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    Linux at its Best
    The Inside Story of a Man, a Machine, and a Migraine

    Iwas hunched over my computer, kindly given to me for free by a good friend.
    My first task was to install my old unused license of an ancient Windows. I was trying to avoid paying more $'s for a new OS on this free PC. I booted the system and started Microsoft Windows. An error message appeared... something silly about my network connection being mis-configured.

    The whole point of having an extra machine was to be able to fiddle with new tools and learn more about home networking.

    Here I was, two hours later, still trying to get the Windows network drivers to work properly. I screamed out in agony, and then I called Bob.
    "You trying to install a simple network? No biggie, upgrade Windows. That'll do it," Bob said before hanging up.

    So, I headed to the nearest store, plopped my charge card down and purchased an upgrade, supposedly with all of the network drivers and things I'd need. It wasn't cheap!

    Now around 9pm, I had goofed with what should have been a "simple thing" for six hours and was starting to get a bad headache and neck cramp. Applying pressure to the side of my aching head, I tapped the keyboard and watched as Windows finally installed.

    Let me remind you, I was loading this on an old system, and although Windows runs great with new systems with plenty of RAM, loading up Windows on my free machine took almost 3 minutes! I don't like to complain, but it took three minutes to get from the logo screen to the place I could do something. Everything else I did from that point was even slower.

    My left eye began to twitch, and I could feel the blood vessels on the side of my head pulsing, as I called Bob again.

    "Oh, gotcha. Yeah, what you really need is WindowsXP, it runs better on an older machine like yours. I had bought a copy a long time ago for my other pc that I don't use. You are welcome to try it."

    So, around 10:15pm I drove over to Bob and got the unused cd of WindowsXP and sped home. The installation was about the same -- tedious and slow. But as Bob promised, load up was much faster.

    Now finally I could get my network operational and get the two machines to talk to each other. Back I was tinkering with both computers. I used every technique I knew to get the two talking. I kept running ping, assigning new IP addresses, even changing protocols from IPX to TCP back and forth ... but nothing!

    My left eye stopped twitching. The eyelid just drooped, and as I clutched my head a clump of hair came out in my hand. I felt nauseous, probably because of the headache, so I grabbed several Tylenol and chewed them like candy.

    I stared at the monitor. The operating system was kind enough to display the clock at the lower right hand.

    It was 11:45pm.

    Almost nine hours of installing, reinstalling, tinkering with Windows setting this and Windows setting that, and nothing!

    "This is insane!" I screamed at the top of my lungs as I threw my Windows manual across the room into a pile of disks and cd cases.

    By now you may think I'm an illiterate when it comes to PCs. I don't consider myself an expert, but the basics of networking and system installation I can do, Ugh, or could do.

    What now? Call Bob?

    It's almost midnight.

    Well -- it was Bob who started this whole mess with his stupid suggestion! So I picked up the phone and what do you know, he answered!

    "Nothing? Maybe it's because you're using an old PC. Did you try upgrading your system RAM?" Bob said.

    Now don't get me wrong, I like Bob, but this "upgrading" remark at 11:50pm after nine hours, and a throbbing migraine, was enough to break any man.

    "Upgrade my ^$$," I yelled. Bob, being the rather patient type just replied, "Sorry man the only thing I can suggest is to upgrade your PC so you can use Windows."

    I thanked him for his information and letting me call so late.

    As I sat slumped over in my chair, my eye caught a glimpse of an old cd-case that had been snapped open by the manual I threw. It was a Linux CD that I had borrowed and procrastinated in returning. I plunked the CD into the machine and with my last bit of energy ran the install process.

    I admit it was in desperation, but I had nothing to lose.

    Soon I made it to the prompt and XWindows loaded. I closed a number of screens and slid my mouse over the terminal icon. Once opened, I typed very deliberately, ping, the IP of the other Windows machine. Packet confirmed! I jumped over to the old pc and ran an ancient version of telnet. Instantly I was looking at the Server login prompt! I was in!

    It was 12:35am and I had a fully operational network, a web server with Apache httpd, and it flew! On this old PC that Josh gave me free, I was running several simultaneous logins, playing the worm game, and getting ready to install OpenOffice. My XWindows session started in less than ten seconds, and I began to whistle tunes as I typed away.

    It took over ten hours, a lot of money, and probably a lot of broken friendships.

    Bob doesn't speak to me much anymore and my roommates were wondering if I didn't want to look for a nicer place.

    But I had finally learned my lesson.

    Sitting in the dark room and glow of my monitor at 1am, I understood Linux at its best:   really free, really flexible, and really fast.

    Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this article belong to their respective owners.

    Updated v12
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