A Day in the Life of an Operating System Switch by Bob Sprankle

If I were in a rut, or bored, or on summer break, then I suppose this would make more sense. But no: these days I'm up to my ears in work, buried in a very demanding (but very satisfying) online class, reading four different (great) books, recently got hooked on the game "Left4Dead," and presently nursing a sick kid who's upstairs in bed. So what do I do? I decide to learn a new operating system. Go figure.

I've been meaning to do this for a long time, because I truly believe this is the OS of our future: Linux. I've been putting it off because, well... I just simply love Mac (and will until you pry it from "my cold, dead fingers"). To be honest, the other reason I've been putting it off is due to FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN. Seriously, the last thing I need is to have another computer meltdown. I've had enough of them lately.

But people I trust keep telling me that Linux has come a long way, is much more user friendly, and I believe in my soul that Open Source is the best thing going. I must adopt, adapt, transform... get with the program.

But more importantly, I need to put myself at "square one". I need to leave my comfort zone, parachute down into the unknown jungle with nothing but a few sketchy tutorials, and claw my way to a new civilization. Why? Because that's what I ask my students to do every day in the Computer Lab.

As teachers, do we sometimes forget this? Do we just expect every student to be able to climb aboard, understand the information we give them? Is there the inherent problem that because we the teacher are so very comfortable with the content that we have a difficult time recognizing when the students aren't? Going back to square one is difficult for instructors after all the time that's been spent immersed in their disciplines. It's hard to remember what it felt like when it was also overwhelming and confusing to us, what it felt like at the beginning. How do we maintain that affinity and empathy for the novices?

One solution: learn how to teach the same discipline in a new language.

So here I go...

  • 4:00 pm -- Home from school, start coffee.
  • 4:10 pm -- Changed into jeans and t-shirt and sipping coffee; print out the tutorial I found earlier this morning (4:20 am, when I woke obsessed with this idea).
  • 4:12 pm -- Begin Download of Ubuntu
  • 4:20 pm -- Download finished (must have picked a slow server)
  • 4:21 pm -- fire up VM Fusion(VM Fusion allows you to install a separate operating system and run it "virtually". I've used it for the few Windows applications that I need. According to my searches, it seems to handle Ubuntu better than Parallels-- another "virtual machine" software for the Mac)
  • 4:22 pm -- VM fires up and the Ubuntu install starts immediately.
  • 4:24 pm -- Just like the tutorial says, I answer a few simple questions, and the install takes over.
  • 4:25 pm -- go check on my sick kid, see if she needs anything; she's got juice and a movie so she's fine.
  • 4:33 pm -- a window tells me that the installation is now complete. I can either continue using the live CD (the ISO file I installed it with), or restart in order to go to the new install. I restart the Virtual Machine.
  • 4:38 pm -- I've been brought to a command line and am stuck until I try typing "sudo shutdown" and hit return. (Disclaimer: I'm no genius here; I only tried the "sudo" command because I've had to use it before in a terminal command... I don't even know what "sudo" means.)
  • 4:39 pm -- Ubuntu shuts down and restarts. It looks gorgeous! Not bad... about a half an hour to install a new operating system.
  • 4:40 pm -- VMFusion reminds me to install the VMware Tools . VMware Tools will help the virtual machine integrate with my Mac and let me do things like share a folder between the two operating systems, or copy text from one operating system to the next. It will also install software to make the VM work better with my Mac's hardware (I think this will also help me not return to the command line).This is the part that I've been worried about... the tutorial gets a little fuzzy for me here. I try a bunch of things (for a loooooong time), then finally go and find another tutorial which makes this part a lot clearer to me.
  • 5:15 pm -- I follow the new tutorial and have Ubuntu update before I try and install the VMware Tools. I can see this is going to take some time: there's 248 updates. I start it and go check on the kiddo.
  • 5:35 pm --Update is done. I restart Ubuntu and continue following the new tutorial to install VMware Tools.
  • 5:50 pm -- Though I really had no idea what I was doing, I followed the clearer instructions and have successfully installed the VMware Tools and have rebooted Ubuntu.
  • Finished!

Not really.

First off, let's be honest: I've taken an easy way into Linux. I've installed Ubuntu in my Virtual Machine (VMFusion) and have no clue how to install it as a solitary OS on some old iBooks that I have (yet).

Second: now that I have this shiny new toy, I've got to make meaning out of it. How does it work? How does it help me? What will I do with it?

Third: I made it out of the jungle and am closer to witnessing the Linux culture and landscape than I was before. Now I must go meet the natives. I need a "tour guide" who will help me get around this new mysterious world. I have a plan: I know a high school kid who I need to book some serious tutorial time with.

So I'm not finished at all. I'm just beginning. And tomorrow when I walk back into the computer lab, it will be with humble recognition that I am no expert at all and be able to serve my students better with improved and renewed affinity.