Linux: an anecdote with a moral

So I got Red Hat Linux installed and running on a computer yesterday. It's not bad. I used UNIX a lot in college, and I use VMS at work, so it's not too scary or foreign looking. I like the GUI a lot, but there is some fiddling that I still need to do (mouse sensitivity, etc.). I like it, and I think it will become my primary computer. This way, my wife and I can each keep passwords stored on a separate computer, and I'll quit leaving icons on the desktop. I've been looking for a good platform to learn Python and PHP, test Perl scripts, and do other random things anyway.

However, just like everything else, there were some bumps along the way. First, it came with the Mozilla browser. I've got nothing against the Mozilla browser, I just prefer Firefox. Downloading and installing that was no problem. Pinning it to the menu took a little while, but I found a FAQ. What really stumped me was trying to update GAIM. My install CDs are old enough that I had version 0.5.8 (or something close to it) installed. It didn't work. Turns out the recent version is 1.5. Maybe that's why. I downloaded the rpm (first time ever), and tried to install it. "Sorry, I can't do that, Dave." It tells me it can't get an exclusive lock on /usr/var/Packages (or something close to it).

So where do I turn? The Internet, of course! This is where the trouble really started. I found only one message board post when I googled the rpm error. This person was having the same problem that I was. You know what they told him? "Quit installing Red Hat. Install either Mandrake or Debian". Nobody tried to help him at all. Eventually, I decided to try logging in as root. After all, if root can't get an exclusive lock, nobody can. And it worked. All the message board residents had to do was tell him, "you need to either su or log in as root."

So, all you Linux types. If you want more people to try Linux, don't be surprised when we ask questions. It's new to us, and if it can confuse a software engineer familiar with Windows, UNIX, and VMS, what chance does the average Windows-only user stand of getting it all right the first time? Be nice. After all, you'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.