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Welcome to Unix

© February 2006 Anthony Lawrence

So you want to be a Unix or Linux geek? That's great news, because frankly we need new blood. In the old days, while we were riding high and Windows was a puny little joke, we'd sneer at supplicants like you and respond to any question with "RTFM!". We'd then snicker and wink at each other knowingly.

Well, no more. In fact, we have our hats in our hands now and humbly apologize for our past arrogance and lack of compassion. We are changed people, reborn if you will, and ready to welcome you with open arms.

My hope here is to help you find your way in Unix or Linux. You may have learned in the past that Unix is "hard". You may have seen little jokes like "Unix is friendly - it's just picky about its friends", which was our snide way of telling you that you might not be smart enough to use Unix or Linux. Well, no more of that. From now on, Unix and Linux intend to be the Dale Carnegie of operating systems, welcoming and embracing all.

So, shake the hand of the New Unix: amenable, friendly, courteous, humble, helpful, obsequious, clairvoyant and more. Let me introduce you to your new best pal.

The Unix Way - forget it

There are other articles on this site, written before our awakening and transformation, that advise you to learn the Unix Way. Such cheekiness! Instead, grasshopper, Unix had better learn your ways, and that should be your attitude at all times. If ever something feels strange, confused, or just not Microsoft-like, you should complain. Immediately. Loudly. Everything is a file? How ridiculous: is a horse a file? How about a pitcher of beer dumped over the nearest Unix geek's head - is THAT a file? Don't put up with such nonsense.

There is no "Unix way". There is the Microsoft way, or the highway, and we know that now. From time to time, you may have to remind us of how things should be properly done. Some of us haven't had the exposure to Saint William that you have and aren't aware of how he has changed protocols and so on to improve them. Just because something was invented in the Unix world doesn't mean it isn't better after Microsoft coders work on it. In fact, it always is better, and the only thing that prevents us from seeing that instantly is a foolish adherence to established practice. Remind us that a new sheriff is in town and it is Unix and Linux that need to mend their ways. We may complain that Bill doesn't always make his changes open, which makes it harder for us to comply, but that's just sniveling from losers.

The Command Line

Windows has a command line too, and we all know it can be useful at times, but these Unix geeks spend way too much time there. Pipelines and redirection are all fine within limits, but let's not over do it. If you find yourself at the command line more than once a year or so, you've been sucked into old time Unix thinking and need to shake that off.

As to this silly business where some commands don't output anything unless they fail, well, you just shouldn't be using those commands. Surely there is a way to do what you want in the GUI, and if not, someone needs to fix that immediately. Drop a note in any Linux newsgroup advising them of the oversight and you should have your GUI application in a day or two. Sometimes you have to prod a little; Linux programmers tend to be slackers. If necessary, remind them of their character faults.

Your Desktop

Your desktop should look very much like your Microsoft desktop. If it does not, someone accidentally installed the wrong desktop and they will need to fix that for you. Some Unix or Linux folk who have not yet Seen The Light may try to tell you that's your problem, but obviously it is not. Be insistent: you have rights. Contact whoever gave you the install CD and get them to send you an update.

You should, of course, run as the "root" user. That's the Unix equivalent of "Administrator" and is shorter and easier to spell. Unix prefers that you have a password; if you choose to accept that arbitrary and unnecessary request, I suggest that you use "r00t", "toor" or something equally clever but easy to remember.

Unix and Linux have administrative tools. If you have a good distribution, the tools will be in Control Panel. If not, well, again there has been an error and someone (not you) needs to fix it. If the tools are not in Control Panel, but you can find them easily, you may choose to live with the annoyance. That is your choice, but if any tiny thing is not what you are accustomed to, you really shouldn't have to put up with it. Be assertive. Unix and Linux need you, you don't need them.

Patches and Updates

Like Windows, Unix and Linux systems do come out with patches and updates. Unfortunately, it's not as often as Microsoft and this upsets people. Sometimes I have gone weeks and even months without seeing updates for my Mac OS X system. Microsoft wisely releases patches weekly, sometimes even more often. We know this is an area we need to work on. Expect improvements - no, DEMAND improvements. The slackers will never put down their Cokes and get to work if people like you don't speak up.

Viruses and Worms

This is an area where we really need work. There aren't nearly enough good Unix or Linux malware programs in circulation. Apparently the problem is that it's harder to create such things. Well, duh: stop making it so hard!

You may find that odd. Isn't lack of viri etc. a good thing? Well, you could look at it that way, but remember, we are trying to duplicate the Windows experience here to make you more comfortable. We think a familiar environment is a comfy environment, and malware is obviously a necessary part of that.

Enjoying Yourself

Above all, we want your experience to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, that conflicts with our main mission of twisting Unix to conform to the expectations of a Windows user. This apparently unresolvable problem has been the subject of much discussion in the Unix and Linux newsgroups. As one correspondent said, "How can we make them happy if we have to make them miserable?"

There has to be a solution. Some have suggested that you, the former Windows user, should make some effort, even if only a token gesture, toward learning traditional Unix. That's heresy to those of us on the New Path. We believe that you just need to stand firm and expect a miracle. If Unix can't mold itself to your expectations AND make you happy, then we just aren't trying hard enough, are we? Rest assured that we will not give up easily. We will not stop until Unix and Linux are everything a Windows user expects and less. The challenge is in front of us, we will not fail!

See We lost the war for a video presentation of this.

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More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Sun Sep 23 15:37:34 2007: 3151   e

"Viri" has never been a word in English. The plural is "viruses".

Sun Sep 23 22:45:51 2007: 3152   TonyLawrence

Let me recommend a book to you: (link)

Language is, has always been and always will be what we make it.

Wed Sep 26 20:02:53 2007: 3162   anonymous

We will not stop until Unix and Linux are everything a Windows user expects and "less."

Less?? Everything and LESS??

Wed Sep 26 20:44:52 2007: 3163   TonyLawrence

Yes, less - we have to give them the quality they are accustomed to :-)

Mon Oct 15 11:44:24 2007: 3195   anonymous

This is a funny article. Thanks.

Sun Dec 23 11:06:29 2007: 3349   anonymous

Dear author,

after a rather funny (and also true) introduction you failed miserably at the concept of "being ironic".

You made your point that the NUIX/LUNIX people failed with their OS(es) and then - lying on the ground! - you spit in the eyes of the common Windows user.

You're right - I don't need Unix as much as it needs me.

Sun Dec 23 11:38:22 2007: 3351   TonyLawrence

We haven't failed - we're stronger than ever. Macs for the masses, Linux for the true geeks and the adventurous.. all Unixish.

It would be easy (and true) to say "and we don't need you either", but that's not the point. The point is that YOU are missing out with your hobbled, proprietary, very broken Windows.

You'll figure that out someday.. thanks for visiting!

Wed Dec 31 13:13:50 2008: 5008   Bruke

I like Linux, but Windows has it's place. I am not a professional musician, so I have an Ibanez guitar instead of a Fender. In the opposite sense, I work with servers and so I learned Linux. Not everyone needs Linux to do what they want to do... just like I can have fun with my puny Ibanez guitar. Should a real musician sneer and me and mock me for not using a high-performance guitar? Windows is enough for most common users. To mock them for it is elitist, and childish. Linux is a better OS for real power users and pros... but there's nothing wrong with an everyday person using Windows if that's all they need. Why create hard feelings and spill thinly veiled bile?

Wed Dec 31 14:11:58 2008: 5009   TonyLawrence

You misunderstand. I'm making fun of people who pick up a high performance guitar and complain that it is harder to use than "Guitar Hero".

Wed Dec 31 14:56:19 2008: 5010   bruke

Ah - I understand, and in that context it makes sense. Good reply, thanks. I agree that if they can't hack it, then they shouldn't expect us to dumb it down for them. Very true. But to be honest, I've never met anyone that really did - I've introduced linux to a few and most didn't like it, went back to windows, and were happy... and it never came up again. Those that got it loved it, but I haven't seen much of a middle-ground where some struggle with it and demand change. Then again, I'm not that social either, which is probably why I haven't encountered that aspect. If you have, you have my sympathy.

Wed Dec 31 15:20:37 2008: 5012   TonyLawrence

Your experience is more typical, I think.

I don't usually recommend Linux to ordinary people. I do recommend Mac, though I always get "too expensive", which really isn't true: a comparable Windows box will cost just as much.

Thu May 31 04:46:14 2012: 11041   Blumpkin


It took me a minute to realize that this was banter, but a good read for sure; and true. :) For the record: these days a professional guitarist may very well consider an Ibanez higher end than a Fender. Especially when considering the Squire lineup. I am an intermediate musician and would more than likely prefer the Ibanez. Then again I use Ubuntu, so what do I know? At least I haven't booted into windows for longer than the time it took to realize what a terrible operating system it is for a good year or two.

Thu May 31 10:05:12 2012: 11043   TonyLawrence


Oh, my, I hadn't thought of this in years!

Thu May 31 12:47:57 2012: 11044   BigDumbDinosaur


At least I haven't booted into windows for longer than the time it took to realize what a terrible operating system it is for a good year or two.

Windows is like a cheap wine: gets worse with age. I'm doing my best to keep us away from Windows 7 and its horrid user interface. What's with these Microsofties? Rather than maintain a consistent interface from one version to the next, it seems each generation results in a totally non-intuitive set of changes. The shift from Windows 2000 to XP was annoying enough. The shift from XP to 7 is totally nonsensical. At least BASH has been consistent over the years.

Good thing I'm sliding into retirement. This old dinosaur can't take this Microsoft BS anymore.


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