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Jewish World Review
May 28, 2009
/ 5 Sivan 5769
A Tale of Two Operating Systems
I sometimes wonder if God has the best idea about operating systems: If you're a
believer, you're likely to affirm that the Creator gave us an "operating system"
at birth, and while it is shaped, modified and sometimes even warped as we grow and
develop, for most of us it runs, basically, every day, every week and every year,
until it (and we) stop.
By contrast, I've had a lot less fun with a couple of operating systems that have
Let's start with Linux, or more precisely, SimplyMEPIS Linux. The 8.0
version, available via free download at www.mepis.org, or via subscription at $50 a
year or on a CD for either $18 in a basic package or $30 with all sorts of programs
added. The download "subscriptions" get you updated versions as the year progresses.
It's built on the Debian flavor of Linux, which is a specific set of interfaces
and accoutrements that sit on top of the Linux "kernel," or core. In plainer
language, SimplyMEPIS is a version of Linux that claims it is easy to install and
configure on most computers, at least those with Intel (and compatible) processors.
Because its cost can be much, much lower than that of Microsoft Windows or Apple's
OS X (which is supposed to run only on Apple-made hardware), the appeal is having a
computer system on the cheap, but with enough power to do what needs to be done. The
other big "draw" of this product is that it's smart enough to figure out all your
devices, install the necessary drivers and let you rock and roll quickly.
Well, I'm still hopeful, but so far, not so good. Using a Dell Vostro 1310 as my
base unit, I had a promising start. You can boot SimplyMEPIS from a CD, and the
computer will fire up. You get a "desktop" and applications with which you can work,
including the OpenOffice.org suite and Mozilla's Firefox Web browser. In fact,
there's enough basic software to make this quite appealing.
Try as I might, I couldn't accomplish two things of some importance. One is to get
the system to recognize my wireless network and connect to it. The computer, under
this Linux flavor, could "see" my wireless net, but it wouldn't connect.
Installing it as a permanent OS on the computer might help, but no sale there,
I'm sure that with enough hacking and effort, I can overcome these things. But,
you do remember the name, "SimplyMEPIS," right? That's "Simply" as in simple?
Well, any time you have to start hacking, in my opinion, you lose simplicity, which
has been (and in my view remains) the chief problem in getting Linux to achieve
greater general acceptance in the marketplace.
At the same time, I'm wrestling with the "release candidate" of Windows 7, which
Microsoft should bring to market some time this year. The news here is that Win7 is
moving forward, and that's a good thing.
Those who've worked with it say that it clears up a lot of bugs found in the
public Beta version, although, frankly, I didn't encounter many. It took a couple
of tries, but I was able to install this version in a "virtual machine" mode on my
Intel-based MacBook Pro, so now, some would say, I have the best of both worlds.
Regardless of operating system theology, however, it's nice to have Windows coming
along. As mentioned several times in this space over the years, hegemony isn't one
of my favorites, in terms of totalitarianism or operating systems. Now we're on
the verge of getting a better version of Windows, a new-and-improved Mac OS, and
maybe a Linux for the masses, if the MEPIS folks can overcome some issues.
Not a bad horizon, I'd say.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com