Nobody’s Marshall

If you’ve ever watched the TV show Alias, and you think the coolest character is Marshall… you might be a geek. Marshall is the techno-gadget guy who invents the combo satellite cam and stun gun concealed in a lipstick. He does this in his spare time as he is usually busy hacking Russian missile command codes and finding a cure for the latest bio-hazard the cosmopolitan spies he works with have stumbled upon.

And my girlfriend Kim thinks he’s cool, which might explain her “I ‘heart’ My Geek” t-shirt.

All of which leads me to this confession. I am not Marshall (and she already knew that). But apparently I’m not even as close as I had fantasized.

I fancy myself a pretty good computer tech. I can handle hardware as well as pretty much anything Bill Gates can throw at me. I’m comfortable hacking the registry, writing code, and manually extracting nasty viruses. I feel as if I can hang with the big guys here. It was my geek domain.

Which is why I shouldn’t have done it. I was becoming bored with Windows. So this week I built a Linux system. I had a false sense of confidence in that I had been exposed to Unix in the past. However, in fairness, this was back when there was vigorous debate about whether this Internet thing would really catch on. The last time I had a Unix system, I would start X-Windows to play, but for any serious work, I used the command line.

So I downloaded a “distro” of Linux and installed it parallel to a Windows install. I beat my head on that for awhile and finally removed the Windows drive altogether so Linux could have all the hardware to itself. It was happier that way. Then I spent a couple days getting all the hardware to work under Linux. Okay, that was painful but educational. Finally though, I was ready to be a Linux user.

There are a ton of applications installed with Linux. And apparently that’s a good thing, because installing any additional ones is next to impossible. I’ve been two days trying to get the Firefox browser installed. I’ve finally figured out that I don’t have the proper C++ libraries installed to install Firefox. I’ve tried to install older library versions to make Firefox happy, but there is no joy. So I decided to try and live with what came out of the box. But videos don’t play and Flash doesn’t flash. I clearly don’t have what I need. And apparently what I need is a clue.

Now I do not wish to disparage Linux. Lots of geeks love it. I wish I could. Maybe it’s a lack of time. Maybe I’m just getting old and resistant to new things. Maybe I can’t cope with the “freshman syndrome” of going from a Windows guru to a Linux newbie. Hey, I still think I want to know about Linux. But the curve is steep and scary. I can’t bring myself to make this a priority, nor can I toss it from the list of things to learn… someday… maybe.

I’ll bet Marshall knows Linux. I’ll bet Kim is burning that t-shirt as I type.

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