Sunday, November 28, 2004

Of SGI, Linux and X --How one person learned to choose (4)

When people lose their ability to choose, their choices get made for them. In my experience, these choices are never the right ones where ordinary people are concerned. Instead, the choices they are given are aimed squarely at extracting money from the customer. (Yes that is a phrase I often heard, from many software sales representatives.) If you ever hear that, consider doing something else. You will be better for it, trust me.

Anyway, back to the storyline. It came time for me to perform an upgrade. I wanted some more speed and needed to gain the ability to more easily run newer Open Source software. Time to bite the bullet and get it all done.

My upgrade experience with win32 systems left me putting this experience off for longer than I needed to, but in the end the pressure won. I knew I did not want to buy a new machine because I would also be forced to buy a lot of software I did not want or need. That mean't build my own, or getting one built for me. After a lot of snooping around, another choice presented itself. I could just make use of a newer machine that somebody else upgraded from.

This does not mean I am cheap, quite the contrary. I could afford just about any machine I wanted, but honestly I did not and still do not today see the value of such a purchase. After some thought, this is the route I chose.

The actual upgrade process was interesting compared to your typical win32 PC upgrade. Since I was using a couple of machines, I could upgrade my environment in more than one stage. Since my new machine was a PC, I left the SGI as is, added a bit of storage, without rebooting by the way, and was ready to start.

Open Source systems make use of Open Standards for data storage. They, being UNIX like, also do not have messy things like registries and binary configuration files. So the first thing was to capture my existing configuration somewhere where I could refer to it, then perform the upgrade.

Turns out this was largely a waste of time. Since I work in a networked environment, I could simply bring the new machine onto the network, and begin using it. So I did just that. For a while I used all three machines, with an eye toward getting rid of the older PC. This is where multi-user comes into play again. Multi-user computing environments, such as Linux, UNIX, IRIX, etc... keep all user data in the users home directory. If you are a windows user, this is much like your desktop, My Documents, and settings directories, only much cleaner because it is all in one place called, literally home. On my machine that was /home/doug.

Within an hour after getting the new machine loaded and on the network, I was able to have all my basic settings just the way I like them, present and accounted for on the new machine. E-mail, desktop, web bookmarks, etc.. all done. That makes it the primary machine until the old one is not needed anymore. This did not take long.

Later I performed the same operation with the SGI machine and I was good to go, running the latest stuff with a minimum of hassle. Perhaps that early learning was worth something after all...


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