Category Archives: blog

I’m so proud of my dad

I really am.

A while back I won the “Ultimate” version of a prominent desktop operating system in a prize drawing.  As a Linux user, this, and really any product from this manufacturer, isn’t terribly useful to me.  I had a good laugh at the irony and tossed the box in the trunk of my car, where it sat for a couple of months.  My father is still a devoted user of this company’s operating system, so on my next visit I gave it to him.  He could use it more than me.

I got an instant message from him the other day.  He had a number of adventures.  First, there were issues getting his various types of hard drives in correct order as the operating system and the computer’s BIOS wrestled with him.  Once he got that sorted out he discovered that the operating system in question did not recognize much of his hardware and he had to go surfing for drivers.  He eventually found everything and got the system in working order, but it was a two-day ordeal of dedicated effort.  Good thing he’s retired!

The point is, that my dad is not a computer geek.  He had a technical background but spent several years as an executive, where one is fairly isolated from the day-to-day mucking about with a system in which many of us engage.  Yet he tackled this situation like a pro.  He had the persistence and patience to find the issues and knock them off one at a time.  He was also very sporting about facing the myth that I’ve always had to face as a Linux user:  “Those sorts of things don’t happen with major desktop operating systems.”

Obviously any operating system can turn into a nightmare under the right circumstances.  I was quietly amused to think that if I had walked in with one of the current Linux distributions that the majority of the hardware might have been detected and activated and that anything else I needed could be found with relative ease on the Internet.  There might be challenges, but it wouldn’t have been any worse than what my dad slogged through.  It would certainly be easier than what I went through several years ago on the open-source path.

My dad got to see first hand what happens when things don’t work as expected, and that you can dig into the problem and solve them.  He got to see that it can happen with even the most “Ultimate” of mainstream environments.  I think the experience leveled the playing field in his mind a little.  In fact, he said that our conversations about what I work with in Linux helped him form his strategy to solve his problems.  Hmmmm.  I’ve already got him using Firefox, GIMP and a few other open-source packages.  Now that he’s seen what he is capable of, maybe he’ll be up to giving Linux a try!  I’ll keep a disk handy for the next time he upgrades his computer hardware.

Anyway… Way to go, dad!  I’m proud of you.

Living in the future

I actually wrote this some time ago on a blog hosted at IBM’s developerWorks. Now that I’m doing my own site I thought it made more sense to live here. I hope it’s still useful to you.

Dejayu3_400I feel like one of the “old guys” when it comes to computing.  I cut my teeth on the Applie iie that we had at school.  (A friend of mine had one too, so I got to experiment and explore outside of the curriculum.)  My own first computer was a Commodore 64, where I discovered a lot about computing, assidiously typing in programs from the back of computing magazines.  I also managed to purchase a 300 Baud modem and got into the world of Bulletin Boards and finding information that was available on university computers throughout the world.I did DOS on an 8MHz computer.  I did Windows 1.x, which was mostly needed to run Excel.  However, I usually used Lotus 123.  I used Microsoft Word 2.x, which came on 5.25″ floppy disks which I had to swap in and out to use the spell checker before I got my fancy 20MB hard drive installed (more space than I would ever need).

I connected to the Internet through dial-up and Windows 3.1 and eventually found the browser for the first time.  Explorer was cool, but I ended up being more of a Netscape guy.  (I was working on the phone support queue for a company called CompuAdd at the time.)  Later I was a technician for a Value Added Reseller (VAR), where I got deeper into networking and all of the different integration issues that businesses.  I learned about Novell Netware (2.x) and many of the strange ways that small businesses used computing to try to get through their days.  I even did some OS/2 and some Token Ring!

I could go on and on, further alienating myself from the under-30 crowd and get someone looking to get me some prune juice and a cane, but I’ll cut to the chase:  Out of all the advances and innovations I’ve seen in computing over my life, we are in the most exciting time that I’ve ever seen.  The expanded utility of the Internet is creating connectivity and functionality that was largely unimagined in my Archie and Veronica days.  (Look it up!)  Everything really can be connected to everything else.  Virtual computing, multi-platform computing, cloud computing have all changed the landscape.  Mobile phones, video game consoles, navigation devices and more all play in the mix now.  It’s all amazing!  And it’s not just the realm of the biggest companies and the super-geeky.  Anyone and everyone has a piece of this puzzle.

Most exciting of all is what is freely available.  When I first got into the technology world there weren’t many options.  You either had to work for someone who had big technology or pay an armload for it.  Free software was not largely available.  It was all pretty serious business.  But look at it now!  Linux, open standards and open-source have created more opportunity than there has ever been for someone who, like me, was just curious about everything, to learn and grow.  It’s just waiting.

In these ponderings I’ll be talking about some of the cool choices that are out there and how I use them every day.  I’ll also talk about resources to learn and grow with technology, some of which will be of use to students and teachers.  Next I’ll talk a little about why I became a Linux user.