Adventures in Linuxland

I’ve been putting off writing this post in the faint hope that I’d come up the learning curve and all would be well, but I can’t put it off any longer. In my last post, Embracing the Cloud, I described my decision to wander off the operating system reservation and pick up an Asus Eee PC running Linux. And while I don’t yet regret the Asus (more on that later), I have a new appreciation for the unifying power of the Microsoft monopoly.

Long story short, I’d gotten used to being able to customize my PC at will by downloading and trying out new applications. And because Windows holds something like 80% global operating system market share, pretty much any app you want to run has its best and must current code available in a Windows version. While I understood that the Linux world was far smaller, until I waded in I hadn’t fully realized how confining and balkanized that little world would be.

Because my machine runs the Debian distribution of the Linux kernel, I can only reliably install applications that have been ported to that specific flavor of Linux. And while the Debian folks proudly tout the 18,733 applications that have been developed in that framework, I’ve discovered just how few of the apps I’m interested in fit that description.

I’ve been treating this as a learning opportunity for the past week or so, thanks in large part to the patient assistance of my friend and colleague Casey, a long-time Linux head. But this is not a good use of his time or mine, and the novelty has worn off for both of us. At this point I’m debating the merits of giving up and converting the machine to WinXP versus the Zen approach of embracing the box as a pure Web client and leaving my Windows baggage behind. This would be a lot easier decision if Google hadn’t just shipped Chrome for Vista and XP…