System Administration

Linux and The Dream of Using Free Software Everywhere

26 Jun , 2013  

This is a fine evening of June 26 and I’ve been cruising around the web while listening some old sets from 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival. ┬áThis is a very interesting evening actually, I’ve stumbled upon a quote from Stan Lee and a blog post about a recent riot that happened recently in connection to my country’s football. These things seems to be connected all the way to the root of many problems in here (I might write about them as well, who knows). But those are not the things I’m going to write about this time, this evening I also decided to check out the recent release of DistroWatch’s weekly issue. Usually I would check on them every Monday, right after they were released, but this week has been a busy week for me. In the miscellaneous news section, the news about PC-BSD moves of leaving i386 architecture behind from their future work caught my attention.

Right now, all of my computers are running a x64 version of Operating System, except for Ubuntu Linux 13.04 running on my laptop. I’ve decided to move on x64 architecture for about 2 years now, the main reason is just because my computers have more than 4GB of RAM. I don’t really pay too much attention on the main differences between i386 and x64 or the superiority of x64 other than the fact that it can detect my 8GB of RAM in one of my computer and have them working well.

There are indeed some problems I’ve met along the way while using x64, like some compatibility issue, but most of them are minor issues which doesn’t really bother me. What bugged me the most and the main reason why I used i386 version of Ubuntu in my laptop is the compatibility issue of WINE. I’ve been always using WINE to run Microsoft Office on my Ubuntu. I can’t deny the fact that Microsoft Office is still a very powerful office suite (especially 2013 version, I love them except for some issues with SkyDrive) and most desktop around me is running Microsoft Office. I hate to fix every damned problems when I did my work with Libre Office and opened them later with my friend or work’s Ms Office.

Back to the issue, the problem is when I want to install Ms Office on my WINE, I need to install some prerequisite programs and libraries. Most of this programs, which I installed directly from WINE, doesn’t support x64 installation. This faced me with the problem that I can’t install Ms Office on my x64 Ubuntu. I’ve been too busy to find a working around about installing Ms Office in x64 Ubuntu, so I just decided to roll all the way back to i386 installation.

Now, with this news of PC-BSD, I hope that I won’t have to face these compatibility issues again. Okay, so a Linux geek might be able to do some tweaking around the terminal and blah, blah, blah to make a workaround, but we can’t forget the fact that most computer users are just plain basic users, they just want to use their damn computer without having to be faced with problems! This is one of the biggest problem which I think the Linux distributions still face. We all know that Linux was built, supported and developed by a bunch of genius geeks, this make the community “discriminate” non-genius-geek users (no offense to beginner friendly distros) a little. For example we know we can set our proxy configuration in terminal using export or declare, but I haven’t met any distribution which provides a user interface to set proxy configuration that works like a charm! there always are some problems which demanded me to do a little interaction with terminal.

Imagine that, even the most basic thing like setting proxy (proxied network has always been used in many places for God sake!) are not so easy for basic user. Aren’t we always dreamed about leaving proprietary systems behind to prevent piracy and start to use good free legal open source? But how can I ask my mother to move to Linux while there still are some hard-to-solve problems for her just to do everyday task? My mom is 62 years old and don’t know computer that well! Or Imagine asking a 48 years old lady working as a secretary in public office to use Linux, which is something new for her and she might have some problems with, do you imagine her messing around the terminal trying to fix it by running some commands, tweaking some configurations? She is from third world country and in here education and knowledge aren’t that good you know.

I’m not against the move to use Linux everywhere in my place, actually I’m very looking forward to it. The problem is when we want more people to use Linux, especially third world citizen because its “free” and openness, we still have a lot of works to make Linux a lot basic-non-genius-geek user friendlier.

Satrio G. Nugraha

Satrio is a self-proclaimed technology geek. He is currently employed by IBM Indonesia as an IT Specialist which handles IBM xSeries servers, IBM zSeries mainframes and multi vendor network devices. He listens to various kinds of musics (he personally believes that music should not be put into boxes such as genres and everybody is free to listen to whatever kind of music whenever they feel like it).

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