I wrote a column called "Sysop Offline" for the Portland PC Users Group newsletter for a couple of years. Most of my columns only made sense in the context of the PPCUG, but I still like this one and thought I'd share it.

I want to comment that I still believe PartitionMagic is a very good product in spite of the fact that it destroyed my data once. The correct conclusion is not to avoid PartitionMagic, but rather to back up your data before using it.

After two months of not having my column written, I finally have rebuilt enough of my computer that I can write this one. And I hope that I’ve learned a few lessons on the way.

The biggest lesson would be to always have a backup. Maybe it’s just that I’m a teenager, but I felt like I didn’t really need a backup. “I’ve never lost data before, why should it happen now?” But happen it did. I was running PartitionMagic to make room for Linux on my Windows NT system, and suddenly it told me there had been a “seek error”. Uh, oh…

Two months later, I still don’t have any of my four years of programming, web design, etc. projects back. Some of that gigabyte of stuff was important to me. If I’d had a backup, my system could have been working again in a few hours. But as often as I have read–and as people have told me–that I needed a backup, now I get to play the “start-from-scratch” game. Don’t let this happen to you, consider yourself warned.

Anyway, as long as I was starting from scratch, I decided to make Linux my primary operating system instead of going back to NT. I picked the Debian distribution of Linux because of its package management features. Basically, these let you install and upgrade your software nearly automatically. (I’m told RedHat has the same type of system, but it’s a commercial distribution, whereas Debian is free.)

Comparing Linux to NT (and, if I were to be unbiased, I suppose OS/2) I find it’s been a trade-off. Linux is far more powerful, but in many areas it’s far more complex. It took me quite a few days, for example, to get my internet connection working in Linux. That’s about a 15 minute job in Windows NT 4 and Windows 95. But I can handle the complexity, and so for me the trade-off pays off very well. However, I would say that even novices could benefit from the use of Linux, as long as they had someone to set it up for them and that person did a good job. Linux with the X Window System is easy to use, just difficult to configure.

I’ll resubmerge now, have a good month.

Jamey Sharp is the sysop for the Portland PC Users Group. This means that he is forced to write a column each month for the newsletter. If you wish to ask him why in the world he thinks writing is difficult–or any other question–you have been cleared to contact him.