pretty good programmer experienced with using the command line and know Linux commands). I read User’s Guides, online helps, and I tried to understand the information I read on Linux forums. I downloaded some needed drivers and directions on how to install them – but to this day I’ve never been able to install even one downloaded driver or any other downloaded application. I don’t blame Linux; I know it’s my shortcomings and lack of experience.

For me, using terminal, command line, tar, gzip (if I get the packages opened and uncompressed, where do I save them? How do I install them?) and dozens of other commands were harder than learning ancient Greek. I actually learned to read some Greek several years ago. So for any practical purpose those Linux distributions were as useless to me as Greek is, except for playing. Even I can play most of the Linux games. Family and friends enjoyed several of the games for a few months, then the games too were abandoned as we returned to Windows games.

So, after a period of ‘fooling around’ with Linux, I lost my enthusiasm and abandoned the project. Win98SE, even with its frequent blue screens and reboots, was and is, simple enough to repair and I have plenty of utilities that are easy to use when needed.

Early on, I had given some copies of my Linux distributions to friends. After my first hard drive crash, I called those friends and told them to not install the Linux systems on their primary computers unless they had clones or complete backups of their important files.

I still want to feel comfortable and competent using Linux. The world needs an alternative to the leading expensive, intrusive, operating system. I believe in the General Public License; I hate EULAS that remind me that I’m renting someone’s software and if I don’t use it as they advise, I’m committing a crime; and after a while if I don’t purchase an upgrade, it will become outdated and severely inadequate. So a few weeks ago I decided to start learning Linux again. ‘To benefit all computer users everywhere’ I would knuckle down and learn!

I ordered the new Novell SUSE 10 Linux from an Ebay seller for $7.99, postage paid. That is certainly cheap enough for 5 CD’s. Problem is, it won’t install. The md5 checksum on disk 1 was not correct. I know that isn’t a Linux problem; it’s a compiling or copying problem, but it dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. I notified the seller and he said he would send another disk 1. Over a month later, I still don’t have it. (Four months later: I gave up on getting SUSE 10 from this seller. It's not going to happen!) My thoughts on that are: I know the seller can’t make any money on 5 CD’s, postage paid. But if I get 100 or 1,000 used CD’s for $7.99 and they are trash, I’ve thrown away good money for nothing. If a seller can’t provide promised value for the price, don’t sell.

Meanwhile, I found an organization on the Internet that offers free, postage paid CD’s of a Linux distribution called Ubuntu. Now, that is quite a deal. So, I ordered it. When the package arrived I was surprised to find a very attractive, professionally packaged set of 2 CD’s: one CD to use as a live program with Windows and another to install on my hard drive, if I so desired. Not only that, they sent me five of these sets so I can give a set to four friends. I immediately installed Ubuntu on my standby computer which is an older Compaq version of the FIC U Wave 2 mainboard, AMD Athlon, and 256MB of SDRAM. I was impressed with the ease of installation.

I let Ubuntu install its defaults, which includes the GNOME desktop. It correctly installed my video, CD, USB, sound, Ethernet, and HP printer (oops! the drivers are loaded but it won't print).
(Later, I learned how to fix the printer.) 

It didn’t install my floppy drive or the HP scanner. When the installation finished, it went online automatically to downloaded updates, all of which self-installed successfully.

I used the GNOME desktop for a few days. I signed on to the Ubuntu Forums and found lots of information written by many friendly, helpful users from various areas of the world. There, I found that I could switch the installation to a KDE desktop. I was more familiar with KDE, having used it with SuSE 8.2 and Mandrake 9.1 so I downloaded Kubuntu, which is the KDE version of Ubuntu. With KDE, I'm able to use my floppy drive but it still isn’t installed properly to autodetect.

That brings me to the present time. I like Kubuntu. I can use my Firefox browser, access my Yahoo mail, read the forums, and generally surf the I’net and play with Linux, but I use Win98SE for serious work. I’m lost in the Linux file system. I’ve download several applications that I need for my Linux but alas, I can’t install them. They just reside on my desktop in tarballs and gzips and I don’t know what the heck to do with them. In my books and on the forums there are many directions on how to open and install these packages but that is like ancient Greek to me (I got one package opened and uncompressed yesterday; Firefox 1.5. It's in a folder in my home directory. It's not installed. Now what?). 

For one package I got installation information like this: six lines of code which I am supposed to type (into terminal, I guess). These six lines consisted of 256 carefully crafted characters. While online, I carefully penciled the code into a notebook. Then I logged into terminal, carefully typed the 6 lines of 256 characters and … and … and … the cursor kept blinking like, ok dummy, what next? Heck, I don’t know. Hit enter, I guess. Ok, Enter! Nothing happened. After puzzling over this for a few moments, I exited terminal. After many such encounters trying to open, save, and install packages, I usually sit still and quiet for several minutes thinking about the humiliating, intimidating, puzzle that I, with years and years of electronics experience behind me, can’t unravel. Then I go back to my main computer and play around with Win98SE where I’m comfortable and in command.

I know part of my slow progress in Linux is that I've spent over six years studying, teaching, and working with Win 98SE. All my ongoing endeavors are Windows based. Until I am competent using Linux, I don't have much choice but to use Windows. If Linux were my only operating system, doubtless I would have to learn quickly.  

I've learned to use ADEPT in Kubuntu. If the desired application is listed in Adept, it will download and install automatically. That's great. But if the desired application is not listed, such as the updated Firefox 1.5 Browser, which I need, installations must be done manually. 

If my remarks seem to belittle Linux operations, I quickly apologize to competent Linux users and programmers everywhere. You have done and are doing good work. The fault is with me and others like me who haven’t learned to adequately use it. It’s very much like an experience I had in the 1960s. I had become an Advanced Amateur Radio Operator (ham: WA4WRK, still active license). I helped several others qualify for their ham license. A big stumbling block was sending and receiving the mandatory Morse code. Every aspiring ham that I knew learned to send code at 13 or more words per minute but relatively few could receive code that fast. I never knew but one man whose abilities were reversed: he could send code at only 5 words per minute but he could receive code at up to 20 words per minute with no problems. In ham lingo the inability to send is called, ‘a glass arm’. I watched him read code that was so fast that I was totally lost; equally amazing was the fact that he couldn’t manage to send code except at a laboriously slow 5 wpm. I think that’s a picture of me learning Linux. Laboriously slow.

But I’ll keep trying Linux. Maybe someday soon … . (Update: that day came with Ubuntu.)

Page 2. of 2.

Ubuntu Linux is an operating system that anyone, even I, can use.

(I wrote these pages on 2/1/06. It is now 4/6/06. I've made some progress, not a lot, but some. I intend to add a new page soon to explain what I've learned recently. My learning process began with Ubuntu as follows:)

June 19, 2007. Thanks to Ubuntu I'm now a dedicated Linux user. I love booting up my computer and feeling that at last MY computer is ALL MINE. Software sellers don't own any part of it. 

Update August 2, 2009. Using Ubuntu 9.04.
I'm leaving the text of this page as I originally wrote it as a reminder to me of how far Ubuntu and other Linux distributions have come in a short time.
None of the earlier problems I had with Linux exist now. It's not that I've learned so much. It's because the need to become a Linux Geek in order to survive in computerland with free and open source software no longer applies. 
Ubuntu 9.04 runs all day every day on my computers and it does everything I need plus it is capable of doing far more than my needs require. And you know what? It belongs to me. It's not bought, rented, borrowed or stolen. It is a gift from the hard working programmers and support teams who believe in open source software. Thanks to all who have contributed their time and talents.

August 2, 2009. Now using Ubuntu 9.04 and it is GREAT!!
February 2010. Now using Ubuntu 9.10 and repeat, it is GREAT!!
February 2010. Now using Ubuntu 9.10 and it is GREAT!!
Below: more of the way it was -- not the way it is now.