The Computer Whisperer – Part 2

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A Big Red Button Today

Lohan’s bar in the seaside resort of Salthill, where my friend Maja is playing jazz on the piano. I’ve eaten a pretty good seafood chowder, and I’m sitting on a stool studying Linux, occasionally looking out at the full moon over the night sea. Life can be all right sometimes, can’t it?

I say studying, more reading up on the very basics. I’ve long regarded Linux as a step too far into the dark woods of geekhood, but now that my darn phone is running the stuff perhaps it is time to try and understand. Also I installed Ubuntu on my work PC a few months back, as some sort of convoluted and probably unnecessary intermediate stage while I was shuffling Windows licenses around, and I was very impressed. It was a silly thing that really got me – you could apply amusing effects to the whole desktop, stretching it like a rubber sheet, with a degree of responsiveness and realism I’d have thought impossible for my basic graphics hardware. I’ve never seen anything like that on Windows or OS X. Also there was the fact that you could download programs to do what you wanted without even having to consider the possibility of their being evil.

My besmitten-ness faded however as soon as I hit a snag. If I have a problem on Windows I can usually fix it. Hell, I can always fix it, some way or another. I’ve used Windows for work daily these last ten years, I’ve had to. But I come across a problem in Linux, I have simply no idea what to do.

And part of me says, maybe it should stay that way… My phone has a nice user-friendly system for installing and uninstalling apps, if something goes wrong I can simply remove the offending article or, if the worst comes to the worst, restore the phone to its factory conditions. And really, that is all I need to know.

But it’s no good. I can hear the siren’s song, with its refrain of “What does this do?” Before my eyes, suspended, is nature’s Big Red Button.

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