Linux systems in your life

The previous post and comments got me thinking. In spite of the number of Linux isn't anything posts I see (here and elsewhere), I am wondering how many Linux systems each of us depends on every day. I understand that we (that is, Ana, Margarita, Ana's brother, my friend Keith who is visiting and myself) have a more direct connection with Linux that others but that is just one Linux system (each) more than others.

Here are a few more that everyone else is probably using:

  • NicaLiving is, of course, running on a Linux system as well as, ...
  • Do you Google? Linux systems
  • Gmail == Linux systems
  • Yahoo == Linux systems
  • Android phone == Linux
  • ROKU == Linux
  • Many, possibly most routers, access points and such == Linux

There are, of course, millions more. Just, at least for me, an amusing observation.

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What's amusing for me is that anyone still cares about the operating system in their "device". We will get to the point where your average user doesn't need to know and will be much happier just to use the device to accomplish what was actually intended. Kind of like toasters, but more like photocopiers or your car.

And when you program the things, what's amusing is when someone worships one architecture or one operating system over all others.

Are we there yet?

Seems like most people don't know, much less care, that their iPhone runs a BSD derivative, and they definitely interact with that every day. And really, why would anyone care what they're running?

That's just a start

Aren't you wondering why you have to carry it still? The wearables are going to morph from looking like strap on gadgets to nothing. The desktops, well...they have a way to go yet. And think of all the poor techies who still need to know details. :-(

As for iOS, sure, it's a Unix BSD derivative where every App runs in its own padded cell with bars on the one tiny window so nobody gets hurt! The iPad is the first computer I have handed to my mother.

Is it fair to ask?

What principle characteristics differentiate Linux from the other systems that inhabit our internet lives?

I ask on behalf of a layperson, myself. Please no technical dumping.

What OS does malware most easily infect?

Which is the biggest pain in NSA's derriere?

Non-geek "opinion"

I will try to get your question and "why would anyone care?" Linux is Open Source (you can look at the source code) and free both in "free as in freedom" and "free as in beer". The end result is that when there is a problem it is in the interest of everyone to actually fix it rather than pretend the problem doesn't exist until some company has something to sell you to fix it.

As an example, Google picked it because of the two sides of free plus the fact that they could modify it to be exactly what they wanted to run. That includes what they run on their servers and Androd which is Linux customized by Google for smart phones and similar devices.

The Internet grew up on UNIX systems (before Bill Gates noticed that networking existed and Novel sold Netware to fill in the gap). UNIX is not free and, in many ways, Linux is a free re-implementation of UNIX. Thus, it was a comfortable move for so many of the people who actually understand how the Internet works/needs to work.

Malware tends to gravitate toward what is popular -- write your code and infect the maximum number of systems. Traditionally UNIX/Linux systems have been harder to infect because of how they were designed but, today, there isn't a lot of difference. The major difference is that bugs in Linux get fixed quickly (meaning hours or days) rather than the next time Microsoft decides to issue an update.

Why would anyone care? For "Joe Average" you are safer and less likely to get your system infected (mostly because of the fast, automatic updates). In addition, Linux, Libre Office and so much more for free is a good reason "to care". On a technical level, Joe Average won't care because he doesn't use the OS, he uses applications which are supported by the OS.

For example, LibreOffice, Firefox and such run on pretty much anything and are free. What a LibreOffice or Firefox user sees on Linux vs. Windoze is really the same. That is, you see the interface to the application, not the OS.

One thing I left out is that the "doesn't matter" case was for general purpose computing such as your desktop or laptop. When you get into special systems, choices get more important and more complicated. Just ask Nokia who decided to go with Windoze on their smart phones and has lost most of their market share because Windoze was never designed to do real time. On big hardware such as IBM mainframes you again find Linux because the volume is low and IBM discovered it costs a lot less to make Linux the right OS for their hardware than continue to support their own proprietary OS. As for routers and other low-end real-time applications, Linux once again wins because it can be small and can handle real-time tasks.

Left 2 out

Phil, I missed 2 earlier so I've written software under 13 families of operating system and I ordered #14 this afternoon.

world record

The Guinness book of world records has some really weird and unique records. I bet no one has claimed "written software the most operating systems".

1st Capt. Ron

(Title by Miskito Alan)

If you don't specialize

If you don't specialize on one o/s for your entire career, I don't think 14 is that odd. There are still far more.

One Thing Phil's

list has in common is they are all server applications.

Where the rubber hits the road for the user is the availability of applications . . . .and the ease and commonality between boxes.

When I walk into a cyber in SJdS I see the same interface as I saw at home, or at the hotel I stayed at in the US.

If you're running a dedicated app, then anything works. Most of the ATM's ran an early version of Novell not that long ago (OK,, OK, it was a while ago). The ones I see now run XP .. .

Sure, you can run LibreOffice, GIMP, etc, but the world runs on Microsoft Office and Photoshop / Illustrator. I can understand the intellectual challenge, but I feel that you will always be limited. I have literally dozens of programs that will only run on a Microsoft OS: the program that unlocks and rips Blu Ray discs (plus the one that scrapes the copy protection from regular DVD movies).

A lot of the programs I use are intuitive and user friendly. I use Acrobat for many text editing functions, (not the Acrobat Reader, the real Acrobat). It's fast and powerful.

Checking your email ? Sure, anything works, if that is all you do -and that is all that many do do on a computer.

All I know is

My internet was down for an hour or two as we moved house today. It was like being on the dark side of the moon. Owners kid gave me the code. He had no idea how much power he had over me for that short moment in time.

One For Phil . . .

I was in Sinsa yesterday and needed a price quote. The counter girl's computer was off, she turned in on, and it loaded SUSE (which as I remember is a German flavor of Linux I played with some years back -- - but, Phil will correct me if I'm wrong).

The OS booted quickly, and immediately opened the captive SINSA order entry application. I asked the girl, "Can you get on the internet with that ?" and she answered, "No".

I know there is SOME internet connection, because I once was told a piece I was looking for, and not available in Estelí, WAS in stock in Managua.

So, if you are just running a captive app, Linux makes a lot of sense. Skinnier, faster, and you don't have to write a check to Bill Gates.

You're right, she might not be

The systems are networked. Not sure if the Estelí inventory is on an Estelí server but my guess is that it is all on a server in Managua. That, of course, doesn't mean she can get to the Internet but based on the price of a dedicated connection from Estelí to Managua, I am guessing the Internet is used as transport -- possibly over a VPN.

As for captive apps, most "regular folk" I see using a computer use two captive apps: a browser and an office suite. Their interaction with the OS tends to be clicking (or, for some OSs, double-clicking) to start one or both.

Serious question...

Can you get the internet (Facebook) on this Linux thing you are talking about?
Can you put all your cell phone fotos on the Linux internet just like you can on the other internet?
If so it ought to go over big time in Nicaragua.

Browser apps are OS agnostic.

My Android phone and tablet run Linux under the hood and can post photos just fine. So can my Mac apps that interface with the network. Android is the higher priced but not ridiculously over-priced phone OS here and people do use it for posting photos to Facebook and Google Plus. At least one of my phones, maybe two or all of them, came with a Facebook application pre-installed. The phone camera uses that to post to FB.

The internet runs more Linux servers, I suspect, than MS servers.

Price for the cheapest tablet I could find in Jinotega was US $150. I'm not sure what the absolutely cheapest Android phone is in Nicaragua but Claro sells one for US $100 which does all the social media stuff and which can have a data package (I have the next to the highest priced data package on my somewhat more expensive one).

When I ran Linux, there were browsers that were as good or better than MS Explorer. Most current browsers have been ported to most of the common and some of the less common operating systems: Firefox, Opera, and Chrome being the ones I'm most familiar with. A lot of tablets and phones just call their browser "Internet" and most people won't care what that is, just care what it does.

Rebecca Brown

This confuses me

"When I walk into a cyber in SJdS I see the same interface as I saw at home, or at the hotel I stayed at in the US."

I hear this all too often but:

  1. You see FireFox. It has nothing to do with the OS.
  2. The differences between Windoze 9x, XP, ... all the way through the non-windowing Windoze all look much different from each other than they do from KDE, XFCE, Gnome, Unity, or Cinnamon.
  3. LibreOffice looks like (at least some version of) Microsoft Office and will work with the same file types (plus the open standards).
  4. I don't know how many cybers run Linux but I know at least one in Costa Rica. Few people are going to go to

I personally don't care what OS you run but these arguments make no sense. If Windoze is more secure (it isn't), less likely to crash (it isn't), is faster/requires less resources (it doesn't), fine, make a case but the internet cafe argument is really bogus.


are afraid of what they don't know.

I am very sympathetic to your arguments. I think Netware was a much better OS than windows server, but "windows" is what people know.

It has been this way long before sailors were afraid they would sail off the edge of the flat world. It will take a BIG mistake by Microsoft or a multi-million dollar marketing campaign to make a big difference, in my opinion. As an open source software, I doubt anyone is going to spend the money to educate people. People who know, prefer other operating systems, but most people don't know.

1st Capt. Ron

(Title by Miskito Alan)

A suggestion for your next

A suggestion for your next poll: How many ex-pats are computer/IT folks?


Maybe. It's too tempting for me to ask if they're engineering/computer/IT people OR "normal" folks!

What I wouldn't do is poll for a favourite operating system!


…is very popular here (Claro has a $100 US Android phone from Huewei. I have a Mac because Gimp isn't a substitute for Lightroom and Photoshop. Mac programs cover everything I need and are generally less expensive than MS programs (and there's a whole libre side of the system with open source programs and compiling from scratch. The only OS I didn't find suitable for desktop use was Solaris.

The Mac Office suite is better designed and less cumbersome than the Windows Office suite. I can buy any Adobe product for a Mac. The development packages for MS are rather pricey; the development packages for Mac and Linux are free. And for people who don't want to program, both Linux and Mac (and NetBSD and Open BSD, for that matter) have windowing system. Samsung and my Sony camera now play nice with Macs (one of the BSDs under the hood).

OS Wars are like squabbling over culture -- but Android or Apple seems to be the way to go with smart phones. And I have friends who really don't like the last update to the MS OS.

My guess is that people tend to stick with whatever they learned first -- and that seems to be easier (and it is easier to them). I've run NetBSD, Open BSD, Linux from 2. something to when Red Hat went commercial, Solaris, and then Mac. Have worked on Windows machines and Macs and Linux (for some specialized editing with Gnus when I was working for a firm that converted publishing files to searchable CDs -- obsolete now).

Any of these system can put the user on graphic user interface desktop that isn't impossible or unstable (couldn't say that about my first Linux box). Most people buy machines with Windows pre-installed, so that's what they use.

When I was working with Linux, my publisher told me they could convert any text file. My agent and I smiled. I use MS Word because it's what my publishers have used and what my students have used. At one point, Open Office was a dog, but not now and I ran it on a netbook when I first came here since it was, um, free.

For most users, any office suite that has a limited database program (Access, similar things in the Mac and Linux worlds), an accounting spread sheet program, a word processing program, a graphics suite, and various entertainment toys will be all they use. I don't know any OS that doesn't have those (Adobe won't port to Linux because of the licensing issues, but there was at one time a Solaris port of Lightroom and the Adobe graphics programs appear to have been designed on Macintoshes, though ported to Windows.

My father's Windows box got owned a few times and had to have the OS and programs reinstalled. Some things like Active X were notorious for having security problems. Some of the best security programs are on Linux (and often on MacPorts).

One of the sayings by computer programmers I know is that the only intuitive interface is the nipple -- and women who'd nursed kids corrected that.

Rebecca Brown

you summed it up pretty good

While there are and were better operating systems out there, people are comfortable with what they know. "Change" is not something most people want without a good reason.

1st Capt. Ron

(Title by Miskito Alan)


getting a current edition of Linux free sounds like a good idea compared to old editions of Microsoft , but when you have multiple users in 2 languages with years of experience with Microsoft and its common programs it just doesn`t pan out. If you also frequently use other computers such as cibers and hospedajes, it complicates things.

My laptop had a problem the antivirus couln`t fix so I downloaded Linux in english. It`s an easy download that goes on 1 CD that is then inserted to download the whole program. I found it counter intuitive, but that is probably because I couldn`t find a tutorial and I was used to microsoft. I played with it a while until the microsoft problem went away then unloaded it because having 2 OSs on the hard drive used up too much space.

Linux may be a great system, but unless you learn on it and only use your own computer it is not real practical, especially here where you are also constantly switching back and forth between programs in English and Spanish.

I still use apache open office because it is free, has its own updates and resembles Word. I have it in English on my laptop and Spanish on the family compu.

``Socialism works fine until you run out of other peoples` money``

Margaret Thatcher

Well, Maybe The

argument about using cybers wasn't the best. I've used Linux, used to build storage servers with an early version of Red Hat. It was very stable, ran on small iron.

However, customers complained about even the minimal time they spent with the desktop (logging back in, basically, after a power interruption), so I eventually went to Win2K. That was one of Microsoft's better offerings, lean and stable.

Part of my preference might be, I've always been blessed with friends who had access to corporate versions of the OS and applications (corporate = no activation). If I had to pay for all of it, I might sing a different tune.

Even on your Droid phone, while Linux might be OS, you're running captive applications, not really dealing with a desktop.

Solaris is also a free download (or used to be) and their desktop has gotten better and better. I think a lot of it comes down to what you are used to and most comfortable with.

However, if you're running a server, you're probably in there doing your administration on a command line interface anyway, using telnet, so the desktop is irrelevant and excess baggage.

I've always through Microsoft was missing out by not offering stripped down versions of their OS. One big advantage of Linux (or any Unix flavor) is the small overhead. My inverter is kind of like a Microsoft product: it takes 250 watts / hour to just sit there, so if you multiply that by 24, I have to capture (and store) a significant amount of solar energy just to feed the beast, before it does anything of value for me.

Solaris that I had was running on a Sparc.

It was like running a helicopter to go grocery shopping. I'd been running NetBDS on the machine earlier as a NNTP (Usenet) server -- flat files are lovely).

Most people don't care if they're running captive items or a desktop -- they want a GUI. I've heard the arguments that the command line is faster.

I used ssh to get to my hobby servers, and blocked telnet.

Most people get computers, phones, and cameras to just work. Having to think about the appliances, not the job they're doing with it, is multi-tasking and people are more efficient if they don't do that. I rooted one of my phones, but haven't rooted the two phones after that, or the Kindle or the new tablet. And I haven't compiled from source since moving to Nicaragua.

Rebecca Brown

You've got questions, NicaLiving's got answers!

"What principal characteristics differentiate Linux from the other systems that inhabit our internet lives?"

I think fyl is the only one who can appropriately answer that question here. :)

"What OS does malware most easily infect?"

Basically, all of them. There's a lot of malware now for Android, iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch), Windows, and OS X (Macintoshes). The trouble is that once something becomes popular, there's a really good reason to hack it, which leads to your next question...

"Which is the biggest pain in NSA's derriere?"

Nothing. Sure, some things are a bigger pain for them, but they specifically flag you for it, and it makes you a more interesting target for them. What we've learned from Snowden-gate is that if you've heard of it, it's been hacked. Seemingly the only way to really avoid their ire is to be small. Build something yourself, just for you, and never share it with anyone and *maybe* the NSA won't have it figured out in two years. Unless, of course, they decide you're really, really important. :(

That doesn't help most people. What I'd say to most people is make a choice: 1) accept that you're being tracked at all times and in ways you won't imagine OR 2) encrypt everything to the best of your ability

Option 3) Vote. That requires more time, though.


Vote, educate people, speak up nicely to the decision makers, but scream bloody murder if anyone tries to take your Internet away. :-)


I have a old netbook on Linux...collecting dust,lol