How long have you been working with Linux, and how did you get interested in it?
I started working with Linux in 1997, when I realized that an MCSE and a program in telecommunications was not going to be enough to change careers. Actually, I started with a Unix course at Berkeley, but soon discovered that the course used networked terminals on a S.u.S.E. distribution. It was a good course, focusing on commands, vi, scripts, and some of the folklore behind the development of Unix. It also served as an excellent counterpoint to the book I was writing on Windows 98. I finished my MCSE and have been using Linux ever since.
What Linux distribution(s) do you use?
Because of the books I write, I'm pretty much a Red Hat Linux user now. However, I like the S.u.S.E. tools for installation and configuration. I think Corel had developed a viable competitor to Microsoft Windows on the desktop, and find it sad that their successor (Xandros) went to a proprietary model for their operating system.
How long did it take you to write "Mastering Red Hat Linux 9" and what was it like? Any major difficulties?
I drafted Mastering Red Hat Linux 9 in 5 months. Well, that stretched out to 6 given the vagaries of the beta schedule. One of the advantages of writing full time is that I can write a full-featured guide to a Linux distribution within a "standard" Red Hat beta cycle. I did have to rewrite a few chapters as the beta evolved. But that was OK, as that's life at the "bleeding edge." And I had a lot of help from the Red Hat developers who participate on the beta team. Now that they've gone public, I can acknowledge their help.
Until nearly the end of the cycle, I thought I was writing a book on Red Hat Linux 8.1, and then Red Hat changed numbering schemes. That led to a very long week where I scrambled to change references (global search and replace does not work on screenshot graphics) in the book.
In your opinion, where does Linux need the most software development at the moment?
I'd like to see more development of the Linux desktop. For the consumer, that requires applications in three areas: office suites, games, and personal finance. With OpenOffice.org, Linux is essentially there with respect to office suites. For the first time, I can use a Linux-based word processor for publishers who depend on Microsoft Office. In games, the LGP people seem to be picking up on the good work done by Loki.
Unfortunately, Linux based software does not yet cut it in the personal finance arena. But once software such as GnuCash is competitive with the latest versions of Quicken and TurboTax, watch out world! The WalMarts of the world will then help Linux take over the desktop market.
Sure, Wine and secondary tools such as CrossOver Office can help. But I don't think Wine will be ready for the consumer for years, and I think CrossOver Office is like a crutch that gives the manufacturers of Windows-based software an excuse to avoid Linux.
What's your take on the adoption of Linux in the enterprise? Do you think it will give a boost to security?
It's amazing how well the corporate world is taking to Linux. Many are converting their enterprises from Unix. I think the biggest endorsement is coming from Wall Street firms such as Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. They trust Linux with their client's money. With respect to security, that's more impressive than even the work of the National Security Agency to secure the Linux kernel.
What advice do you have for people that are considering switching to Linux?