Originally Published: Sunday, 27 February 2000 Author: Jon-Pal Mouzakis Gagnum
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

The End or the Means?

There is a difference between the usage of computers as a means as opposed to the end in itself. I use computers as a means to achieve a goal; in this case the easy and efficient way of recording my thoughts for future reference. I write articles, short stories, and am even working on a novel. Without the computer, where would I be? As such, it couldn't make the least difference for me if I were using Microsoft Windows or Linux.

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The first article I wrote for Linux.com focused on the reason why Linux, despite being a free operating system, has not been able to steal the larger portion of market share from Microsoft and its infamous Windows platform. I received many comments on it; I read them all, and now I think some form of follow-up is in order. First of all, I would like to state, for all those who thought otherwise, that I do know what software piracy is. I realize that doing what I proposed is illegal and immoral. Yes, you are cheating people out of a lot of money that they may (or may not) have worked for. On the other hand, this does happen. As people have also pointed out, license deals with Microsoft often appeal to large firms and corporations.

But we've been through that one before. Here, I would like to focus more on a different aspect of Linux and other operating systems, and what makes them desirable or not. I am not a dedicated Linux user. I have only recently installed it on my system, and I'm only now getting the software that I need for it. The reason I finally decided to do this is because I firmly believe that it is more stable and offers a lot more versatility and choice.

On the other hand, a distinction must be made here. There is a difference between the usage of computers as a means as opposed to the end in itself. I use computers as a means to achieve a goal; in this case the easy and efficient way of recording my thoughts for future reference. I write articles, short stories, and am even working on a novel. Without the computer, where would I be? As such, it couldn't make the least difference for me if I were using Microsoft Windows or Linux. In both cases, I manage to achieve the end -- I could write a novel and print it out without much ado. Here's a comment I picked up from the comments I received for my previous article:

It's because most people are busy with lives that don't necessarily revolve around writing posts to linux web-sites about how wonderful computers are, like we do. The rest of the planet thinks of ways to make enough money to go on vacation every once in a while and spend time with the other people they care about.

In other words, some people (believe it or not) do not consider computers to be the end, the goal in itself. The only reason I installed Linux is because I work (albeit voluntarily) for Linux.com as Contributor and Senior Editor for the Multimedia section. Were this not the case, I wouldn't have bothered in the first place. Despite what I have said, some would beg to differ. They would say that Linux is better, offhand. They would say that Windows crashes every two seconds, that each week someone seeks help with some aspect of it, and every year it needs to be re-installed countless times. For someone who considers computers to be the goal in itself, this might actually be the case. But for (and I don't want to say "the average Joe") the person who considers his "box" to be a means to a completely different end, is it so bad?

For well nigh on a year, Windows has not given me any "beef," and I've been perfectly content. I used Word 97 and Bryce 4 to work on my writing and 3-D artwork. Truth be told, as many people have said in the numerous comments written, Linux is for a select number of people, and it is my firm belief that these people are those who see the computer itself as the goal as opposed to the means of achieving that goal.

And now for a little bit about my first experiences with Linux: Marius (the Linux.com Multimedia Project Manager) typing furiously away at the terminal, logged in as root, whizzing through lines of text and adding more to them by the second, and I sitting uncomprehending with a blank look on my face. I asked a couple of times, wondering what he was doing, and all I got in response was an apathetic incomprehensible grunt (no offense Marius!). After it was all done, I tried to play a couple of MP3s, only to have Marius tell me that it wouldn't work because I haven't configured the sound card, or something to that extent. All I could do was sigh, but I will learn one day! Once again, I see this as due to the fact that I am one of those who could live with a computer that had -- together with Internet access -- a word processor, and possibly a sound player so I could write and listen to music. Strangely enough, this is sufficient for some people!

Jon-Pal currently works for Linux.com in the multimedia section as Senior Editor. He can mostly be found either delving deep into a fantasy book, working on his own upcoming novel or editing articles. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of his school's newspaper (Blue & Gold) where he hones his editing skills, though creative writing holds stronger interest for him. He is 17 years old and hopefully next year he'll be continuing his voluntary work for Linux.com at Harvard University (side by side with Marius at MIT!). His short stories are available for viewing pleasure at http://people.bu.edu/janerik/jonpal.





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