If you had come to me a year ago and had said: "Hey, what do you think about Linux and Open Source?", I would hardly have been able to answer. I know the names, yes, of course, I would have mumbled, and perhaps I'd have added: "That's something for programmers, for people studying this stuff, isn't it? Sorry, but I never wanted to be a programmer. I like Terminator but never - never - will I become an administrator!"
I thought about me as User. But in fact, I already was an administrator. I was an administrator when I installed Win 95 on an 486-Laptop and brought up Outlook Express and IE. I was an administrator, when I reformatted my harddisk and installed everything all over again because I had tried before to update to Internet Explorer version 6. And what I didn't know: Even my friends were administrators - or how would you call someone who had to install a firewall, antivirus-software and a whole new OS after he received 600 viruses of different kind with Windows & Web & without warning?
Seems to me sometimes even my father, my mother, my brothers are administrators, when we talk about windows, web or email - although we learned such different jobs as lawyer, teacher, economist or journalist. Maybe everyone now with a computer transformed in some shy, hidden way into an administrator - but with the wrong software.
Yes, our software turned us also into users. Users in the sense of what hard-drug-consumers are called by their dealers. Users in the sense of criminals. If your girl-friend drops over and asks "Sorry, my harddisk crashed with the whole OS, which was preinstalled - I don't barely have anything left over, can you help?" Or she asks for some cool truetype-fonts or drivers. Do you say 'No'? And if you say 'Yes' - will she call you a criminal? She should do so. Because you are one. And this is often also the case, if you buy software and install it not only to your desktop but also to your laptop - read the license. Maybe it makes you feel better, when you realize that nearly every pc-user today is a criminal. This - and not data-security - is the reason why everybody fears spy-software or encrypted update-connections to Redmond.
So now that I've pointed out that we are already administrators - what about not being a criminal anymore? What about Linux? What about Open Source? Getting rid of your sins? Some people get really religious, when they talk about it. And they are right. In the first month of installing Linux to my precious old aero-laptop I came around a store with computer-magazines and press, big ads saying "CD with free software inside! Free full functioning programs inside!". I had a good laugh. With linux, everything is free, free as a bird AND a beer.
Of course using linux means also to be an administrator. But don't be afraid. I don't think Linux on a modern desktop needs a higher amount of knowledge than that one you acquired the last years by using your old OS. And with every new distribution coming it is getting much easier. Of course it needs some time. And more time, if you want to get really experienced, if you want to find out what really is going on BEHIND the KDE- or Gnome-desktop.
For this purpose an installation of linux on an old pc like the aero was a sort of crash-course for me. If you can still call four months of learning a crash-course. And like everytime you learn something you should be ready to face frustration. I have spent a lot of nights in front of that machine you are currently surfing on, and when I say frustration, I know what that means. But it was also fun, which I hope to have expressed with some of my illustrations. ;-)
And in the end it was worth it. Not only that I got a full functioning root-server - something, others have to pay 60 EUR a month for and still don't own it. But also to have discovered a whole new world of computing. To read books like "The Cathedral and the bazaar" - and to understand the idea of open source. To wonder why other markets - like the one of medical-care - can't be organized a similar way. To make the word "globalization" mean something totally different.
For me experiencing Linux was like jumping into a lake for the first time after years in a pool for non-swimmers. Sometimes I felt like drowning. But there were many helping hands. So many that I wanted to lend mine too. This is my humble purpose with these pages.;-)
Ulrich Hansen, March 2003