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An MCP Writing About Linux?!

An MCP Writing About Linux?!

There have been several questions raised as to my agenda being an MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) and writing about Linux. With the world so full of troubles and murders you would think this would be a moot point. However, there are those that have nothing better to do than create or try to create hate and discontent. Truly those that do this need our understanding and patience. Why? Their self esteem is at a low point and the only satisfaction they can derive for themselves is "hunting, attacking, derailing" those that are trying to share their experiences and knowledge with others, no matter how great or how small it may be. This is one of the reasons I wrote the article "Linux Purists" published and copyrighted right here in this forum.

When I first entered the computing world I had heard about this "LINUX". Mysterious it was, powerful, for the intellectuals that could not only grasp the inner workings of the binary but had a command over it. It was intimidating to say the least. I share this with many users that have heard about this "LINUX", as well as "UNIX", anything with the suffix of "ix" would send anxiety into the world of computer users, especially Microsoft users. So I just put it aside as being something I would tackle once I thought I had this computing thing mastered (which will never happen). Then perhaps I would be able to tackle this mysterious, powerful Operating System. What changed? Read on.

I had acquired my MCP status, which I felt put me at least in the players' field. I had the experience to back it up long before taking the exam. I had always felt you either knew or you didn't and that certifications were not necessary. I was wrong in one aspect and right in another. My inspiration that led me to finally break down and obtain the certification is when I worked at a Government/Military installation and was not allowed or authorized to load my own computer. They sent a tech over to do so and what a mess. I would watch what he was doing and when I would question certain techniques used, I was asked: "Who are you to question me?" I replied someone who knows that what you're doing is wrong. To make a long, horrific story short it took three techs working on this computer to get it to run. Not work right, just run. On top of this one of the techs was asked what the problem was by his supervisor and the tech told him and the program manager, who I worked for as well as others, that it was due to my "custom programming". I was livid. First of all, my custom programs weren't even loaded due to the techs not being able to load MS Office Professional. They blamed the software, then they blamed the PC, then they blamed my custom programs, which weren't even loaded. How did they know about my custom programs then, you ask? I had them loaded on a Dell laptop, which was purchased by the Government for my use. Yes, I loaded this laptop myself, knowing I was not authorized to do so. But with this new workstation I decided I would play by the rules. I'm not saying you shouldn't play by the rules but as Murphy would have it the one time I tried to do exactly what I was supposed to ended in near tragedy.

I lived with a half working load of MS Office Professional. I had MS Office professional on my home computers without a glitch. After years of loading and un-loading programs I find there are certain methods one needs to do when loading programs, no matter who manufactures them, especially when loading them into a Windows operating system. I even went so far as to bring My MS books to work and point out to the techs the problem area where they were missing the boat. I was told: "We talked to MS and that is not right." Funny little ole uncertified me had been using MS products for years and never had a problem until now. Well, this little encounter caused me great grief. I even took screenshots illustrating the problems they had created but I was not a certified computer person, so my statements and illustrations meant nothing. How sad. However, in one way this was good. It pissed me off so bad that I immediately studied for the MCP test and after three weeks of studying I took the test and passed the first time. This is on record and anyone I give my account number to can verify this. When I took the test at a University of Phoenix satellite the attendant whom I had talked with many times was astounded that I passed the test right out of the box. I had tried to obtain schooling from the University of Phoenix satellite, wanting to enroll in their MCSE school, however, due to my financial status I either made too much money or not enough. I then decided I would just do it on my own, which is the method I've always had to implement whether I wanted to or not. I really wanted the hands on schooling but I couldn't afford the $13,000.00 - $18,000.00 required. Loans were out of the question, due to my not wanting to pay 21% interest or more. I later found out the reason for the astonishment is that most of the students that have enrolled in the classes take the exam an average of four to five times before passing.

When I discussed my passing the first time with the representative I stated the only difference between me and those that take several times to pass is one word: Attitude! I wanted it badly, thus absorbed myself in the studies and methodology. Wasn't due to me being smarter or better, just wanting it more. I had motivation that drove me to do nothing but. I hadn't taken a test in over 30 years (other than driving, I also hold a CDL license). I was nervous, scared, anxious, and almost bailed on going. But the motivation to be more than "Who are you to question me?" was what got me over the hump. One of the proudest days of my life was when I found out I passed. People probably heard me for miles screaming from the top of my lungs as soon as I got out of the testing lab. Now I was someone Officially! I had a piece of paper stating that. How sad but in today's society so true, especially when you are my age or older. Now that you have a small idea of the background and the pride I take in my certification allow me to tell you what led me to "LINUX".

The cost of continuing my eduation
In wanting to continue my studies to obtain the ultimate certification for my area, the "MCSE" (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), I went out and bought the books. Experience in the book buying department has taught me to purchase at least three different publications on the same subject. Why? I have found no one book covers it all. What one book skips or only touches on the other will go in depth on. When I want to learn something I want to learn it, not just an overview, so this is my methodology for studying or learning. Some of my books I not only read all the versions I purchase, but a few I will read three to four times or more. I admire those like my wife who can read one time and absorb it all. I have to read it several times, stop to try it, and then move on. The more I do this the easier it gets. The brain needs exercise as well as any other muscle to develop. I had to battle not only learning new subjects in depth, but awakening my brain and exercising it. Whew what a deal. *L*

In continuing my studies, naturally I wanted to stay up with the new technology and programs. STOP! HALT! WHOA! I have to spend what? $$$$$ of dollars? I can't afford this. What can I do? I love computing, especially the nuts and bolts of it from programming to databasing, graphics, Web development, documents, spreadsheets and charting. Damn! Is there no end? What can I do? I even wrote MS of this dilemma. Surely I was not the only one. I stated where I worked, what I did and wanted to do...all to no avail. Not even a receipt that they received my mailing. Locked out again. To hell with it, I said. There has got to be another way. There was and is.

"LINUX" that mysterious, deep-secret, ominous Operating System I had heard so much about. I'd been doing some reading on the side during my studies of MS. It was like this little voice inside me telling me "This is the way to go for you." What? Who said that? What do you mean? All the years and suffering, sacrificing, shelling out thousands of dollars on learning and implementing MS products and Operating Systems - what are you talking about? Are you insane? This is totally out of whack. "This is the future of computing, one that all can afford and use. One that can be programmed from the Kernel to the Welcome Scripts you see when starting it." Oh bah, humbug. Does this sound familiar? Please tell me there are others out there that have gone through this very scenario. You know what they say, "misery loves company", and at this juncture I was flat miserable. I felt betrayed by the very company that I poured my heart and soul into. I fought it and fought it and fought it. This had to be illusions from drinking too much coffee... Until one day, another one of those "Who are you" things. Damn! When people do this they get me into all kinds of trouble...here we go again.

Adopting Linux
I had a friend (at least I considered him one, but have you ever noticed a lot of times it is not reciprocated?) who had been trying to create a Web Hosting / ISP company using Linux. Now this is before all of the above ever took place. I hardly knew anything about Linux. I did know that what he wanted to accomplish could be done in MS in a matter of months. He cried and whined about how he had spent several years in time and several thousands of dollars in equipment/hardware to accomplish this in Linux. He couldn't get it done. Now this friend is about my age, maybe a year or two older, and always makes sure he lets you know he has a Masters degree. Oooohh.. I am impressed and I was until... Anyway I told him all he wanted to do could be done in MS. I told him the programs and software to use to accomplish what he wanted to do. Allow me to explain the methodology this holder of a Masters degree uses: Take most of what is recommended, mix it with things that weren't (I guess this validates it being his idea or worse), then complain because it doesn't work as intended when he isn't using what was recommended to him to begin with. Anybody have a clue what malady this is under? I would sure like to know. After several years of this I still cannot figure it out and to me it is beyond eccentric, so you'll have to try another one, OK? So I allowed myself to be suckered into his ploy (he prides himself on having others do the work, then he takes the credit for it and it doesn't cost him anything more than a lunch or two, if that). I spent countless hours over e-mail, troubleshooting his problems both for his needs as well as his family's computers. I don't know about you, but when someone tells you they don't know how to do this or that and then asks you what to do and you tell them, only to have them argue (not question - big difference) with you, what is up with this? I tell you it's a sickness, that's what it has to be. I am finding out so many ways people will utilize to feed their EGO / or Lack of Self-Esteem. It's simply amazing. Why are we so afraid to just be honest? Maybe this is my problem all along. I should learn to BS more as I see so many do. If they don't know something rather than stating "we don't know" they state: "Must be the software, I will have to go back to the lab/office and retrieve an update or service pak". I have been fortunate enough though to meet several upstanding computer techs: Jody Lewerenz of SRC out of Virginia, who was my mentor - remarkable person as well as a computer guru; would bend over backwards to help you (and has). Jim Litchford, a database programmer and Web developer who works for a Government/Military installation did the same. The others make these stand out like you wouldn't believe. It's like finding a diamond in the rough after walking by stones.

So in order to continue my desire to learn computing and be able to afford to continue my education I had to adopt Linux. The acquaintance I spoke of who tried to load and get Linux to work (and he has a Masters degree) really added to the fear of using Linux. OK this is the ultimate goal. I am going to find out about this Linux. The acquaintance loaned me his copy of SuSE 6.3. Now whenever I saw it on his machines it was like looking at a Dos Screen. Nothing but text and weird commands and syntax. Oh man, what am I getting myself in for? OK what the heck, what have I got to lose? Nothing; and everything to gain. I have this Compaq with three hard drives that I use for training and playing so no harm, no foul. I'm going to go for it.

My hands are shaking, perspiration is pouring out of my pores, my legs feel rubbery. What will happen when I insert this Disk1 into my CD-ROM and reboot? Will it all go up in smoke? Will it jump right out of its container running for its life? I mean, what am I doing? I feel like Adam partaking of the Forbidden fruit. Yeah, I know, pretty dramatical, but it's true. On the other hand I had an opportunity to do something this "Masters degree holder" couldn't do or it took him over three months (his statement) to load it and get it to work. Will I prove to be as inept as he? Oh, the anxiety. My inner voice took over: "Just load the damn thing and quit your whining, it will either work or it won't." My hands were trembling as I inserted the CD into the slot. My Compaq swallowed it up; I rebooted. My eyes were starting to roll back in my head as the anticipation of what was about to occur. WHAM! Here is this beautiful blue screen. Asked me if I wanted to use Yast1 or Yast2 (if memory serves me right). I chose the GUI install as I knew I could deal with pictures a whole lot better than text commands. In 45 minutes I had it loaded on my third hard drive. I didn't know anything about having a boot loader that would integrate into the boot screen so I made the boot floppy, thinking this is what you had to do in order to start in SuSE each time. I was elated. This is what I was afraid of,? Man, this was almost as easy as loading Windows. No kidding. He couldn't get this loaded, took him over three months. What is wrong with this picture? In another 30 minutes I had it networked to my LAN and was sending out e-mails. I was on top of the mountain. I'm sorry but at that moment I was the hottest thing on the planet in my mind (nobody else's, but in my mind it was real). Of course I bet you can't guess whom I sent the very first e-mail to. Now he knew that I'd done this in the amount of time as I stated because I had just left his house with the CD's in hand. He also knew I didn't know squat about Linux other than what little I had read. So for the first time I obtained a message of humility from this holder of a "Masters degree" who had spent several years trying to get it to work (or more to the truth tried to get others to do it for him, then offer them 5% of the net profits. I'm sorry but this is like going to the Ritz and tipping the waiter a nickel, get the picture?)

Using Linux daily
Now I am using Linux more and more in my daily tasks. This writing I am using KWord 2.2.2 under Red Hat Linux 7.2. I have used Mandrake 8.1, Red Hat 7.1 and of course as mentioned my first encounter was with SuSE 6.3. I am partial to Red Hat myself. Not necessarily because it is the best but it seems to be the best for me at this moment. I would love to try the new SuSE with KDE 3.0 I know how impressed I am with KDE 2.2.2 as well as Gnome. But again my preference is KDE especially KMail. I love it. I have been an OUTLOOK user for years and the Government/Military use Outlook Corporate version (both Internet and Corporate are inclusive on your Office CD you chose when loading which version you want. For home use the Internet version is the one you want, for Office use the Corporate version if you're using MS Exchange for your Mail Server).

Now the only downside I have found in using Linux is not the Operating System, not the programs, it's some of these weak-minded individuals that love to bash anyone that is not a member of their mind-set. They don't realize they are not promoting loyalty or intellect, they are showing just how ignorant and self-serving they are. This is sad. I have met many on the Linux venue that are professional and courteous and I refuse to let the bad apples ruin the barrel. For those out there like me, don't be afraid of Linux. If you cannot afford to keep up with MS continual $$$$ upgrades then believe me you will be amazed at this mysterious, ominous Operating System. It's everything you want it to be and everything you don't want it to be; which means: "You have full control over every aspect of your Operating System, and what's even better you can freely distribute it amongst your friends without fear of the FBI knocking on your door, confiscating your computers because you could not afford to purchase the high priced software from MS. Free yourself from the $$$$ bondage of MS. Yes, the learning curve is higher in some areas but not as high in others. And talk about stability! You don't have to reboot every four to six hours to refresh your resources or daily. I've had my Linux boxes on continually for months, and many have had them running for years without restarting or rebooting. I don't have mine running longer because I do so much experimenting, but when I decide to set up my Server as a full time Linux box I know without a shadow of a doubt it will handle the task 100 times better than the MS Server programs that I have used, and have seen used in a corporate environment

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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