by Paul Cipywnyk
It's been awhile since I've written something for the AJ, but there's a bit of space left so off comes the publisher's hat, and on goes the writer's.
The club has WWW pages, newsgroups and mail lists that are online 24/7 (24 hours a day, seven days a week). The setup comes courtesy of Vice President Ken Cotton and guru-at-large Jim Tittsler.
Ken provides the all-important 24/7 link to the Internet. He's got an NTT OCN 128K account at his home, and has been hosting the club's server on an old 486. Jim set up the server, and though he's been asking members to take a more active role in its maintenance, he still does 95% of the system administration work.
The server runs the free Linux operating system. What's Linux? If you haven't caught the gathering Linux wave, let me fill you in a bit.
Linus Torvalds started what became Linux around 1991. The OS is more or less a Unix clone (apologies for painting with a very broad brush in this limited space :-). Linux has grown into a crashproof, multitasking OS, improved by thousands of programmers around the world. It's distributed under a free software license and the source code is open to anyone, while Linus retains control of what goes into kernel upgrades.
An industry has developed around Linux, and while you can download the latest version from the Internet for free, you're probably better off getting a commercial distribution on a CD for around ¥5,000 that includes support, installation and management tools, and all sorts of other software.
There are versions of Linux for Intel processors, Alphas, Sun SPARCs, and Macs. Linux is estimated to run on over 7 million computers around the world, and that figure is growing rapidly. Linux will run fine on an old 486, or even a 386 with 8MB of RAM.
The icing on the cake is that there's all sorts of free software for Linux that runs WWW, newsgroup, email and ftp servers etc. Not to mention graphical interfaces, programming languages, editors, games.... And as more users and even corporations jump on the Linux bandwagon, major software players (Netscape, Corel, IBM and Oracle, to name a few) are taking notice and porting applications to the OS.
Linux is damn reliable. For those of you used to rebooting Win95 a couple of times a week (a day?), or who have faced Windows NT's "blue screen of death" more often than you'd like, take a look at this: At one point (Paul searches the TPC newsgroups), Jim said the TPC server had been up for 263 days. Such figures are common in the Linux world.
While Linux isn't a "household" OS yet in terms of "ease of use," if you're interested in learning about the OS (and helping run the club's server :-) there are plenty of resources available.
Linux distributors' sites also have a lot of information and free downloads.
You can access the Tokyo Linux Users Group at tlug.linux.or.jp and/or join their active mail list. It's a friendly group that runs great meetings at which users of all levels of experience are welcome.
For books, try O'Reilly & Associates Inc. at www.ora.com/. O'Reilly publishes excellent books including several Linux "standards" and dozens of Unix tomes that apply to Linux. The Bookpool at www.bookpool.com/ is an online store specializing in computer and technical books at great prices.
I'm a Linux beginner and I've had versions of the Red Hat distribution running on my old 486 for over a year. While I haven't had the time yet to really get into it, it's provided a lot of fun and learning opportunities.
I don't mean to flog Red Hat, but it's the only distribution I'm familiar with. Here's some of what you get if you buy the boxed version of RH 5.1, which is available in Akihabara for ¥4,980:
It just goes on and on, and other distributions have comparable complements of software and tools.
There's a lot of excitement in the Linux world. It might be worth your while taking a look.
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