Time to embrace Linux

"Linux in the Park" by Flickr user John Vetterli

"Linux in the Park" by Flickr user John Vetterli

These days you’re either a Mac or a PC. That means you either use OSX or Windows. Unless you use Linux.

From working beside my programmer friend, I had learnt that most programmers didn’t really do any work in Windows. He would do all his work on a virtual machine, running Linux. However, I had thought that this was due to the apparent disdain that all programmers seem to have for all things Microsoft – not for any real practical reason.

I’d also previously thought that the only people that used Macs for any kind of work, were photographers and architects (Steve Jobs kinda looks like an architect to me…). However, having made a brief trip to Mountain View last Summer, I found that when I went in to a local cafe, everyone there was hacking away on Macs. I’ve since realised that the hacker community – at least that in Silicon Valley/Mountain View – predominantly uses Macs.

So when I was getting started with Ruby, I figured I would just do everything in Windows as that’s what I’m used to. It’s going to be difficult enough learning Ruby, why bother with a new operating system?

However, although it is clearly possible to program in Windows, it does seem like you are the exception rather than the rule. Seems that everything is kinda set up better to work from Linux. I’m not sure I could say exactly why – seems like Windows might have too many proprietary forced Microsoft conventions in there which mess things up a bit. The reason so many hackers use Macs is because it gives you convienient access to Linux. Or something like that. Is OSX kinda a version of Linux?

Anyway, Linux, like ice-cream, comes in different flavours. Truth be told, I had actually occasionally worked on a Linux machine before which used Red Hat to run a microscope I used during my PhD. Whilst Linux is essentially Open Source and free, I think Red Hat is a flavour for enterprise tastebuds and for which you have to pay.

So based on recommendation from a couple of people I chose to run Ubuntu.

First I had to install a virtual machine. Now I have to admit that one of the reasons I initially tried to work from Windows is that I presumed that installing a virtual machine and running Linux would be really difficult. Turns out it’s really easy.

I installed VirtualBox from Sun Microsystems. It was easy to install. Then I downloaded Ubuntu…



…I started this post a few months ago and I’ve just come back to it. The point I was going to make is that it’s really difficult for a newbie to use Linux when they are used to Windows. Firstly, I can’t really work out how to install programmes most of the time. Everything seems to be “get” then it magically appears! To be fair I did manage to get a few things installed last time (although it took me about a week to get the Java environment working) but I am now installing the same set-up on my laptop and I can’t remember how to do it. I really do want to just double click on a file to get it to work. :/

iirc I managed  last time by Googling “how to install…” and trying the various guides I found. I would like to install Hackety Hack but first I have to install Shoes and I really can’t remember how to do this. I’ve found some “how to” instructions for Shoes but they seem out of date and don’t work. I think the original website is gone. *Sigh*

/edit I found this guide to installing software on Ubuntu Linux and it turns out it’s really easy. I’d still like to understand what’s going on when you do it from the command line though…


One Response to “Time to embrace Linux”

  1. Geoff Says:

    Hey there,

    For what it is worth, I was a microsoft programmer for 10 years. About two years ago now, I started developing on ruby. I did the same thing and tried windows and while you can get it to work – it took some serious hacking. I installed cygwin and then I fell into a mess of pain getting gems installed and figuring out what gems are.

    At any rate, a coworker convinced me to get a mac. It was the hardest thing I had ever done going from one to the other. It is a complete paradigm shift and I am not just talking about CTRL-C Vs. Command-C to copy. At any rate, it was the best thing I have ever done. I see what you are trying to do, but I know that I could not do it that way. I learn by immersion. I had to throw myself in and try to figure out how to survive. I had to learn how to compile programs without a gui.

    At any rate, a mac is unix at its core. There are some differences on the outside. Linux has come a long way and we use ubuntu for our VMs in our cloud. So we develop on mac and deploy to linux. I work pretty well in both now, it was a couple of months of fumbling before I got my feet underneath me.

    So I do recommend making a unix-based machine your primary. You will learn a bit faster once you need to. It will take some time, but things will start to click. Enjoy it! It is a world of fun! Oh and one more thing, terminal is your friend. You should be spending most of your time in a terminal window and/or your favorite text editor. Best of luck!

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