Friday, 24 August 2007

Back in the Saddle, Again

....with abject apologies to Gene Autry...

I haven't posted here for a while (about three months — gak!). For the six or eight of you still hanging on, humble apologies and my deepest appreciation (sympathies?). Some have publicly wondered (offline) whether I am merely offline or have flatlined. Actually, I've been in hospital twice during that time, and my personal and professional lives have undergone more than the usual random fluctuations. Be that as it may...

As with roughly half of the Linux-aware folks out there, I've been playing with Ubuntu Linux for a while now. The job I just started — as Principal Technologist and alleged future CTO for in Beijing — is with an Ubuntu shop, so that's one motivation. I've been a Debian evangelist for a few years now — formerly a Kanotix (now Sidux refugee, now with Ubuntu and Mepis installed and happy on laptops and a desktop (and lusting after a Mac Pro (but that's another blog entry)...

Half of me LOVES Ubuntu. Point-and-click everything; all the applications (except mainstream violent Windows games) that a user could want immediately available, name-brand Big Applications for the enterprise; more-solid-than-most-rocks Debian under the hood; regularly updated Live CDs (but get the better Live DVD); what's not to like?

The other half of me, the guy who's been intimate with the care and feeding of Unix systems for almost 30 years, has an easy answer for that; sudo (as superuser/SystemGod, do) everything, but in particular, sudo bash (as superuser, open up a shell [terminal] and let me run arbitrary commands with no restrictions).If you read Ubuntu guides and Web pages, almost everything a user does from a command shell that affects the system is done as sudo command, while logged in as an ordinary user. A bit of poking around with Google led me to a page on's Ubuntu Desktop Guide that put things into better perspective:

The first user account you created on your system during installation will, by default, have access to sudo. You can restrict and enable sudo access to users with the Users and Groups application.

My knee-jerk reaction having subsided, I'm back to generally liking what I see in Ubuntu. It's intended to achieve — and generally succeeds at — being "easy enough for anybody to use", not just "geeks", as Linux has heretofore been viewed by Windows usees. It's another answer to the classic "what's the difference between a Windows usee and a Mac user?" question: The Windows usee talks about everything he had to do to get his work done; the Mac user (or, generally, the Ubuntu user) talks about all the great work she got done.

For the technophobes out there who still want to join the modern world, definitely worth a spin.