Linux at its Best
The Inside Story of a Man, a Machine, and a Migraine
hunched over my computer, kindly given to me for free by a good friend.
"You trying to install a simple network? No biggie, upgrade Windows. That'll do it," Bob said before hanging up.
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.
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
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
My left eye began to twitch, and I could feel the blood
vessels on the side of my head pulsing, as I called Bob
"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
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
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.
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 10.1.1.2, 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
Bob doesn't speak to me much anymore and my
roommates were wondering if I didn't want to look for a nicer
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.
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