My experience with computers goes back almost thirty years and begins in a land many of you have never seen (not even in movies). I have traveled the black abyss known as pre PC (personal computer), through the valley of DOS, and across the desert of OS/2. Many of these terms are foreign to many of you, as these lands were thought at times to be treacherous and not well known or traveled in this day, and soon may become myth and forgotten legends.
Before there was a World Wide Web, I took to the “net” and raised the standard on FIDOnet as the Watchman’s Summit connecting our little village with the world acting as the Fido Hub for Eastern Volusia County, FL via SkyNet on our western shores. Globally, conversations were drawn to the new “trick” or “tweak” as people shared their new found knowledge, freely for the benefit of all. Most everyone had a voice and served as messengers raised from the depths with speaking of hope and direction. Through FIDOnet, people had again found a common ground to join together for the betterment of all.
The Sirens Call
Alas, soon the swift powerful current picked up its pace as if in some form of retribution, and we all found ourselves caught up in the rapids known as the GUI. Spiraling into a seemingly bottomless pit of despair and uncertainty, people began to cower and hide in the shadows struggling to keep step at an ever-increasing pace. Some people began to drown, while others made the mistake of hearing the soft and soothing siren calls. Many were lulled into the trap of feeling safe with the way things were. Catchy phrases like “Plug-in-play” and standardization were constantly flooding the streets. Millions of innocent bystanders heard the call and blindly followed as if in a trance. But all of them were deceived....
I resisted the current as long as I could, but people kept seeking me out to help cure their insanity. It was a new experience for many of them and frankly we were all trying to figure it out together. I jumped in to save them often and became skilled at taming their “beasts”, becoming a legend among my peers.
Then a light began to shine in the darkness. All around the world people began to crave the community and pursuit of the days of old where people helped people, and when they were empowered to discover a brave new world - where people were free to choose and explore. A land where the lowliest user could get help and instruction from the actual developers and experts from around the world. A land where people could find significance and value and invest a part of themselves so people everywhere could benefit from it.
I chose to use a cute story to illustrate the last 2 decades in the computer industry, but it does exemplify the way things actually appeared to many of us who have quietly watched the events happen with little we could do or say about it.
Many people have debated the tactics and hidden agendas in the beginning of the personal computer, but this distractive activity is irrelevant. At a critical moment in history, these people began to take things, both misunderstood and under-valued, and begin to build an empire, with some very impassioned pioneers became very rich and influential where others failed to invest in these modest beginnings.
Somehow, those of us involved in technology have apparently forgotten computers were intended to serve people and not the other way around. Over the last few decades, the world has slipped into serving the data and has managed to move away from knowing people and having personal meaningful relationships. We seemed to have arrived at a place where we believe if we know about someone it means the same thing as knowing them. This doesn’t work with God, in a marriage, or even in casual relationships.
In times past I was an avid gamer scoring in the top 10 globally as a sniper and aggressive intimidation in games such as Crysis, America’s Army, Deus ex, Quake, Unreal, Half Life, Delta Force, and City of Heros (not to mention Doom, Heretic, Duke Nukem -- way old school now). I probably became a gamer because I wanted to be a part of a community -- something more than my normal everyday life.
Like all “civilizations”, gamers developed a culture and even our own language, which has now been transferred to other places and industries included texting on cellular phones, e-mails, and instant messaging. We built a simple method to communicate relationship, though I am interested just how far this transference will go. The Originators of “texting” have moved further towards simple voice communication, as having a voice, and hopefully, a face, to go with a name makes the experience better hence the large number of MMORPGs.
Computers on a leash
For many years and versions I ran Mandrake, Red Hat, Fedora, Centos and enjoyed the usability of these operating systems, but after a while, I began having needs not directly or simply addressed by these products. I do not fault them for protecting their users from proprietary “standards”, but I do believe there is a very thin line when usability is sacrificed for control.
Personally, I grew very tired of spending days creating instructional How To’s for every version of an operating system coming out for simple things like ripping DVDs, setting up Plone, MySql, Apache, caching name servers, Samba, Domain Controllers, etc. I simply wanted to use the computer. I again felt like I was back to the old disconnected mentality many of us experienced at the beginning of the Personal Computer.
Many of you may never have thought about using Open Source Software. If you are not an avid gamer or use Adobe products for a living, there is absolutely no reason to use anything else. Many of the communities surrounding open source products are extremely open and friendly. The single best online communities I have participated in belong to Fedora Linux, OpenSUSE, and the MODX Content Management Platform.
Operating System Choices
openSuse is by far the single best operating system I have ever used. Personally, in my business, and in ministry situations, I use it on my laptops and primary workstations. Professionally, I still use Microsoft products to run Adobe software and Redhat Linux to handle my servers. I also administrate Windows and Red Hat Linux Servers. Over the years, I have used OS/2 (Merlin and Warp), OS X, Unix, AIX, Solaris, and other forgotten operating systems.